What Is Neuromarketing: Everything You Need to Know

Most definitions of neuromarketing sound something like this: neuromarketing employs cognitive-behavioral science in a market-research setting to assess a consumer’s response to marketing stimuli. To the average marketer, this sounds as interesting as a phonebook and spawns more questions than it answers. The truth about neuromarketing is rather simple, but it takes some explanation. To understand what neuromarketing is, we have to understand how it works, what it’s used for, and why it’s necessary in the context of modern advertising.



What Is Neuromarketing?



The Consumer Dilemma


Decision making used to be easy. Today, consumers are inundated with information. Even the simplest products float adrift on a sea of possibility. For example, over 80 brands of bottled water are sourced in the United States alone. To make matters worse, interbrand consistency is implicit in the market for water—only so much variance can exist in a tasteless product, after all. So, what makes a consumer reach past Evian and grab Aquafina? There really is no straightforward answer. It could be the packaging, the shelving, personal experience with the product, brand reputation, or any combination of these variables.



Wading through the sea of options to make a logical purchase is more than difficult; it’s impossible. This rule can be applied to almost any product. As a result, consumers make almost all of their decisions subconsciously, far from conscious reasoning. Still, a majority of marketers use traditional methodology (focus groups, surveys, etc.) to conduct their market research. If we accept that consumers can’t consciously express why they make purchase decisions, why would we rely on what they say to inform our marketing and advertising efforts. Simply put, neuromarketing is the only way to gather information directly from the source of human decision making: the subconscious. But how does it work? And is it worth the investment?


What Tools Do Neuromarketers Use?


Neuromarketers use a wide range of neuromarketing techniques and technology in their pursuit to better understand consumer behavior. The tech is generally separated into two camps: those that measure neurological brain activity and those that infer neurological responses by proxy. The former includes EEG, fMRI, and Steady State Topography (SST), all of which directly measure brain activity related to specific brain functions. For instance, SST measures the speed of electrical activity on the surface of the brain, linking changes in certain areas to specific metrics like engagement and memory encoding.

The latter includes eye tracking, facial coding, and biometric data like heart rate monitoring. These techniques, however, are not technically neuroscience and—since the data allows for broader interpretation—offer indeterminate insights compared to measurements made by technology like SST and fMRI.


What Is Neuromarketing Used For?


Part of the confusion surrounding neuromarketing rests in the inability to immediately see how it can be implemented into existing business practices. The problem is that neuromarketing has many uses, which means most explanations regarding neuromarketing’s utility remain vague and imprecise—adding to the confusion. Neuromarketing’s flexibility, while confusing at first, is also the industry’s greatest asset. In practice, neuromarketing can be used to answer almost any research question that marketers might have about their product—even questions that traditional marketing research can’t tackle.

For example, one brand might use SST to test whether the end branding of an advertisement is being encoded into long-term memory while another brand might use the same technology to optimize their ad for mobile platforms. There is no single use case for neuromarketing. Neuromarketing research topics define the methodology and the technology to be implemented not the other way around. Here are just a few of neuromarketing’s primary applications:

  • Product design testing
  • UX/ website testing
  • Multi-screen ready/cross-platform testing
  • Second-by-second optimization of TV advertisements
  • Audio branding testing
  • Rebranding

Check out some more examples of neuromarketing in action.


Does Neuromarketing Work?


One of the biggest critiques neuromarketing faces is that it doesn’t offer new information. “Do marketers really need to be told that people’s brains react differently to Coke and Pepsi to understand the importance of branding?” summarizes Eben Harrell in the Harvard Business Review. Many marketers even think their intuition is enough to assess whether an advertisement is effective. Regardless of the fact that successful marketing is often counterintuitive, this is still a reductive way to view the field. Neuromarketing at the highest level isn’t a one-to-one comparison of better or worse. Thanks to new advancements in technology like SST, neuromarketing goes far beyond simple validation. Neuromarketers today, for instance, can even measure stimuli in context to tell brands if their advertisement will work better on Youtube or Twitch.

Most importantly, All of this can be linked to revenue. Among Neuro-Insight clientele, higher memory encoding at key branding has an 86% correlation to an increase in sales. And those who use neuromarketing are starting to see the value. The Association of National Advertisers reports that brands that use neuromarketing attribute it to an average 16.3% increase in revenue. Neuromarketing is the only form of consumer research that can accurately predict purchase intent.


What Is Neuromarketing’s Future?


Overall, neuromarketing is still a nascent industry. Many of the companies working in the space are a step behind the curve, which makes it hard for industry leaders to establish legitimacy. As the field progresses and technology evolves, neuromarketers will continue to demonstrate their ability to impact marketing efforts in unprecedented ways and generate a higher ROI than any other form of market research. Until the rest of the world catches up, it’s up to marketers to determine which neuromarketing companies are worth the investment.


Where to Go for More Neuromarketing Information


Neuromarketing is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. As a result, new developments are commonplace. Stay up to date on neuromarketing’s latest trends with Neuro-Insight’s monthly newsletter. Full of relevant information, eye-opening studies, and industry news, our newsletter is the perfect resource for marketers that are interested in understanding their audience better than ever before. If you still have questions about neuromarketing, our team of neuromarketing experts has worked in the industry for over 20 years and is dedicated to helping brands increase the in-market effectiveness of their advertising efforts. Find out how you can use neuromarketing to inform your strategy by reaching out to our team today!