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Neuromarketing: Understanding Consumer Behavior Through Neuroscience

Marketers are always looking for new ways to improve the efficiency of their efforts. To achieve the highest ROI and conversions possible, you’d have to be a mind-reader, peering into the inner thoughts of each person who views an ad. While that degree of insight may be science fiction, neuroscience has made understanding how different target audiences think a very real possibility.

Understanding Neuromarketing

Neuroscience has made great strides in understanding how the brain works and how people think. Neuromarketing is an innovative field that takes those lessons and applies them to create better marketing materials. By using the tools available in neuroscience, researchers can now get a detailed look at the ways in which consumers respond to advertising and branding.

Marketers have long used psychology as a way to better market their products. Many of these tricks are well-known. Placing impulse buys at the checkout counter to encourage their purchase, for example. However, neuroscience provides a much more detailed and objective look at the ways in which advertising and marketing strategies impact consumer choices.

Neuroscience Tools Used in Neuromarketing

There are a lot of tools available in the neuroscience field that can help in the area of neuromarketing. Some of these tools serve similar purposes. Budget constraints, the type of stimuli being tested, and the accuracy required are some of the factors that go into choosing between them when that is the case. Common tools used include:

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

When a given area of the brain is more active, it consumes more oxygen. Functional magnetic field resonance imaging (fMRI) can detect these changes. It uses the magnetic properties of blood to produce detailed images of brain activity.

Researchers show consumers marketing stimuli and use fMRI to record which areas of their brain are activated in response to it. This can help them to understand the emotional and cognitive processes involved in purchasing decisions. With that information, they can craft more engaging marketing material that resonates better with the target audience.

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Another way of looking into the cognitive processes associated with marketing stimuli is electroencephalography (EEG). By placing electrodes on the scalp, researchers can measure the electrical activity of the brain. It can capture changes in brain activity at the millisecond level.

Because of the speed at which the technology works, marketing researchers can show stimuli to consumers and get real-time feedback on their emotional states throughout. Excitement, interest, and boredom can all be tracked. The data is used to understand the impact of marketing messages and optimize advertising.

Facial Coding

As humans, it’s fairly easy for us to detect the emotions someone is experiencing simply by looking at their face, provided they’re feeling the emotion strongly enough. Facial coding works in the same way, except it can track micro-expressions, the result of minor changes in the muscle movements of the face.

Like EEG, facial coding can be used to determine which emotions are evoked by a given piece of marketing material. This lets marketing teams create and perfect materials that evoke the desired emotion in the target audience.

Eye Tracking

Infrared lights or high-resolution cameras can be used to track the reflection from the cornea and the pupil of the eye. By doing so, they’re able to follow the gaze and movement of the eyes to determine where a person is looking and how long they’re looking there.

This technology is useful for any sort of visual advertisement because it lets researchers confirm that the attention is focused on the areas the visual marketing teams want it to be focused on. By collecting enough data, researchers can also learn what type of visuals are most likely to hold the attention of a target demographic.

Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)

When emotions are aroused, be they positive or negative, the moisture levels in the skin change. Galvanic skin response (GSR) is the process of measuring the electrical conductance of the skin. Since conductance varies along with moisture levels, GSR is one way of gauging the emotional arousal caused by a given stimulus.

Researchers can use the technology to measure the emotional response to advertising, branding, and product experiences. Because GSR can provide objective data on the intensity of emotional responses, it can be used to create experiences that are more emotionally engaging.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

Neural activity in the brain produces magnetic fields. These fields can be measured through magnetoencephalography (MEG). Like EEG, MEG can produce results fast enough for real-time measurement of brain activity.

The technology can be used by researchers to measure how quickly the brain responds to marketing stimuli. It works with both visual and auditory ads. By knowing how quickly the brain can respond to these changes, markers can create content that’s better optimized for the desired reaction.


This final technology is actually an entire class of technologies. Biometrics refers to the measurement of unique physical and behavioral characteristics. This includes devices such as heart rate monitors, breathing sensors, and temperature sensors. The responses to these devices can indicate the emotional or cognitive state of the subject.

Like GSR, biometrics can be used to gauge the physical response to marketing stimuli, and therefore quantify the emotional arousal and engagement related to the stimuli. With the data, marketers can create experiences that drive a higher emotional response.

Understanding Consumer Behavior through Neuromarketing

Historically, marketing research has relied heavily on self-reported data. But one of the things neuroscience has taught us is that human behavior is often subconscious. How consumers actually respond to something and how they report responding to it aren’t always the same. Neuromarketing works by measuring the subconscious aspects of human behavior.

As we saw when looking at the tools used in the field, a big part of neuromarketing is understanding the emotional and psychological drivers that impact consumer behavior. For example, using biometrics and eye-tracking, a company can redesign its packaging to increase engagement and boost sales. EEG studies on a target audience can determine which emotions are likely to resonate best with them in relation to the brand and guide the tone of the marketing materials created for it.

The field allows marketers to quantify what was once subjective and to examine emotional responses on a more granular level than they could before. It opens the doors for a plethora of optimization for materials throughout the customer’s journey.

Austin Kruger
I'm a data-driven marketer with a passion for crafting engaging content and optimizing campaigns for results.
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