Neuromarketing and Persuasion Techniques: Unlocking the Secrets of Success

Safalta Expert Published by: Shivam Ray Updated Tue, 02 Apr 2024 07:09 PM IST


Google's Color Trick: A subtle change in the color of links in ads led to a staggering $200 million increase in annual revenue. Color impacts emotions, and Google capitalized on this knowledge to boost user clicks.

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To understand the concept of neuromarketing, it is necessary to start with the basics of how the brain influences behavior. The brain plays a central role in every consumer decision: from choosing a brand of toothpaste, for example, to making an important purchase like a car or a house. Neuromarketing attempts to understand these complex decision-making processes by studying brain activity and responses to marketing stimuli.

An important component of consumer decision making is the limbic system, often called the emotional brain. It controls emotions, memories and motivation. Neuromarketing studies have shown that emotional triggers in advertisements can have a more profound and memorable impact on consumers.


For example, Coca-Cola's iconic Christmas ads featuring polar bears evoke feelings of warmth, nostalgia and happiness, strengthening consumers' emotional connection with the brand.

Neuromarketing also shows that rational appeals can influence consumer behavior. An excellent example is Apple's marketing strategy that focuses on the attractive design and functionality of its products – from iPhone to MacBook. It appeals to rational decision-making processes, convincing consumers that Apple products are worth the investment due to their superior quality and performance. This is evident from the $39.67 billion Apple earned from sales of iPhones alone in the third quarter of 2023. 

Be it views, social shares, or ROI, marketers can measure it all. However, there is one key thing that marketers still can't measure with basic analytics – emotional resonance. The field of neuromarketing, also known as consumer neuroscience, studies the brain to predict and potentially influence consumer behavior and decision making. Neuromarketing is the term for using neuroscience to marketing. Techniques like brain imaging, scanning, or brain activity monitoring are employed to gauge how a subject reacts to particular goods, packaging, advertisements, and other marketing aspects. However, the brain's responses to research stimuli cannot be consciously understood by the subject and this is why neuromarketing research is considered more revealing than self-reporting surveys, target groups and other "traditional" market research techniques. It is believed.

Table of Content

  1. Discover everything there is to know about neuromarketing 

  2. History

  3. Definition of Neuromarketing

  4. When to apply neuromarketing

  5. Methods Used

  6. Brain Metrics

  7. Putting neuromarketing into practice

  8. Neuromarketing Insights Applied

  9. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

  10. Social proof and neuro social influence's power

  11. Master marketing techniques with Eton Business School's EMBA

  12. Ethical Considerations of Neuromarketing

Discover everything there is to know about neuromarketing

What are the reasons consumers buy specific brands? How can we tell whether a TV ad will be effective or not? And what's the best way to set up a store? These are central questions to the field of neuromarketing. But what is neuromarketing and what is it not? Is it all about research? Or does it also involve putting theoretical understandings into practice? What role does psychology play in this?

Because of these questions we have written this blog. In this blog you will get a clear overview of everything related to neuromarketing. From research methods to our favorite insights.


Neuromarketing is an emerging disciplinary area in marketing. It takes techniques and instruments from disciplines like psychology and neuroscience. The term "neuromarketing" was introduced by various authors in 2002 (cf. infra) but research in this area can be found since the 1990s.

Gerald Zaltman was involved in one of the earliest neuromarketing experiments. In the late 1990s, Gemma Calvert (UK) and Gerald Zaltman (US) both founded consumer neuroscience companies. Marketing professor Gerald Zaltman patented the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) for selling advertising in the 1990s. ZMET explored the human subconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors that stimulate purchases. Graphical colleges were created based on discovered images, which form the basis of the advertisements. ZMET quickly gained popularity among hundreds of major company-customers, including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nestle and Procter & Gamble. Zaltman and his colleagues were employed by those organizations to examine brain scans and observe the neural activity of consumers. In 1999, he began using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show connections between consumer brain activity and marketing stimuli. Zaltman's marketing research methods extended psychological research used in marketing tools.

The term "neuromarketing" was first published in 2002 in the master thesis of Associate Professor Philippe Morel, who was then a student at the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-Belleville. The chapter "Capitalism II: Info Capitalism (Experience)" contains the subchapter Hyper-Rational Anticipation: A Development with Neuroscience and Neuromarketing. That same year, the term "neuromarketing" was published in an article by Brighthouse (after contacting assistant PR Morel about the topic), a marketing firm based in Atlanta, and was used by Dutch marketing professor Elle Smidts.

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Definition of Neuromarketing

Let's start with the definition of neuromarketing. Because as some neuromarketers have rightly argued, neuromarketing is an area that many people talk about but very few people actually understand. The field of neuromarketing is an interdisciplinary field that combines the study of neuroscience, market research, and marketing. Which basically means any marketing or marketing research activity that uses neuroscience methods and techniques or is informed by neuroscience insights. It's a mouthful, we know. Simply put, neuromarketing is about making good marketing and communications even more effective through psychology and neuroscience. The basic idea behind neuromarketing is that people do not mean what they say nor do what they say, simply because most of our choices are made subconsciously. Neuromarketing uses neuroscience techniques to reveal this subconscious decision-making process of consumers, allowing marketers to improve the effectiveness of their communications.

Curious to know which companies apply this form of neuromarketing internationally? See an overview of neuromarketing companies here.

Want to know why and how we make many of our choices subconsciously? And no, neuromarketing is no longer just about research. Originally, the term 'neuromarketing' was used only for research. But its meaning has expanded somewhat in recent years, as many insights from neuromarketing research are used in other fields. Take for example. The company is not researching the brain itself but instead uses a number of social science principles to increase conversions and sales on its platform. Have you ever felt like you were in a rush because there is only one room available on Chances are high that you were being influenced by a psychological principle called 'scarcity'. Like scarcity theory, several other theories have been identified, which you can learn more about in this marketing podcast from Roger Dooley.

When to apply neuromarketing

From conversion optimization to package design: the potential applications of neuromarketing are countless.Neuromarketing methods are generally employed to determine in advance if something will be successful. It could be a TV commercial, a packaging design, an advertisement, a webshop design: it could be almost anything.

Take a TV commercial for example. You might be thinking: why not use traditional methods like surveys to find out what people think about it? But what if we told you that surveys are only able to predict the success of a TV commercial by about 20%? Would you be willing to spend an advertising budget of a few million euros based on a prediction of 20%? Or would you like to incorporate neuromarketing techniques that enable you to predict approximately 80% of advertising success?

However, it is important to note that neuromarketing is not always preferred over traditional methods and depends on the context. In the following blog you can read when neuromarketing is to be preferred and when it is better to stick to traditional methods like surveys, interviews and focus groups. To summarize, neuromarketing works best for subconscious choices, while more traditional methods are preferred for more conscious choices.

Research on neuromarketing is often applied in the following domains:

Advertising : In which the success of TV and online advertisements can be predicted using neuromarketing techniques.

Usability and user experience : How (sub)conscious barriers to conversion and behavior can be removed using neuromarketing.

Retail : in which neuromarketing provides insight into consumer purchasing behavior in physical stores.

Branding : in which neuromarketing can be used to assess how strongly an association is ingrained in the brain.

Methods Used

Now that we've taken a look at the applications of neuromarketing, it's time to take a deeper look at its workings. To effectively implement neuromarketing, it is important to select the right tools and methods. Neuromarketing toolbox exists in the following methods:

EEG: Captures brain waves and translates them into accurate measurements and feelings.

FMRI: An indirect measurement of brain activity, based on oxygen in the blood flow within the brain.

IAT: Measures through reaction speed how strong the connection is between two concepts.

Eye tracking : Measures where and how fast a person looks at something.

Measure physiological reactions, such as heart rate, using biometrics.

Emotion identification: gauge feelings from expressions on the face

In the marketing field, the most commonly used technologies are EEG, IAT, eye tracking, biometrics and emotion recognition. EEG is often preferred over fMRI for marketing research, because it can measure brain activity on the order of milliseconds, whereas fMRI scans once every few seconds. Do you want to know more about the above mentioned methods? Check out this page to find out more about these neuromarketing strategies!

Brain Metrics

As mentioned above, with EEG we measure brain activity through brain waves. But what can we really catch with an EEG? These are the metrics that are most frequently used:

Would Like to: Prefrontal asymmetry is the scientific title for this metric. If this metric is high it means there is an approach motivation, whereas if this metric is low then there is an avoidance motivation.

Participation : This measure shows how relevant something is to an individual.

Workload : This metric indicates how difficult it is for the brain to process something. Too low a workload indicates that it is too easy for the brain while too high a workload indicates that it is too difficult.

Confusion : This metric indicates whether something is unexpected.

Synchronicity : This metric measures whether multiple participants experience the same thing at the same time. The more synchronicity, the better.

See here to learn more about using EEG to analyze brain activity!

You can see what these metrics look like in the example below. In this example we have highlighted the metric 'desire'. As you can see, there's a drop in desire during the stalking scene with kickboxer Rico Verhoeven, which is later resolved when Rico starts smiling.


Putting neuromarketing into practice

Study the matter

Methodology and metrics so far. For now, at least. Let's be more practical and take a look at some interesting case studies:

  • YouTube Video Test - Nutricia Olvarit

  • Happy Eyes Commercial - Pearle

  • Predict Box Office Hits - Movie Trailers

Funny Neuromarketing Examples 

As mentioned earlier, neuromarketing can be applied in many different situations. Below, we've listed some fun examples. enjoy watching!

  • Your brain on Tinder: Neuroscience reveals unique Tinder picture

  • Can brain data predict new number one hits? (Dutch)

  • Frog effect. How to connect stores and advertising to neuromarketing research


Neuromarketing Insights Applied

An interesting insight from neuromarketing research is what we call the ‘test effect’. In one of our usability studies, we noticed something strange. When a user forgot to fill in a field in a webshop's check-out form, a red error message was displayed. And when the user saw this message, we saw an emotional drop in the brain.

We asked ourselves what was happening here, and began to reason that the red color might be associated with an unobserved error. Just like exams, where your mistakes were marked with a red pen.

We tested this logic with A/B testing, in which we divided all website visitors 50/50 into Group A and Group B. Group A viewed the website as usual, while Group B viewed the website with one small adjustment: orange error messages instead of red. AB tests usability and CRO

Later, we checked which of the two groups ordered more frequently. In this case, we observed that the group with the orange error message (Group B) placed orders up to 15% more often. Put differently, the red error message caused an emotional fallout that reduced turnover by 15%.


Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

fMRI scans provide detailed images of brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow. This technique helps researchers identify specific areas of the brain that become active when consumers are exposed to marketing materials. A study conducted by the University of Texas found that Apple's branding activated the same areas of the brain associated with religious devotion, highlighting the intense loyalty of Apple customers.

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Social proof and neuro social influence's power :

Social proof, a psychological phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in uncertain situations, plays an important role in consumer behavior.

Neuromarketing uses social proof and neuro-social influence to:

Mirror neurons : These are brain cells that activate when we perform an action and when we see someone else performing the same action. These neurons play an important role in empathy and social imitation. In marketing, they may explain why seeing others using and enjoying a product or service can influence consumers to do the same. For example, user-generated content on social media platforms such as Instagram can take advantage of mirror neurons to inspire consumer trust and interest.

Online Reviews and Ratings: Online reviews and ratings clearly demonstrate the influence of social proof. According to a study by BrightLocal, 91% of consumers aged 18-34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Positive reviews and high ratings serve as social proof, reassuring potential buyers that they are making a good choice.


Master marketing techniques with Eton Business School's EMBA

Understanding and influencing consumer behavior has never been easier thanks to neuromarketing. It stands as a powerful tool, providing a deep understanding of consumer behavior and the subtle influences that shape our choices. By delving deeper into the inner workings of the human brain, marketers can uncover the subconscious motivations that drive purchasing decisions.

Through methods such as fMRI, EEG, eye-tracking, and the study of subliminal messages, marketers gain invaluable insight into how consumers perceive and respond to marketing stimuli. This can lead to more effective marketing strategies.

With Eton Business School's MBA in Digital Marketing and Social Media, you can master new-age marketing techniques like neuromarketing. Our comprehensive program focuses on strategic insights into digital and social media marketing to help you gain a competitive edge in your career.


Ethical Considerations of Neuromarketing

Although neuromarketing is a very promising tool for studying and influencing customer behavior, it also brings up moral questions. Manipulating consumers' subconscious minds and taking advantage of their vulnerabilities may be considered unethical. Marketers should use neuromarketing techniques with due consideration of the following aspects:

Transparency : Marketers must be open and honest about their use of neuromarketing techniques. Transparency builds trust among consumers and ensures that they are aware of the psychological strategy being adopted. For example, if a company uses sensory marketing to create a specific atmosphere in its retail stores, it should tell customers about it to increase understanding and appreciation of the brand experience.

Customer confidentiality : Neuromarketing frequently depends on gathering information about each person's unique brain responses and activity. It is essential to protect consumer privacy and follow ethical data collection and usage practices. Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US are part of efforts to protect consumer data rights.

Online neuromarketing will be the industry standard for testing advertising campaigns, prototypes, and packaging designs within five years," asserted neuromarketing pioneer Gemma Calvert in 2017.
It seems impossible, but neuromarketing is not going away. And the ongoing privacy debate surrounding online advertising suggests that technology will continue to outpace regulation. Ethical issues will continue to arise with neuromarketing; They may be more pushy.
Here's what won't change: Misleading marketing tactics and unfulfilled promises won't build a sustainable business, as Dooley rightly points out. Plan accordingly.

In conclusion, it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter, and marketers who understand the most basic roots of human emotions have a significant advantage. The beauty of neuromarketing is its ability to integrate both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. From tactics like spraying specific scents in your stores to using pictures of children in advertising, we can see that the brain is subconsciously reacting in the same way. It is important for marketers, and if budget allows, to use neuromarketing to better understand their consumer's preferences.

How do we combine behavioral economics, emotional models, and consumer psychology to design applied neuromarketing practice?

I want to explore the connection between behavioral economics, emotional models, and consumer psychology to design practical neuromarketing practices. The purpose of the study is to bridge the gap between these disciplines and provide information on how they can be integrated to enhance marketing strategies.

In my paper I want to discuss the principles of behavioral economics, which examine how individuals make economic decisions influenced by cognitive biases and heuristics. Then I would like to explore the emotional model, which focuses on understanding the role of emotions in decision making processes. Additionally, I want to delve deeper into consumer psychology, which examines the psychological factors that influence consumer behavior.

Neuromarketing: an opportunity or a threat?

Depending on your stance, that is.
If you are among those who use neuromarketing, you can see it as an opportunity, since it requires knowing your customers very well, so to implement it successfully you have Must have an excellent CRM and cross-data.
If you are on the "victim" side of neuromarketing, this can be a danger, companies know a lot about you and you know very little about them. You know how to manipulate yourself, both consciously and unconsciously, so you don't know whether you actually buy products or use services because you decided to do so or you are simply responding to a nervous "order." That "forces" you to do so.

How do I choose an appropriate theory for my research?

Actually, the theory is selected before starting the research for many reasons. But, in new fields or when you are new to a field the best approach is to do a literature review and talk to experts like your advisor.

What research methodology and theoretical framework should be used to conduct this research?

You have to spend resources to use neuromarketing and study the impact of advertising on end users. Neuromarketing requires the use of methods that are able to track changes and the simplest is the eye tracking method.
You have to understand that if you want to study the effect of different types of message appeals used in advertisements on the behavior of consumers then experimental research design would be a good choice.

How can I start working on Neuromarketing and Consumer Behavior? Can someone please share the questionnaire?

In general, you have to think twice before using a questionnaire as a data collection tool in a research on neuromarketing and consumer behavior, because such research is, in most cases, conducted with a selected group of consumers (i.e., MRI). But rely on data collected from specialized medical devices. or ECG). The idea of neuromarketing is that consumers do not know exactly what they want, so using questionnaires may be inappropriate.

What is the concept of neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing is the study of how people's brains respond to advertising and other brand-related messages by scientifically monitoring brainwave activity, eye tracking and skin response. These neuromarketing techniques are used to study the brain to predict consumer decision-making behavior.

Why is neuromarketing important?

Why is neuromarketing important? Neuromarketing incorporates various techniques that allow brands to understand and meet the needs and preferences of their customers. They can also explore how customers react to various types of advertisements, campaigns, and packaging designs.

How Google is using neuromarketing?

Google employs neuromarketing methods to optimize its search results and make them more engaging for users. One prominent technique is through eye-tracking studies. Google conducts extensive eye-tracking research to analyze users' eye movement patterns when they interact with search result pages.

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