What is Neuromarketing after all?

By Foteini Tzachrista (linkedin.com/in/foteinitzachrista)

While applications of Neuromarketing receive a lot of hype lately, the methods and benefits of Neuromarketing research are still abstract to many. Understanding the definition, tools and findings of Neuromarketing is necessary, especially for those on the hunt to employ Neuromarketing principles in their Marketing campaigns.

-The definition

Neuromarketing is the application of neuroimaging to consumer behavior, and consumers’ responses to brands and advertisements. “Which colors and logos attract attention in a print ad?”; “Which part of a video ad is the most and which is the least engaging?”; “Which jingles are most memorable?”; are just few of the questions that Neuromarketing investigates using neurophysiological methods such as eye-tracking, biometrics, electroencephalograph (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

-The components

Neuromarketing incorporates the best of 4 worlds; Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, Psychology and Marketing. After the client sets his marketing goals and intentions, we use neurophysiological methods, such as the eye-tracking, biometrics, EEG, fMRI, to investigate his/her query. From there, artificial intelligence gives us the tools to accurately decode human reactions to marketing stimuli. Therefore, the computer can recognize and quantify the human emotions for the researcher to analyze. Then, Neuroscience contributes the knowledge to analyze the acquired neural data as well as identify the origin, nature and future progress of consumers’ behavior. Simultaneously, Psychology provides the behavioral theories and analysis of behavioral data that help us with the interpretation of consumers’ reactions and their reasoning. Based on all the previous input, Marketing theories help us choose the most effective recommendations for our clients’ marketing campaign. Combining the cream of the crop of these four fields gives us the targeted strategies that effectively reach the occasional marketing goals of our clients.

-Neuromarketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Neuromarketing research has the edge on several matters and so it is used to enhance the findings of traditional methods of research. Here are three of the reasons why Neuromarketing goes the extra mile in research.

1. Hidden information. While people can easily reveal what they like, they can hardly report why. Traditional research can portray the preferences of people (“what they like”) but Neuromarketing is the one that can actually pinpoint the exact origin of them (“why”).

2. Design stage. Neuromarketing provides a more accurate indication of the underlying preferences of potential consumers than traditional Marketing, especially for products that have not yet hit the shelves. Therefore, Neuromarketing can inform a client in the design stage regarding the products that would or would not be attractive to consumers. The client can, then, choose to produce the attractive products and eliminate the unattractive ones, matching accurately the consumers’ needs and avoiding a potential mismatch. Such a move leads the client into financial growth rather than a standstill.

3. Memory formation. Remembering a brand or a product is necessary not only in purchasing it but also repurchasing it later on. The way people encode and retrieve information about a brand or a product is, therefore, crucial in Marketing. Conventional methods of research cannot distinguish between the stages of encoding and retrieving information. So, more advanced tools provided by Neuromarketing, can only shed light on the way people form a memory of a brand or a product. Such an insight can then be used, for instance, in developing consumers’ habits regarding product purchases.


In the literature, one can find many examples in which Neuromarketing has added a new dimension to traditional thinking. For instance, in economic theory it is assumed that consumers like a product they consume only due to the product’s intrinsic properties (e.g. its taste) and the state of the individual (e.g. the individual’s hunger). Thus, based on Economic theories, the pleasure derived from consuming, a glass of wine should depend only on its molecular composition and the level of thirst of the individual that tastes it.
However, Plassmann and his colleagues tested whether the price also affects the experienced pleasantness, by scanning individuals using fMRI while they tasted wines that, contrary to reality, they believed to be different and sold at different prices. The results show that increasing the price of a bottle of wine, increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as the activity in an area of the brain that is thought to encode experienced pleasantness [4]. Therefore, consumers like a product they consume not only because of the reasons that Economists initially assumed (the products’ properties and the individual’s state), but also because of the price set by the marketer. This example clearly depicts the type of valuable insight Neuromarketing research can provide to marketers, beyond the conventional route.

[1] Lee, N., Broderick, A. J., & Chamberlain, L. (2007). What is ‘neuromarketing’? A discussion and agenda for future research. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 63(2), 199-204.
[2] Rangel, A., Camerer, C., & Montague, P. R. (2008). A framework for studying the neurobiology of value-based decision making. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 545-556.
[3] Ariely, D., & Berns, G. S. (2010). Neuromarketing: the hope and hype of neuroimaging in business. Nature reviews neuroscience, 11(4), 284-292.
[4] Plassmann, H., O’Doherty, J., Shiv, B., & Rangel, A. (2008). Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(3), 1050-1054.

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