As the marketing landscape continues to change along with the advancements in technologies and platforms, neuromarketing has played an increasingly important role. The practice has seen brands boost their sales, image, and conversion rates without, generally, making significant changes to their marketing spend.
This article will be tackling the basics of neuromarketing: what it is, how it works, why it matters, and provide actionable tips on the best techniques and practices.
What is Neuromarketing?
In the most basic sense, neuromarketing provides valuable insights into understanding consumer behavior, essentially helping marketers understand what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to influencing customers’ purchasing decisions. Neuromarketing uses contemporary techniques like neuroimaging (EEG and fMRI scans), eye tracking, and facial coding, among others to study the effects varying stimuli can have on the brain, and how to use that information to optimize a company’s marketing strategy.
Consumer psychology has long been the bedrock of any marketing strategy. And neuromarketing bridges the field of neuroscience, psychology, and marketing—helping marketers understand how consumers’ reptilian brain (the one responsible for primal actions like eating and reproducing) works, and learning how to use this to their advantage.
As noted by New Neuro Marketing, while it may seem that consumers’ minds work in complicated ways, how it works is often not a matter of “how,” but “under what specific conditions.”
How companies utilize neuromarketing
As pointed out by Neuromarketing For Dummies Cheat Sheet, rather than being a new kind of marketing, neuromarketing is a relatively new way to study and measure marketing. Below are 5 major areas where companies use neuromarketing:
There is a reason why companies spend valuable time and resources in coming up with a strong brand image. And a recent study presented at the Radiological Society of North America shows that when people were presented with known brand images, they processed it in areas of the brain associated with positive emotions.
Meanwhile, when presented with unfamiliar brands, it not only took more effort for the brains to process the images, it also activated areas associated with negative emotions. Studies like this is how neuromarketing measures brand associations
Product design and innovation
Similar to brand associations, there are also distinct responses to product ideas and package designs that go beyond consumer’s conscious awareness. For example, Frito-Lay found that shiny bags with images of chips triggered negative responses, while matte bags with pictures of potatoes did not. Shortly after the discovery, new bags were designed, doing away with the shiny ones.
Traditionally, it was believed that there was a direct route towards advertising effectiveness.
But as noted by the Dummies Cheat Sheet, advances in brain science have identified indirect routes by taking into account nonconscious processes, with each route more likely to succeed under varying circumstances.
Customer decision making
As you may have guessed by now, influencing customer decision making is one of the key areas where neuromarketing is used – and there are a plethora of ways brands can do so.
It could be as simple as store environments, the order of how products are presented, not using vertical signage as its been shown to be displeasing to shoppers, or providing certain scents. It’s not always a logical process, but various techniques have been found to be truly effective in this regard.
Similar to how store environments can influence purchasing decisions, brain science has also shown that online experiences can do the same.
Whether it’s as simple as using a particular font on the website, how images are presented, your choice of words on an Instagram caption, or how quickly a brand responds to a query – online experiences have a profound effect on strengthening brand associations.
Top neuromarketing techniques
In its most primal implementation, eye gaze has been used to direct viewers to the most important part of an image. For instance, if you have an image of a man looking lustfully at a car, then it’s only natural that the viewer would also look at the car.
But massive advancements in eye tracking (the concept of measuring and responding to human eye motion) technology has led to a significant rise in interest in the technology. And it’s only a matter of time before eye tracking becomes fully accessible to varying fields like VR, gaming, advertising, and market research.
“Eye tracking sensors provide two main benefits,” says eye tracking company Tobii Tech Vice President Oscar Werner says. “First, it makes a device aware of what the user is interested at any given point in time. And second, it provides an additional way to interact with content, without taking anything else away.”
While it eye tracking technology may take a few more years before its embedded into all devices, you can already experiment with its potential benefits. Using eye tracking wearables, you can get valuable insights into what your customers look at when they enter your physical store. And if you put special advertising materials in-store, you can also measure how much it attracts their attention.
This aspect of neuromarketing is basically an area of research that looks into how colors can influence behavior and decision making. Various studies have shown, for instance, that different colors can impact the way consumers perceive brands. Certain colors have also been shown to increase appetite, while red has been found to trigger powerful emotions (both positive and negative).
This is one of the ways neuromarketing can positively impact businesses, without any increase in budget. In one A/B test, for example, HubSpot found that a red CTA button outperforms a green one by 21 percent. This means that they were able to increase potential conversion rates by simply utilizing the power of color psychology.
Using your own A/B testing, find out how you can boost your business by doing the same. From your brand color scheme, to your logo, to your packaging – you can identify which colors work best with your brand, and the image you want to give off.
Green is synonymous with health, that’s why it’s become the standard hue for “healthy” brands. And while blue has a calming effect and inspires trust, the lack of natural blue food in nature makes it suppress the appetite. Meanwhile, purple has long been associated with prestige and royalty, so only use it if it works with your brand messaging.
Scarcity appeals basically tug on people’s FOMO, focusing on two basic premises: excess demand (almost sold out), and limited supply (limited edition). But neuromarketing has found that it affects people with different personalities in different ways.
There are two basic personality traits that influence how a person responds to scarcity appeals: those with low “need for uniqueness” (conforms to group), and those with high “need for uniqueness” (possess more self-distinguishing behavior). Essentially, it’s been found that those that find the need to conform will respond more to messaging like “few stocks remain,” while those who display a need for distinctiveness will be inclined to limited edition products, or those available in select stores.
To make the psychology of scarcity appeals work to your advantage, find out under which personality trait your target market falls, and which one your brand is looking to serve. If you have customers with low need for uniqueness, you can highlight the gains associated with being part of the popular group. If it’s the other, you should relay how rare the product is. The sneaker industry boomed because of the latter, with limited edition releases nearly every month that sneakerheads keep falling for.
Additionally, you can add a sense of scarcity on your campaign discounts. As noted by RedStagfulfillment, using email marketing to remind your customers that a special product discount will only run for ‘a limited time’ leverages the power of scarcity and motivates your customers to immediately make a sale.Anchoring
The anchoring effect plays on the human nature to make decisions based on comparative values, and not considering the value of a particular option based on its intrinsic value. As noted by Business 2 Community, anchoring takes advantage of the innate human flaw of basing decisions on a surrounding situation, as opposed to rationally make the best overall decision.
For instance, you go to the mall for a pair of jeans, intending to spend around $50. You find a gorgeous pair – perfect cut, fabric, and fit – but it’s $150. As you’re about to walk away from spending three times your budget, the sales person comes to tell you it’s at 50 percent off – still beyond your budget, but fair enough. You go home with the $75 jeans. That’s the anchoring effect in its simplest form.
It’s the same when you sell something online. You know people are going to haggle with you, so you set the price higher than the amount you’d like for it.
But you can also take advantage of the anchoring effect in more complex ways. For example, instead of having just two options for the subscription service to your online app – monthly and annually – you can have a third option with just slight alterations to the offers.
Instead of having, say, Monthly, and Annual Exclusive (offering extras like special access to content, or a free device) – you can add a third option, Annual Standard, which is basically a year-long version of Monthly. This way, people who may be put off by the initial investment and commitment of going for an Annual plan, will find the Annual Exclusive much more appealing because of all the add-ons it carries with it.
Speaking of pricing, different pricing strategies likewise have an effect on consumer psychology. One of the most basic plays on pricing psychology is to put an expensive product next to even more expensive ones. People have a natural inclination for the mid-priced item, avoiding the most expensive and the cheapest ones. Price too high, and it could make a competitor’s product more appealing. On the other hand, price too low, and customers may question your product’s quality.
Another example of pricing psychology is the power of the number “9.” There’s a reason products are priced at $4.99 rather than $5—and it’s because it works. Some call it “charm prices,” which have been found to increase sales by 24 percent when compared to rounded price points. But an experiment by the MIT and University of Chicago saw that among items priced at $34, $39, and $44 – the one that sold best was the one priced at $39, even though it was $5 more expensive than the $34 one.
But it’s not always that clear cut. What you can do is to test the pricing strategy that works with your targeted customers. There are a number of pricing strategies you can experiment with, find out which one works for your both your customers and your brand.
Web Design Neuromarketing
People are more stimulated to action by visuals, and that’s a major reason why you should take advantage of neuromarketing in your web design. Orbit Media came up with a great compendium of tips to increase conversion rates, and the percentage of page visitors who respond to CTA’s by using specific cognitive biases in both the content and design of websites.
One of the easiest to implement is by utilizing the conformity bias, which is the natural inclination to do what others do. An example of this would be to place reviews and testimonials on the page of the product it relates to. If a customer if leaning towards purchasing a particular product, a good review could be the one that pushes into a purchasing decision. Orbit Media emphasizes that reviews/testimonials should be on the page of the product they pertain to, and not on a separate page. Customers like to find it where they need it, and not search for it on a “reviews page”.
Social proof can also be very easily shown with social media sharing buttons, which show the number of shares (likes and comments) you got across your networks. As well, a Facebook box on your site – which shows their mutual friends that also like your site – is a powerful way to get them to like your page too.
Brands’ best practices
You may think that the creatives behind those adorable Coca-Cola ads are just the cream of the crop, seeing as how consistent the brand churns out memorable ones. What you may not have known is that it goes far beyond creative storytelling, as Coca Cola has its own in-house neuroscience lab.
There, every element of their ads are tested to see which to use, and which parts have the most impact. It’s a big reason how Coca Cola developed the third most-liked commercial aired during Super Bowl XLIII.
The Swedish vehicle manufacturer used neuromarketing to give its customers what it already knew they wanted—aesthetically beautiful and sleek car designs. With the help of EEG specialists. Volvo conducted an experiment to analyze how people’s brains react emotionally to car design, and aesthetics makes people feel.
Volvo notes that the experiment was conducted to coincide with the launch of its Volvo Concept Coupe – part of the company’s new design strategy to build more emotional connection with the brand. Essentially, the participants were asked to rate a series of images (the new Volvo, outdated car designs, happy/crying babies, and attractive men and women) while wearing an EEG headset that measured brainwave activity.
What they found was that men experienced more emotion while looking at images of a beautiful car design that they did looking at a crying child, with 60b percent of them claiming that driving one makes them feel empowered. Women doubled the emotional intensity men displayed when looking at the crying child, while only 33 percent rated images of car design higher than an attractive man.
The varying effects different stimuli have on the brain and how to utilize this information can optimize any company’s marketing strategies. And there’s a good chance you’ve already been implementing neuromarketing concepts without consciously doing so.
Dig deeper into the science of neuromarketing and discover the plethora of ways it can help boost your business!