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Neuromarketing and Four Ways to Use Its Findings Now

By Snap Agency June 25, 2016

Don’t worry—if you hear the term “neuromarketing” it doesn’t mean people are going to broadcast commercials directly into your brain via electrodes. Neuromarketing is the study of how marketing affects and interacts with the human mind. It’s more along the lines of getting more clarity about how existing methods of marketing are effective and how they could be made even more effective. 

What are some examples of neuromarketing?

  • Coca-cola is using neuromarketing now for all marketing projects with agency Millward-Brown and facial coding technology with Affectiva. Essentially these companies have people watch commercials and, with their permission, record their face while watching. The technology automatically interprets emotional and cognitive states.
  • Frito-Lay has been using neuromarketing to get more insights into women’s minds. Playing down “guilt” and “guilt-free” wording options and playing up variations of the word “healthy” was part of their findings.
  • Google used the company MediaVest to test biometrics while choosing between pre-roll and overlays on YouTube videos: Overlays got a much better response.
  • The Weather Channel used eye tracking, EEG, and skin response techniques to measure viewer reactions to three promotions they were testing for a popular series.
  • Unilever is also using the neuromarketing approach with Millward-Brown.

What are five forms of testing used in neuromarketing?

  • FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) — Measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.
  • Steady State Topography — Methodology for observing and measuring human brain activity.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram) — Tracks and records brain wave patterns.
  • Eye Tracking — Examines the patterns and fixation of the gaze on a screen.
  • Galvanic Skin Response — A change in the electrical resistance of the skin caused by emotional stress.

An Eye-tracking Study

An Eye Tracking Study

What are four ways I can use the findings of neuromarketing now?

We may be highly evolved versions of mankind, but there’s a primal instinctual response to every one of our marketing efforts. People respond physically, even in the slightest of ways, once they notice or acknowledge your marketing campaign—whether it be on the side of a bus or on the sidebar of product page on your website. That same instinctual response, however, can be managed if it is understood. Here are three ways to consider using the findings of the neuromarketing (albeit a young field) to your advantage.

  • The primal instinctual part of our minds wants to know the tangible, physical benefits to your product or service. Don’t try to sell esoteric concepts, no matter how advanced or excellent. Instead, opt to show the physicality of the benefits as clearly as you can.
  • Imagery appeals to the instinctual part of our brain better than mere text. An image is worth a thousand words, so choose them very wisely and always consider what the instinctual response would be to a particular image. Think about if that response would truly play to your advantage while selling your product or service.
  • Emotion is a simple and significant key to effecting a positive response. There’s a reason Budweiser tugs at your heart-strings during its super bowl commercials and why companies like to sell the idea of the party. The truth is simple: Heartwarming imagery (instigating a chemical swirl of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin in the brain) and severe FOMO (fear of missing out) sell things.
  • The pain of buying is decided by relative, not absolute, terms. So use sales, packages, or payments vs. lump sums to decrease that pain and show an element of either/or that doesn’t call attention to competitors. Making products or services possible sooner with smaller price points will sell more in the end as it won’t drive away people who are afraid of the total price tag.

Similarly, some A/B testing has come to the same conclusion with pricing. If you create some kind of urgency—even artificial urgency—on a product or service page, a visitor is more likely to convert. Just like buying a package or purchasing with payments, a sales price with a limited-time aspect to it heightens the scarcity effect and grabs that part of the brain that says “I want this, I think I need this, and I don’t want to miss out.”

Ecommerce Countdown clock - improve conversions


A little primer on the brain’s chemicals and how to cater to them

When you get or give a hug, your brain produces a neurotransmitter called oxytocin, which calms down your amygdala and slows down anxiety and fear. In movies when we start to identify a character in the story, we also are producing oxytocin. So, share your company’s story, the stories of employees or stories from your customers that help people to identify, to relate and, simply, to give a shit.

Deluxe Hugs


Getting sunlight boosts serotonin, and although we can’t shine a light through a computer screen or television screen bright enough to cause the desired effect, we can increase the association with this by using more bright colors, or sun, in our imagery. Consider using white space rather than dark, moody scenes to mimic the sun’s effects.

Laughter and even the anticipation of laughter increases levels of endorphins. It’s an old tried and true marketing tactic to help people laugh, and as they associate the experience of viewing your product with laughter, you’re making them want it to happen again. Just like when your coworker makes you laugh, you are probably happy to be around them again.

Dopamine is released as small goals are completed, helping motivate someone for larger goals. This has such a significant implication for web design. For example, we don’t need to give people the overwhelming view of an entire complicated form if all they need to do to get started is fill in their name and e-mail address. We can then give them more fields later and create a snowball effect. The fact that they completed the easy initial step means they are more likely to complete another.

Another application for using dopamine effectively in marketing, or user experience and web design, is gamification. By adding elements of small reward, even points to an experience, we allow our visitors to feel a more meaningful connection based on their progress interacting with our site or our brand. This doesn’t have to be explicitly called gamification for the principle to be effective. Consider punch cards at coffee shops (or the Starbucks app with tiers of rewards,) or LinkedIn’s profile progress bar.


LinkedIn's Profile Progress Bar


I wish you luck on effectively stoking chemicals in your marketing and I hope you use the power for good.

A couple excellent articles on the subject:

Huff Post – Hacking Into Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins and Oxytocin

NeuroMarketing – Top 7 Insights to Unlocking your Customer’s Brain for Instant Sales

Juice your Marketing with Dopamine

10 Ways to Hack into your Brain Chemicals

Fast Company – Neuromarketing Hope and Hype: 5 Brands Conducting Brain Research