Adrian Sparrow
NeuLine Health

Neuromarketing, sometimes called consumer neuroscience, is the study of the brain to predict and manipulate consumer behavior. It includes evaluating advertising and branding to understand how customers react subconsciously and their purchase decisions without testing specific ads or materials. Its study has increased in recent years as technology and its potential for marketers has grown.

As techniques are still being developed, efficiency must come into consideration.

Two of the main tools for scanning brain activity are fMRI and EEG. 

The former can see deep within the brain but is cumbersome and costly. The latter is much more economical in size and price but can’t track activity deep within the brain or pinpoint where it occurs.  

Measuring the peripheral senses is much more affordable and easier for marketing teams. Eye-tracking measures attention and arousal through eye movement and pupil dilation; facial-expression coding measures emotional responses through the face’s muscle movements; vitals like heart and respiration rates and skin conductivity measure arousal.

Despite ‘promising academic findings,’ marketers are reluctant to utilize consumer neuroscience, partly due to “an overall pessimism regarding the technique’s ability to generate useful insights beyond those offered by traditional marketing methods”(source). Brain scans can reveal how people react differently to the same product with different prices and similar products with another package. The issue is, so can simple behavioral studies. Such studies come with their own pros and cons, especially related to human behavior: people have poor memory recall and limited vocabularies, people might lie to please somebody, or feel embarrassed and alter their answers. Brain data side-steps the mouth, which doesn’t always accurately render what’s happening in the mind. 

Changing consumers’ minds
As technology improves, the field of neuromarketing grows. Large companies like NBC and TimeWarner have had neuromarketing units for years already. Due to cost, in-house neuromarketing is still vastly out of reach for most companies. Still, there are specialist consulting firms and neuroscientists that they can partner with to develop new strategies. The goal isn’t just to track consumer preferences but also to change people’s minds. 

Different advertising methods and their effects on human psychology can be recorded with neuromarketing and have revealed exciting results to date. Effective packaging, usage of color, tracking eye movement across the page, and dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and reward) are just a few of the outcomes of consumer neuroscience. These neurological tools can be used with regards to not just ads on tv or in print but also in creating effective retail displays and memorable headlines, prototype testing, and tracking psychological effects like decision paralysis and loss aversion. 

Marketing has always existed to further a product or services’ effectiveness, and consumer neuroscience is the futuristic- but very real- next step in consumer marketing.


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