Why you should care about neuromarketing

“Consumers don’t think how they feel. They don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.” -David Ogilvy.

This quote from adman David Ogilvy perfectly sums up the need for neuromarketing. If I asked you what you thought about a commercial you saw yesterday and how it affected you, how would your response to me differ from the reaction you had while watching the commercial?

Neuromarketing uses medical technologies to measure physiological responses to marketing stimuli in real-time. Neuroscientific methods can measure cognitive workload, memorability, wanting (motivation), emotional arousal, implicit associations and attention. For marketing professionals, these are powerful metrics that tackle some of the greatest shortcomings of traditional research methods like surveys and interviews; they do not rely on post-rationalization, confabulation, self-evaluation and memory.

Here are four key reasons why you should care about neuromarketing:

1. You need to ensure your brand is emotionally relevant to customers

Since the first Industrial Revolution, people have wanted to appear rational. However, we now recognize that emotions play a much larger role than rationality in both our lives and decision making. Some patients who have experienced brain trauma in areas linked to emotional processing are unable to make decisions, because they keep over-rationalizing. We need emotions to make decisions. According to some estimates, emotions drive up to 90% of decisions. Because your customers make purchasing decisions based on emotion, you should understand what is emotionally meaningful and memorable to them.

2. Traditional research methods like surveys and interviews paint an incomplete picture

Current widespread methods assume people can accurately quantify their own emotional attachments and associations, which are often assessed on standardized scales that fail to reflect the complexity of emotions.

Thus, neuroscientific methods and other new tools are required. We need to discover what customers find emotionally meaningful and memorable, without asking them to describe their emotions. Equipped with these insights, we can truly understand the customer and thereby predict their behavior in the market. In a recent Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study, 77% of the variance in sales data was explained by neuromarketing research results.

3. Some of the largest companies in the world are already using neuromarketing

IKEA was contemplating how to transform their business model to tackle some of the largest societal challenges. This raised some questions internally. What if IKEA sold solutions that helped conserve resources? What if they sold renewable power solutions for the home? What if they created virtual power grids that leverage blockchain technology?

IKEA tested these new business model ideas using neuroscientific research methods with Polish and Dutch customers. The consumer reactions were then correlated with behavioural data to determine which business models had the most potential. This study motivated IKEA to include solar power solutions in their offering, shift toward renewable plastics and offer more healthy and sustainable food options.

Other companies that work consistently with neuromarketing methods include Coca-Cola, Mars, Southwest Airlines, Hershey’s, Google and Facebook. According to the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report, 53% of the marketing industry uses neuromarketing in their everyday work. Applications include advertisement optimization, campaign optimization, website optimization, concepting, innovation, package design and assessing in-store shelf impact.

4. It is becoming more accessible everyday

Neuromarketing has largely evolved with technological developments. As technology advances, so does the speed and cost-effectiveness of neuromarketing. Below are some of the common technologies and techniques employed in this area. The best results are achieved with combinations of these methods, complemented by traditional market research methods.

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
    • With this (very expensive) method, researchers can observe localized brain activity when different stimuli are presented.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
    • This method links patterns of electrical activity in the brain to metrics of memorability, attention and wanting (motivation). This tool can be used to optimize marketing communications to ensure emotional and cognitive engagement.
  • Implicit association testing (IAT)
    • This method measures implicit attitudes towards certain stimuli and can thus be used to measure the strength of mental associations with brands.
  • Galvanic skin response (GSR)
    • By measuring the electrical conductivity of the skin, GSR gauges emotional arousal.
  • Eye tracking
    • Shifts in attention can be monitored by tracking eye movement, which is particularly useful for measuring how well a product stands out on-shelf and optimizing websites and ads.
  • Facial coding
    • Seven universal facial expressions are associated with different emotional states. Especially when used together with GSR, facial coding of these expressions can help assess the types and intensities of emotional reactions.

Marketing strategies should be based on an understanding of what customers find emotionally meaningful and memorable. This insight helps us create a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.

The best results can be gained by combining neuroscientific research methods with other methods such as ethnography, surveys, interviews and customer diaries. Through this holistic approach, we can truly understand our customers.

Do you want to ensure that your brand is emotionally meaningful to your customers? Do you want to explore what truly differentiates your brand from the competition in the minds of consumers? Do you want to validate new business ideas and concepts with your customers to ensure emotional engagement?

We can help. Give us a call!

Written by Oliver Lindahl who represented Marketing Clinic at the Neuromarketing World Forum 2019.