You have probably heard a lot about neuromarketing in recent times. But do you know what neuromarketing actually is? Do you know what strategies you can apply when selling your product or improving your brand image?
With this complete neuromarketing guide you will discover what influencers consumer behaviour. In addition, you will learn which techniques are used most frequently to understand consumers, which strategies you can apply to your sales strategy, and see several examples of where neuromarketing has been a success.
The benefits of applying neuromarketing strategies have led to thousands of businesses over the world betting on this trend to get an edge at understanding their customers.
Neuromarketing is the application of certain neuroscience techniques to the field of marketing. It is al about analysing what mental processes - both explicit and implicit - are influencing consumer behaviour.
The neuromarketing discipline has aspects of both neuroscience and psychology. It helps us understand why some users make certain purchasing decisions and why they choose certain products over other products.
"It helps us understand why some users make certain purchasing decisions"
To determine the mental processes of consumers, many studies are undertaken in which the physical responses of a customer is measured using specific psychophysiological techniques. Most of these techniques focus on analysing what changes occur within the consumer's brain when viewing a particular product or advert. This, in effect, allows the scientists to see what areas of the brain are being activate when a consumer is viewing a certain stimulus.
If the consumer views a product and the reward centre of their brain is activated (responsible for pleasurable sensations), we can infer that the consumer is interested in buying it. However, if the advert causes the activation of the insult (the area of the brain related to brain), this indicates that the consumer is not interested in that particular product.
Thanks to a neuromarketing study, Sony avoided losing a lot of money by testing two different ads prior to launching their advertising campaign to determine what ad was most attractive to its viewers.
During this study the brand presented two ads to its target consumers, both full of colour and incorporating elements that attracted attention. However, the results of the two ads were completely different, activating different parts of the viewers' brains.
The first clip activated the insult and other areas related to pain, whereas the second clip activated the pleasure centres of the brain. Using this data, Sony had the opportunity to know, prior to its launch, which advert would work best with their target market and evoke the positive emotions they desired.
Here are both clips so you can see the difference:
Many people often confuse or mix the concepts of neuromarketing and emotional marketing. Although both are related to human behaviour, they are focused on different things.
Emotional marketing explains how emotions work and how they can affect us when choosing a product. Neuromarketing, on the other hand, focuses on the brain and its functioning. It deals with measuring how people react to certain stimuli, particularly focusing on changes and physical activity. It is a broader concept because it encompasses all brain functioning and not only those which are related to emotions.
We like to think that we are objective and we weigh our purchasing decisions according to logic. However, the truth is that your emotional brain has a far greater say on your purchasing decisions than that of your rational brain.
When buying something, a series of brain mechanisms are unleashed and they operate automatically when viewing something you could be interested in purchasing. They are the so-called "shortcuts" or learnt-behaviours that are defined by previous experiences, environmental stimuli, etc.
What we are doing, then, is utilising a series of mental processes that been learn from previous experiences that have been stored in our memories. These mental processes therefore subconsciously influence our actions, meaning we can never truly act objectively when buying something.
A good neuromarketing study will allow you to:
As you can see, neuromarketing will allow you to get a lot of interesting information that you can apply in your brand strategy.
To better understand neuromarketing, it is good to learn the fundamentals of how the brain functions:
The reptilian brain is related to instinctive behaviors and primary emotions. The parts that make it up are the oldest structures in the brain and are usually located at the centre of the brain.
The reptilian brain bases its reactions on what is known and is more directly related to basic purchasing needs, where deep analysis of the product is not required. For example, when we choose one brand of cereal over another, this decisions often a quick one. Even if we didn't have a preferred brand of cereal, this decision wouldn't take too long to make as there isn't a significant amount of data for our brain to analyse.
The Limbic System is formed by those systems that are responsible for controlling our emotions. The limbic system is located slightly further out from the reptilian brain. This type of brain is associated with those purchasing processes that have a more emotional component to them and that is what Emotional Marketing focuses on. It is closely related to impulse purchases, which are what lead us to acquire products that we had not planned to acquire. For example, many of the products that are put on sale on Valentine's Day appeal to the emotional aspect of our brain.
The cerebral cortex is the most rational and most evolved part of our brain. Physically, it is the outermost part of the organ. This part of the brain is dedicated to analysing the advantages and disadvantages of a situation before making a decision about it.
For example, when we want to take a course that involves a large financial outlay. If we have several options to choose from, our rational brain "weighs" the alternatives. In this way, we look for arguments that allow us to calmly analyse which is the best option based on our needs.
Psychological processes play an important role in how we make purchasing decisions. These processes are quite complex and it would take us a while to explore them in depth. So, here I have summarised what I believe are the 5 main psychological processes:
1.) Perception / Attention: Our brain has processes that are in charge of gathering the information received from our senses, so we can get an idea about the world and interpret it.
For example, sometimes you perceive more information than you can rationally think about when you go in to a store. This information is stored unconsciously and your brain can use that information when it is needed. I'm sure you've been in a situation where you remember seeing something but don't know where you saw it. If so, it's likely this part of your brain had received information unconsciously and relaying it back to you.
2.) Language: Our brain allows us to communicate with our environment and establish social relationships. These types of relationships are basic to our development as people. Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) has shown that the use of language can greatly influence how you perceive a product.
For example, when a client or customer objects to buying your product, open ended questions can be used to make him or her reconsider purchasing that product. Furthermore, the slogans used and the way the product is presented significantly influence our perception of products and can motivate us to buy them.
3.) Learning: Our brain has processes that enable us to incorporate certain behaviour patterns into our daily lives. Through this, we are able to act automatically in certain situations, meaning our brains don't need to work so hard. For example, learning allows us to choose a product that has previously given us good results. It can also help you remove the chances of buying a certain product if it didn't produce good results before.
4.) Memory: This allows you to store the information you have previously learnt. Your memory includes the thoughts, feelings, situations, etc., surrounding experiences, which directly influences how you acquire products. In fact, it is one of the most influential brain processes when it comes to purchasing new products.
5.) Thought: This is one of the most complex psychological processes to study. Thinking helps us analyse ideas, find solutions to problems and, ultimately, function from day to day. This process is influenced by the rest of the processes above and also interferes with all of them.
For example, in purchasing decisions that involve analysing information, our thinking is ultimately the one that evaluates the existing options before making a decision. When making a decision to buy an apartment or a car you think about it a lot, because it is a decision that you should not take lightly.
In addition to subconscious brain processes, when we talk about buying behaviour we can also refer to other specific areas of the brain that are activated during it.
Research has shown that the areas of the brain that are most related to buying behaviour are:
You already have a general idea about the parts of the brain that influence the buying process. Now I am going to talk to you about the two brain pathways that act when choosing a product. Usually these two ways are distinguished as follows:
1.) Fast track (stimulus - thalamus - cerebellar tonsil): the fast-track pathway is related to non-conscious purchases. Most of the time when we make a decision to buy, we do it using this route.
You should keep in mind that this path is related to the most emotional parts of our brain. This implies that most of our purchasing decisions have an emotional component. Hence the importance of including emotional marketing strategies when selling a product.
For example, many times you have probably ended up buying things that you didn't really need but they caught your attention for some reason. In these cases, the pathway that is directing your behaviour is the fast route of cerebral processing.
2.) Slow track (stimulus - thalamus - cortex): This second route is the one that relates to the buying actions we are aware of. Only occasionally do we use this route when making a purchase decision.
For example, this route is usually activated when we think about buying products that have a higher price tag. In these cases, since the amount of money is greater, we like to weigh the pros and cons before buying.
Serotonin and Dopamine are the most important neurotransmitters that are related to the purchase process:
Serotonin is related to happiness. In fact, when you wake up feeling that you could conquer the world, it's probably simply because your serotonin levels are high. It has been proven that serotonin levels are highest in the morning, which usually corresponds to a lower chance of purchasing a new product.
In other words, when we are happy we don't feel the need to buy anything else. For instance, if you go to the supermarket in the afternoon, you are more likely to buy something sweet: your brain is telling you that your serotonin levels have reduced and need something to raise them again.
Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure. It is also responsible for making you take certain actions, so given the right stimulus, the impulse buying process is encouraged. Therefore, if you can stimulate the production of dopamine within your target customers, they will be more likely to purchase your products.
Have you ever been shopping with a positive/energetic state of mind, leading you to buy things that you neither needed or intended to buy? That's dopamine working its magic.
As seen previously, the three types of brain can be related to consumer behaviour. In addition there are certain personal needs that mediate this process. This hierarchy of needs was constructed by Maslow in his well-known Pyramid:
This theory about human needs is well known within the world of Psychology, and it says the following:
This needs within the pyramid are directly connect to the three types of brains, seen above:
Reptilian brain: this is related to the most physiological needs. The reptilian brain, being the most basic type of brain, is related to the functions that we consider necessary for humans to function e.g. feeding, rest, reproduction...
Limbic system: given its more “emotional” character, this is the brain type that is most related to those needs that involve affiliation e.g. friends, having a partner, etc.
Cerebral cortex: as you have already guessed, this is related to the needs of your own self. Since the cortex is more related to complex brain processes, it responds to those more "elaborate" needs. These needs respond to psychological processes of greater complexity.
There are a whole range of techniques that give extremely reliable notes about consumer behaviour:
1.) Eye Tracking
This information provides information on the specific eye movements of your consumers. Thanks to this technique we can see where a user focuses their attention when viewing a particular advertisement or product. For example, usually if there is a human face in an ad, it has been proven that attention is directed first to that point (especially around their eyes and mouth).
2.) Electroencephalography - Magnetic resonance imaging - positron emission tomography
These techniques are encompassed together since they are all based on the changes that occur in the brain (whether electrical or chemical). You should bear in mind that if you choose to use any of these techniques, the cost is likely to be quite high. However, these techniques can be useful for detecting which areas of the brain are being activated when shown different marketing material.
3.) Electrodermal Response
With this, you are measuring the amount of sweat or the responses that are occurring on the skin. It allows you to discover if a certain stress response or similar response is happening with all users that view certain things. If a user has a higher level of sweat on their skin when looking at an ad, that usually indicates a stress response.
This measures the reactions of the muscles, particularly those of the face. This is useful for determining what facial expressions correspond to different packages and products. Different emotions are expressed with the movement of different groups of facial muscles. Therefore, you are able to accurately determine feelings of joy, happiness, disgust, etc.
5.) Heart rate measurement
Measuring heart rate can also be extremely useful for measuring emotions of rejection or interest in a certain marketing stimulus. That is, as was the case with the measurement of the electrodermal response, an increase in heart rate may indicate heightened stress levels.
Here I am providing you with some general neuromarketing strategies that you can apply to sell your products or services. However, you should try and carry out a more thorough analysis on what will work for your own business to ensure you are employing the right techniques for what you have to offer:
As we have seen, our "emotional brain" influences our purchasing decisions. Precisely for this reason it is important that you speak directly to the emotional brain of your consumers and appeal less to the “rational” part of their brain. So, how do you do this? Here are a few strategies:
Appeal to the customer's mirror neurons
Mirror neurons are responsible for mimicking behaviour and empathy. What does this mean, therefore, for advertising? In short, it means that it is important that we use advertising that reflects the consumers own characteristics and feeling empathetic to the ad's content. For example, when they announce the latest lottery draw, this encourages empathetic behaviour by making us reflect on our day-to-day situation and where we would like to be.
Use the exclusivity principle
This principle indicates that, on some occasions, offering an exclusive product to consumers makes them feel special, meaning they are more likely to purchase it. Therefore, if you use the exclusivity principle well and the personal need for status, you can make a product with a high price tag sell relatively easily. However, this will only happen if your product is actually worth the price. If you see a product with a very high price and consider that it is not worth that amount of money then you simply won't buy it... and may even see the company as a bit of a rip off.
Use social identity of customers
As with the principle of exclusivity, social identity can be key when selling a product. When we refer to this term, we refer to the identity we acquire as people of different groups (e.g. we identify as students, or as teachers, or as residents of Birmingham, etc.). If you can get your product to be associated within a certain group. you will make those people more likely to buy it. For example, being part of the Apple consumer group is considered cool, mainly because the brand is associated with positive brand values.
Neuromarketing studies have shown that when we pay for something our insula is activated. As you already know, this is the part of the brain that is related to pain, which implies we must be very careful when we set the price of our product.
Avoid round figures
As far as possible, you should avoid putting rounded numbers on your product prices, as this can cause the product to lose perceived value. For example, buying a shirt for £19 or even £19.99 is always better received by consumers compared to buying a shirt for £20.
Produce packages produces less pain
If you can offer several products in one 'package', the client's feeling of "pain" will be reduced. This is true, regardless of whether or not the final price is the same as if all the products had been purchased individually. This technique is used by fast food restaurants all the time, like McDonalds, to get you to purchase a complete meal. It's a lot of effort for the consumer to buy the food individually, so the option to buy a whole meal is appealing even if it saves no money.
It is important that you choose a product price that consumers can associate as being fair. By setting your price as too high you run the risk of scaring your customers off.
If there are similar products with set prices within the market, then this should be the price anchor to fix your own pricing on. Of course, you don't want to put a price that is much higher than industry standard otherwise nobody will buy your product.
The more payment methods, the better
It is important to have several payment methods your customers can use. Thus, you will give options to your user and facilitate the purchase. Offering card payment, for example, is great because it produces less 'pain' to the customers compared to making them pay by cash. In addition, giving the option to finance a high-priced product is also desirable and reduces the associated pain of purchasing that product.
In a market that is saturated with products, it is extremely important to offer something that stands out and engages consumers. Here are some brief tips to make your product more attractive and stand out:
Not too many alternatives
It is always best to opt for simplicity. If you offer too many purchasing options, the consumer will be overloaded with information, which could stall their decision to buy. Of course, it is still important that your consumers still have the ability to choose, but avoid presenting them with a large variety of different purchasing options. Two or three options is ideal for your consumers to see that you value their choice to customise the product to their liking.
Repetitive stimuli, far from tiring our brain, helps you to simplify information and create mental "shortcuts." Many times we want our product to look beautiful and we ignore the fact that the brand has to be very clear.
How many times has it happened to you that you've seen an ad and you have no idea who is selling it? This is a big mistake that many large companies still make, hoping to gain your purchase through exposure (and, therefore, the more you see it the more familiar you are with the product). But, this technique simply can't work if the brand isn't displayed clearly; your consumers need to know where to buy the product.
Attractive packaging is more influential than you may imagine. Whether you go for the clean packaging used by Apple, or a more quirky design, such as a fruit shaped packaging for your new range of smoothies, the packaging can make a statement that resonates with customers. There is nothing particularly memorable about being handed a boring plastic or paper bag, so try something a little crazy, and it could be a big hit!
You can get an idea to remain "fixed" unconsciously in the minds of your consumers in a very simple way:
Appeal to the senses
Awaken as many senses as possible when presenting your product to consumers. All too often, brands show their product and hope for it to sell, without any indication of how it will evoke the senses. If you try different techniques that allow people to experience your product in different ways it will pass to their sensory memory, building up a more personal and emotional attraction to your products. Music, and the sense of sound, are a particularly effective way of influencing memory. No doubt, you still remember a number of different adverts simply because of the music used.
Other formats, such as images, video, and paper
Several studies have shown that these types of formats improve the retention of information by consumers. Whenever you can, include some striking images or some video into your marketing campaigns.
Did you know that the font you use can also influence the purchasing decision of consumers? Several studies have shown that simple typologies make our brain process faster, so they are usually preferred.
However, slightly more complex typologies are useful when we want the consumer to pay attention as they break the monotony offered by regular fonts, thus being more memorable. So, depending on the result you want to achieve (attention or sales), you should think about what sort of font you need.
Appeal to nature
In general, we prefer organic and natural products. For example, if we are aware of the natural or sustainable processes involved in the manufacture of a product, we are more inclined to buy it.
Create a feeling of belonging
When creating a feeling of exclusivity within your consumers, it is important to use appropriate language that invites them to see themselves as part of the group. If your customers feel like they are part of a close-knit community of supporters then they are more likely to stay committed to them. For example, one of the main reasons you love your favourite sports team is probably simply because you feel part of an exclusive group and love the feeling that gives you. As a result, you stay loyal to them!
Offering a gift can be key to getting your target audience to fall in love with you. Keep in mind that you don't have to give something physical. Many times it is much more important to give something intangible that is useful for the customer. For example, if with the purchase of one of your courses you decide to give away a webinar or another brief additional course you will be able to activate the customer's brain reward centres.
Although we must be careful with offering discounts, the truth is that offering them works. It is a way in which people can be “rewarded” for buying your product. This series of simple positive reinforcements will make the buying behaviour hold over time.
Good storytelling can make you connect with your users. Present yourself honestly and indicate that you are like them (appealing to their mirror neurons). If you can get other people to testify that you are who you say you are too, then you're likely to pull in many more customers.
Neuromarketing is more important than you may have first realised, and I have listed the main points of this post below:
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