Neuromarketing: The Future of Marketing

Neuromarketing: The Future of Marketing

“Neuroscience shows us that the decision to purchase something is often formed deep within the subconscious.” – Nielsen Research

Next time you buy something, stop and ask yourself why.  You may think you know the answer, but the truth is, the subconscious controls a high percentage of what we do (around 95%), and Neuroscience is bringing us closer than ever to understanding behavior.

To quote Harvard Business Professor Uma R. Karmarkar: “People are fairly good at expressing what they want, what they like, or even how much they will pay for an item, but they aren’t very good at accessing where that value comes from, or how and when it is influenced by factors like store displays or brands. Neuroscience can help us understand those hidden elements of the decision process.”

Neuromarketing is a fairly new scientific practice that uses (mainly) EEG and fMRI tests to screen candidates for everything from displeasure for a music genre to happiness for a cereal brand. It incorporates Neuroscience and Marketing to determine the preference of certain products over others.

Both tests have their pros and cons. Because EEG’s don’t go as deep into the brain as fMRI’s, sometimes the fMRI wins out. On the other hand, fMRI’s come with a price tag of $1,000 per machine, per hour, and a minimum of 20 participants.  Let’s talk about the well respected alternative: the EEG.


EEG’s measure the fluctuation of frustration, engagement, and excitement, whereas fMRI’s measure the “pleasure center” of the brain.

Frito-lay got “cheesy” in one of it’s first of multiple EEG campaigns for Cheetos. As the test caps were placed on each participant’s head, they were asked to dive into the bag and enjoy the Cheetos puffs. Interestingly, the outcome was extremely positive, not just for the puffs, but for the cheesy residue left on the fingers. The EEG patterns determined “a sense of giddy subversion that consumers enjoy over the messiness of the product.”(-Forbes)

Not surprising, an EEG test with the American Automobile Association revealed that drivers listening to the radio, books on tape or engaged in a hands-free phone conversation demonstrated slowed reaction times – slow enough, in fact, to miss a light or hit a pedestrian, even with their hands on the wheel.

A weird test conducted for Hyundai asked 30 participants to stare at a Hyundai prototype for one hour. Brainwaves were calculated, data was stored, and results were studied by Neuromarketing experts. The results were in – the was car was predicted to go under exterior adjustments, all based on brainwave responses.

The fact is, Neuromarketing tests are giving researchers and marketers an immediate, accurate portrayal of feeling toward their products and brands.

In a separate study, Frito-Lay measured women’s feelings toward potato chips. The marketers compared an existing package design (bright, shiny bag, displaying chips) to a new product design (matte & beige colored, displaying healthy ingredients like potatoes). The anterior cingulate “guilt feeling” cortex of the brain fired strongly for women looking at the shiny image of chips, but turned calm at the newer packaging featuring the healthy ingredients.

Brands like Disney, Google, Chevron, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Ford are all tapping into the science, giving marketers a great understanding of consumer behavior based on the brainwave response on everything from laundry detergent to TV commercials.

Whether building a website, launching a product, or creating a video game, marketers can use Neuromarketing to get true insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a consumer product by monitoring the emotional waves of a consumer’s brain while engaging with the product. Whether measuring
frustration, excitement, or engagement, researchers may find it impossible to beat the truth of the subconscious mind while participants are hooked up to an EEG.

This article is written from the personal perspective of Andrew Merryman. The opinions and views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Miller Group Advertising.

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