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Episode 46: Dr. Paul Zak

Immersion And The Science of The Extraordinary with Dr. Paul Zak, Professor and Chief Immersion Officer – Immersion Neuroscience

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EPISODE SUMMARY

When we talk about ‘immersive’ experiences, it is much more than a place that envelopes you in digital content. It goes deeper than simply a feast for the eyes. Immersion is a deep connection to the neurobiochemistry in our brain and the release of dopamine and oxytocin.

Paul Zak is in the top 0.3% of most cited scientists with over 180 published papers and more than 19,000 citations to his research. As a professor Claremont Graduate University, frequent TED speaker, and founder of Immersion Neuroscience, he has an angle on immersion, what makes great customer experiences and how to foster brand loyalty.

In this episode, host David Kepron and Dr. Paul Zak talk about what, on a neurobiochemical level, makes great brand experiences and deepens loyalty.

INFO ON DR. PAUL ZAK

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Dr. Paul Zak’s LinkedIn Profile: paul-zak

Websites:

Immersion book link: Immersion book
Twitter: @pauljzak
Website: pauljzak.com
Website: cgu.edu/people/paul-zak
Wikipedia: wiki/Paul_J._Zak

Email: [email protected]

Dr. Paul Zak’s Bio:

Dr. Paul J. Zak is a Professor at Claremont Graduate University and is ranked in the top 0.3% of most cited scientists with over 180 published papers and more than 19,000 citations to his research. Paul’s ten decades of research have taken him form the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rainforest of Papua New Guinea. Along the way he helped start a number of interdisciplinary fields including neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing. He has written three general audience books and is a regular TED speaker. His newest book is Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and Source of Happiness.

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Paul is also a four-time tech entrepreneur; his current company, Immersion Neuroscience, is a software platform that allows anyone to measure what the brain loves in real-time to improve outcomes in entertainment, education and training, live events and to help people sustain emotional wellness.

He frequently appears in the media in such places as Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Fox & Friends, ABC Evening News, and his work has been reported in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, The Economist, Scientific American, Fast Company, Forbes, and various podcasts. Fun fact: he is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has created dialog for two movies.

SHOW INTRO:

For some time, I have been intrigued by experience making, especially those that we might qualify as ‘immersive.’

When I have imagined what these experiences might be like, I have mostly considered them as being in places that surround you with an environment that is all encompassing, enveloping you in multi-sensory input.

Immersive digital environments can do this.

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I have a deep enthusiasm for the merger of digital technologies, especially in our nascent capacity to blend art, AI and neuroscience into data visualizations.

I have a fascination in the creation of places that make the invisible, data, visible.

The digitally immersive experiences we now see like the multiple Van Gogh exhibits – or those that bring the art of other famous artists like Picasso, and Degas to digital life – are beautiful and are part of a shift in the nature and relevancy of museums.

Venues are emerging like Artechouse whose immersive experiences have included the digital virtuosity of data visualization artist Refik Anadol. Companies like Moment Factory are transforming disquieting nighttime forests into delightful walks illuminated with stories projected on trees.

These are all captivating and visually rich experiences.

And yet, I have equally puzzled over the idea that ‘immersion’, as an idea, is more than data paintings filling museum spaces from floor to ceiling.

Immersion is more than a feast for the visual, and maybe auditory, systems of our brains.

On some level, I have felt that ‘Immersion’ is something more transformative. Something that activates areas of our brains that are responsible for feelings of arousal or pleasure as well as areas that give us the sense that what is happening has a resonant social value.

This is where Dr. Paul Zak steps into the narrative.

Dr. Paul J. Zak is a Professor at Claremont Graduate University and is ranked in the top 0.3% of most cited scientists with over 180 published papers and more than 19,000 citations to his research.

He has stood on the TED stage 5 times and speaks all over the world.

Immersion, he suggests, is driven by two factors:
the activation of areas of the brain that produce the neurochemicals dopamine and oxytocin.

Most of us will have heard that dopamine is the ‘pleasure’ neurochemical. It plays a role in the pleasure center of the brain and is tied to addiction. Dopamine is also tied to our brain’s ability to predict and prediction errors. It is connected to our ability to differentiate anomalies in complex patterns.

It sort of creates an alert system that something is worthy of our attention. It is part of how we learn.

When we hear the word ‘oxytocin,’ some may know it to be the “Love hormone.’ Among other life moments, it is present in childbirth, breastfeeding, sex, a good long hug…

Oxytocin is often linked towarm, cozy feelings. It has the ability to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors, including trust, empathy, positive memories, processing of bonding cues, and positive communication.

All of which are critical to having positive brand experiences.

Oxytocin has a connection to whether or not an experience has a level of emotional resonance and the brain’s ability to identify an experience as having some social value, some relational component.

When experiences combine the release of dopamine along with oxytocin, then according to Paul Zak, we have Immersion.

Immersion is contagious – the more we are immersed in an experience the more our brain says that it was amazing, creating value in the moment and it induces a craving to repeat it in the future.

And that is the essence of customer loyalty.

When a retailer/brand creates such an amazing experience that you want to repeat it.

Paul’s ten decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rainforest of Papua New Guinea. Along the way he helped start a number of interdisciplinary fields including neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing.

His current company, Immersion Neuroscience, has developed a software platform that allows anyone to measure what the brain loves in real-time to improve outcomes in entertainment, education and training, live events and to help people sustain emotional wellness.

In Dr. Paul Zak’s new book “Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and Source of Happiness,” he offers a framework for transforming nearly any situation from ordinary to extraordinary. Based on 20 years of neuroscience research from his lab and innumerable client applications, Dr. Paul Zak explains why brains crave the extraordinary.

INFO ON DAVID KEPRON

BIO:

David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently brings his creativity and insight on brand experiences to an international audience as a member of VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, as a Board Member of the Interactive Customer Experience Association (ICXA) and Sign Research Foundation’s (SRF) Program Committee.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on vmsd.com.

In September of 2020, he launched the “NXTLVL Experience Design” podcast which brings listeners dialogues about “DATA: Design, Architecture, Technology and the Arts.” His guests include thought leaders who are driven by a passion to create the ‘New Possible’ and promote new paradigms of experiences into the mainstream.

David Kepron is formerly the VP - Global Design Strategies – Premium Distinctive Brands at Marriott Intl., responsible for the strategic design direction for Westin, Le Meridien, Renaissance, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord Hotels. He is also the founder of Retail (r)Evolution, LLC and NXTLVL Experience Design, LLC. In his latest venture, NXTLVL Experience Design, Kepron brings years of retail and hospitality design expertise to the making of meaningful customer connections at brand experience places around the globe. His multidisciplinary approach to design focuses on understanding consumer behavior and the creation of relevant brand engagement moments at the intersection of architecture, sociology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies. As a frequently requested speaker to retailers, hoteliers and design professionals nationally and internationally, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising as well as creativity and innovation. @davidkepron; www.retail-r-evolution.com.

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