Originally published on the Viacom blog.

We’ve been quantifying viewers and users through ratings, impressions and audience segmentations here at Viacom for a long time now. And while this research remains instrumental, we wanted to do more: we wanted to go beyond understanding how our viewers behave, to uncover how they feel toward our brands as well. Enter the “Brand Engagement Project,” the first-ever international neuropsychological study into understanding the emotional drivers of the Viacom audience. Conducted by Be Viacom, the international brand solutions sales business, the project won the 2012 IAB Europe Branding Research Award.

The project digs beneath the surface of what drives consumer engagement for MTV and Nickelodeon viewers. In conjunction with the psychologists at Neurosense, Be Viacom identified five basic human psychological rewards they deemed relevant for testing brand engagement among youth: Dependability, Functionality, Social Inclusion, Enjoyment and Individuality. Respondents’ levels of engagement were measured on how the MTV and Nickelodeon brands deliver against these psychological needs.

Since engaged viewers are active consumers – and 80% of all buying decisions are made at an emotional or implicit level – engagement mattersfor brands. In this study, engagement is defined as an attachment or feeling that attracts and holds fast the attention of a person/persons. To capture implicit engagement, a comparative engagement score (on a scale of 1-10) was created using rapid word-brand pairing, multiple responses from random samples and statistical analysis.

Key Findings:

Deeply held beliefs about both MTV and Nickelodeon have revealed for the first time that our audiences are emotionally engaged and aligned with our unique environments and content offerings.

Emotionally engaged audiences

For MTV’s youth audience, the greater the connection and control they have, the greater the level of engagement.

  • Multiplatform viewers exhibit more than twice the level of engagement of TV-only viewers, scoring a 7.1 and 2.9 on the engagement scale, respectively.

While Nickelodeon viewers are multiplatform users, TV is the key starting point to engagement.

Engagement gains for other platforms are smaller, but indicative.

  • TV-only viewers score a 7.4 on the engagement scale, while multiplatform viewers score a 9.

Multimedia is the new norm

MTV is a growing multiplatform youth brand, with 367 million international touch points across TV, online, mobile, social media and events. The brand’s abundance of multimedia offerings drives active consumers to access more often, and always on their own terms.

  • Over 75% of the MTV TV-viewing audience have accessed the brand on more than one platform – and nearly a third do so regularly.
  • 69% have accessed MTV content online, and 22% do so regularly.
  • Almost half follow MTV on social media, and 20% do so regularly.
  • 42% have accessed MTV content on mobile, and 15% do so regularly.

Nickelodeon is also growing its multiplatform brand, with 284 million touch points across TV, online, mobile, social media and events internationally. Multimedia activity is very prevalent among Nickelodeon’s kids audience, but it is not yet as prolific as it is among Millennials.

  • While 87% of Nickelodeon’s TV-viewing audiences have accessed the brand on more than one platform, 17% do so regularly.
  • 61% have accessed Nickelodeon content online, and 16% do so regularly.
  • 64% have played Nickelodeon games online, and 20% do so regularly.
  • 52% have bought Nickelodeon consumer products, and 11% do so regularly.


Findings from the project have identified a twofold strategy for growing and nurturing brand fans, with brand engagement being both physically and emotionally driven.

Multiplatform activity:Multiplatform access is key. For the majority of the Viacom audience who go beyond our TV channels, their positivity and engagement with our brands rises explosively.

Emotional alignment of consumer & brand:By aligning the passions of your brand with those of your consumer, there is a resulting multiplier effect in creating a fan base that is emotionally engaged with the content and the experiences they have on these platforms.

By offering insight into the relevancy of the MTV and Nickelodeon brands in the new media age, the project has also demonstrated that these brands are effective media partners for reaching Millennial and Kids & Family target audiences.

The Methodology:

The project was conducted in partnership with Neurosense, and involved speaking to more than 4,000 kids and youth aged between 8-29-years-old across 11 international markets across Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Be Viacom used a multi-staged design that took place online. After screening for viewing habits, familiarity with brands and demographic questions, respondents were then tested for their implicit attitudes (the core element of the project), followed by a self-report test of their interests and abilities.

To access and measure viewers’ implicit feelings towards media brands, an established psychological task was used that required respondents to react rapidly to attributes (in word form) and how well they fit to the media brand (each represented by their logos). By forcing respondents to react immediately, their implicit attitudes towards the brands were more likely to be detected. For example, respondents were shown a word and asked to assign it either to MTV or the shown competitor as quickly as possible.

Christian Kurz is Vice President of Research, Insight and Reporting for Viacom International Media Networks. Follow Christian at @KurzCh.