Neuromarketing: what it is and how to use it in your company

If you are here, it’s because you asked yourself: “What is the Neuromarketing research?” Well, you landed in the right place!

Neuromarketing consists of the use of neuroscientific knowledge in marketing. By applying these studies to the user purchasing experience, it is possible to analyze the decision-making processes that take place unconsciously in the minds of potential consumers when they choose whether to purchase a product/service.

But who invented Neuromarketing? This science originated through Ale Smidts, a Marketing Research professor at the Rotterdam School of Management, who coined the term in 2002. The word Neuromarketing refers to neuroscientific practices, useful for having a complete understanding of the consumer to create more effective marketing strategies.

neuromarketing experiment

The purpose of Neuromarketing is to find the right strategies which lead to the purchase.

In this article I am going to explain in detail:

  • what is Neuromarketing and what are its attributes?
  • how it differs from traditional marketing
  • why it is used and how it is applied to digital marketing,
  • two Neuromarketing business cases.

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What does Neuromarketing mean?

Now that you know when Neuromarketing originated, I am going to explain what it is. First of all, it should be pointed out that it is a relatively new discipline that involves scientific fields such as:

  • marketing;
  • economy;
  • medicine;
  • psychology.

It demonstrates what happens in the human brain when it responds to stimuli sent by commercials and products of a specific brand. Its main purpose is to analyze data to then develop effective marketing strategies.

For example, when a brand wants to improve a product and make it more attractive for consumers so that they purchase it, it uses the data provided by test analyses to obtain the best result with lower costs.

Thanks to the tests companies understand what customers prefer or not, even before launching the product on the market.
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Neuromarketing vs Traditional Marketing

Now that you have learned about Neuromarketing, do you know what traditional marketing means? It is the process of analysis, planning, implementation, and control of decisions regarding the product, the price, the promotion, and communication of the same to create exchanges that allow the achieving of the objectives of both the customer and the company.

Traditional research methods, to understand what a consumer’s response is to an advertisement they see on television, involve the use of questionnaires and interviews. Tests, however, are often inaccurate, given that buyers are never able to express the real reason why they bought such a product.

It is not always when a human being believes that a certain emotion is equivalent to reality, this is precisely why the answers given by the interviewees very often do not correspond to the results of brain imaging tests (detection of brain activity).

Alternatively, those who use Neuromarketing do not seek to ask the consumer directly to understand what they want. But he concludes by examining the impact of the image on people’s minds. In this way, it is possible to understand which reactions are awakened in the minds of the consumers.

An image that manages to excite you, no matter if you saw it on a social network or television, increases the electromagnetic activity of the brain.

Neuromarketing techniques and tools

As mentioned before, Neuromarketing measures brain activity, but how is that done? There are so many ways; the most used ones are:

  • electroencephalography (EEG), which produces a graph in which brain activity is plotted. It gives information on how the brand is perceived and on the user’s purchasing behavior in particular, the sensors positioned on the head measure activity in terms of attention, engagement, and memory;
  • functional MRI (fMRI or RMF), that reproduces images of the brain showing areas where brain activity is greatest. When the brain is engaged in an action, specific areas are taken into consideration; the latter being in “movement” need more oxygen and glucose. In this way you receive an image in which the blood flow is more marked in the areas involved, allowing you to analyze how external stimuli are interpreted.

neuromarketing decisonal process

The tests allow the researcher to measure the cognitive and emotional reactions of a human being in front of certain stimuli. Both methods are classified as brain imaging tools that carry out a “scan” of the brain emphasizing areas activated by a particular stimulus.

The tools used in Neuromarketing are the same applied to cognitive neuroscience. Now I know that you must be wondering “But what does cognitive neuroscience all about?”. First of all, it’s important to know that this is a branch of neuroscience, more precisely, this discipline has to do with the biological, neurological, and cerebral substrates involved in cognitive mental processes for example memory, attention, categorization, and executive functions.

However, they are not the only tools used by Neuromarketing, other ones used are:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG), very simple and non-invasive. It provides an optimal measure of the person’s emotional processes through observation of the heart rate.
  • galvanic response of the skin (GSR), measures the electrical changes in the skin as a result of events.

Quite frequently, however, two or more devices are used together. For example, EEG and fMRI are frequently associated with an eye tracker, a practical tool that enables you to record eye pupil dilation; in addition, it can identify where the eye of the prospect’s gaze is moving when using a stimulus.

How companies use Neuromarketing

Corporate marketing experts began to be interested in Neuromarketing when traditional marketing methods began to prove inadequate for understanding buyers’ decision mechanisms. Traditional techniques neglect emotions and memories; in fact, those who previously dealt with marketing and advertising were limited to assumptions made based on surveys, interviews, and discussion groups.

Through web marketing, on top of these traditional methods, more reliable tools have been added such as the A/B test, the number of visits to a website, views, comments on a post, or simple sharing. Neuromarketing techniques are not used to ask the buyer directly but to analyze the brain processes that remain hidden from our minds.

However, Neuromarketing in enterprises is not only applied in this area, on the contrary, it is used in many other fields. In the next section undergo I am going to explain what they are.

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Creation of Brand Identity

Neuromarketing is often used to build brand image. This is a fairly complex process since various elements are involved in building the brand identity which in turn can be different:

  • visual,
  • olfactory,
  • tactile,
  • sonorous,
  • taste.

All these elements are stored in the consumer’s mind and contribute to the development of a specific brand image, more or less consistent with the brand identity and company values.

Simply put, if an ad shows the brand in a certain place, such as a beach with a crystal clear sea, consumers will associate the brand with their holiday memories. Based on these connections, their emotional involvement with the brand changes.

Definition of the Colors of a Brand

This may sound weird, but there is a strong link between Neuromarketing and colors. This discipline is, in fact, of fundamental importance to the choice of brand colors.

All the details can influence a decision, they say, and this sentence gets its confirmation in color. Over the last few years, research has shown how different colors, even a single label, can influence product selection. It happens because human beings have learned to associate colors with certain dangers or advantages, and this can now be used by companies to be able to build their brand and social media profiles.

For this reason in Neuromarketing, we also study, among other things, which color to choose to capture consumers’ attention. Colors can stimulate some parts of the brain rather than others and they are linked to a symbology to which we are unconsciously connected.

Product innovation

When we talk about product innovation, we are talking about processes aimed at improving a good or service already known by customers. This innovation process, to be efficient, benefits scientific and technological progress. But what does technological innovation mean and why is it important?

Product innovation is the established activity of firms and institutions aimed to introduce new products and services, as well as new methods for production, distribution, and utilization.

about product innovation

If the product created is new to the company but not to the market, it is defined as “imitation” or “adoption”. Therefore, a company to make a product innovation must use the:

  • new materials technologies, such as nylon, stainless steel, and DDT;
  • new components linked to the evolution of a meta-technology, such as the transient, a radial casing tire;
  • new products or procedures;
  • materials obtained through new technologies;
  • innovative forms of relationships, like customer care, the website, or social networks have been in the 2000s and up to today

Developing an innovative product is a lottery and ensuring that innovation is not a fiasco, there is a need for the company to understand what consumers are oriented toward. Neuromarketing plays a crucial role in this domain: through it and the technologies used, one can understand if the color, shape, or materials chosen are the right ones, or even evaluate if the packaging is easy and intuitive for the buyer. This allows companies to avoid unnecessary investments and optimize their budgets.

Sales increase

Imagine if you could read your customers’ minds and therefore be able to satisfy all their wishes, wouldn’t it be amazing? With Neuromarketing you can! Sure, you don’t know exactly what they are thinking, but you can understand what their tastes are and why they prefer one product over another.

It is widely believed that man is a rational creature, but that’s quite wrong! As theorized by Gerald Zaltman, a marketing professor at the Harvard Business School, in his book “How consumers think’’. What the customer doesn’t Say and the competition doesn’t Know”, 95% of purchasing decisions are conditioned by processes involving the unconscious, so they are quite irrational this way.

Are you wondering if neuromarketing can help you scale up sales in your business? The answer is yes. You must know that the purchases we make, in a nutshell, are the result of simple visceral reactions rather than a logical construction of thought. When a product or service is purchased, a very rapid comparison between two brain areas is activated, the nucleus accumbens and insula, responsible for positive and negative sensations.

The victory of an area derives from the comparison of information of an emotional kind, linked to memories, so we could say that the irrational part of the decision-making process is the comparison between the sensations and emotions generated through the information we have in our memory. To influence these decision-making mechanisms, it is necessary to consider the user experience in all its phases putting pressure on elements of the emotional type.

Pros and Cons of Neuromarketing

As you may have understood from this article, Neuromarketing is the turning point for businesses looking to boost their performance. Being able to get into the consumer’s mind allows you to understand the purchasing mechanisms and then modify your marketing strategies accordingly. But all that glitter is not gold! Being able to apply neuroscience to the traditional marketing of a company is not easy at all. If a company uses Neuromarketing for the first time, it will be fundamental for them to have good adaptability, and to be able to modify the company’s strategy within a short period.

However, this discipline has limitations, mainly associated with young age: the interpretation of the data gathered is not simple and the cost of this type of research is very high. It is hoped that over the years, as a result of technological progress and increased dissemination, the cost will decrease.

Examples of Neuromarketing

There are tons of Neuromarketing experiences, particularly if you look at social media. However, I’m going to concentrate on the two most interesting ones.

Coke and Pepsi

A focus group organized to identify who, between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, was the consumer’s preferred brand, conducted an interesting research study in 2004 with the use of brain imagery.

The results of the Neuromarketing research were surprising: the sample involved showed a clear preference for Pepsi when the product was tested without showing the brand. And when the brand was made public to the participants, before drinking the drink, 75% of them said they preferred Coca-Cola.

What was even more interesting was that it implied the activation of specific areas of the brain related to self-esteem and positive emotions. What guided the consumer was not the organoleptic characteristics or the quality of the product but the different “images” and values ?? that these two drinks had created in years and years of commercials.

Therefore, emotions and specific sensations related to the brand, generating memories in the consumer’s mind, can induce the latter to purchase a specific product, regardless of other external factors.

Dissuasive images on cigarette packs

Martin Lindstrom, in his book “Neuromarketing. Brain Activity and purchasing behavior”, with the contribution of other experts, analyzed the reaction of a group of smokers to the sight of warnings on cigarette packets.

During the test, smokers were connected to a biomedical scanner. The purpose of this research was to understand what power these sentences had on the brains of the participants.

Each of those present stated that they felt worried and had an urge to quit smoking. In reality, however, the data collected showed that smokers had been misrepresented. The alarming phrases written on the cigarette packets increased the interviewees’ desire to smoke.

This second study shows that it’s not much the value of the brand in the minds of consumers, but the lack of correspondence that often exists between what is stated and what happens in the human brain. Lindstrom with this study highlighted the uselessness of market research since it is distorted.

People struggle to express judgments and opinions sincerely, preventing the company that carries out the market survey from having a reliable picture of the perception that consumers have of the products.

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Conclusions and free strategic advice

Neuromarketing focuses on communication and neuroscience. Unfortunately, however, in some parts of the world, there is still a lack of professionals in this field, such as neuro marketers or real neuromarketing agencies. But, thankfully, technologies to educate people about the mechanisms that drive consumer behavior are constantly evolving.

Well, you have come to the end of this article, I hope that through this reading you have better understood what this discipline is and what it studies. But more importantly, how important it is to grow your business and optimize the investment funds for your innovative product or service.

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