The Science of Neuromarketing and How It Changes Advertising Strategies

What is Neuromarketing?

We would define neuromarketing as a blend of neuroscience and marketing. By understanding how the brain responds to various stimuli, marketers can tailor their messages and strategies to appeal directly to their target market. 

In a world where we’re bombarded with choices, decision-making has become more of a subconscious process. Neuromarketing is about triggering emotions and responses, subtly steering the consumer’s decision-making process. 

According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman95 % of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

By shaping marketing stimuli and messages, marketers can create positive associations and influence consumers’ perceptions of a brand. Ever wondered why your local grocery store often smells like freshly baked bread or aromatic coffee? 

grocery store neuromarketing

Neuromarketers use a variety of scientific methods to understand consumer behavior. They use EEG (electroencephalography) to record the brain’s electrical activity, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to map active brain regions, eye tracking to see where visual attention goes, facial coding to interpret emotional reactions, and biometrics to measure the body’s physiological responses. These experts work in various settings, ranging from research institutes and universities to private companies and marketing agencies.

Discussing brain scans and buying habits. The past decade saw a 400% increase in neuroimaging use in marketing research. 

Is Neuromarketing Used Outside of Science?

While neuromarketing may sound like something straight out of a science lab, it’s actually being used in the real world, right now, to make marketing more effective. Neuromarketing enables a deeper understanding of your target market. 

The neuromarketing market is projected to hit $21,218 million by 2030, with an 8.9% CAGR.

Let’s take a look at how some of these strategies are being put to work.

Techniques and Measurements in Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing techniques allow researchers to gain insights into the emotional responses and cognitive processes that influence purchase decisions. Each method has its own strengths and limitations, making them suitable for different research purposes and settings.

While implicit testing can provide valuable insights, it also has its limitations. For example, it can be expensive and time-consuming. The interpretation of the results also requires a high level of expertise.

Electroencephalography (EEG)

One method for measuring brain activity is electroencephalography (EEG). This non-invasive technique uses electrodes placed on the scalp to record the brain’s electrical activities as it responds to marketing stimuli. In other words, EEG can reveal the level of excitement, or engagement, that the customer experiences when looking at an ad.

neuromarketing eeg

One of the key advantages of EEG is its ability to provide real-time data with high temporal resolution. This means we can track the brain’s reactions to marketing content as they happen. However, EEG’s spatial resolution is somewhat limited. It struggles to capture activity in the brain’s deeper structures. 

Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

Yet another technique is magnetoencephalography (MEG). This method involves the measurement of magnetic fields that are a byproduct of neural processes. MEG offers a higher spatial resolution compared to EEG, allowing researchers to map brain activity more precisely. However, MEG is expensive and not as widely available as EEG.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a popular technique for measuring brain activity. By monitoring changes in blood oxygenation, it delivers an impressively precise view of neural activity. fMRI can even detect emotions that the customer experiences!

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can predict consumer behavior with 75-80% accuracy.

It offers excellent spatial resolution and can capture activity in deeper brain structures. However, it has limited temporal resolution (the ability to distinguish between events in time) and is more expensive and less portable compared to EEG.

Facial coding

One of the ways neuromarketing is being used is through facial coding in advertising. The face is often the first thing we notice about a person, and it can tell us a lot about what they’re feeling. With facial coding technology, marketers can measure consumers’ expressions to get a glimpse into their genuine reactions, making their ads more effective by removing the guesswork.

This technique is often used to understand the emotional reactions of people when they’re watching a video or reading a piece of content. Based on the results, marketers can tweak the parts that are causing confusion or not engaging the audience as much as they’d like. 

Emotional response to an ad has a greater influence on a consumer’s intent to buy than the ad’s content.


Another practical application of neuromarketing is eye-tracking studies. These have been used to understand how consumers interact with websites or product packaging. This information can help companies make a design that not only catches the eye but also highlights the benefits of the product and influences the subconscious choices of consumers.

Eye tracking is a technology that identifies the human eye, specifically the pupil, and tracks its movement and focus when interacting with visuals or browsing websites. Advanced software can create a “heat map” showing where viewers focus their attention. It indicates areas that attract your customers.

neuromarketing eye tracking

Heart Rate Variability

Did you know your heartbeat can tell you a lot about your health? A higher Heart Rate Variability (HRV) indicates strong health, fitness, and stress resistance. On the other side, a lower HRV can signal stress, fatigue, and potentially burnout. 

In the context of neuromarketing and testing advertisements, HRV can be used to measure a viewer’s emotional response to an ad. Here’s how it works:

  1. Baseline Measurement: Before showing the ad, the viewer’s baseline HRV is measured during a period of rest. This provides a reference point for understanding their normal heart rate variability.
  2. During the Ad: The viewer’s HRV is continuously monitored while they watch the advertisement. Changes in HRV from the baseline can indicate emotional responses. For example, a decrease in HRV might indicate that the viewer is feeling stressed or negatively impacted by the ad, while an increase in HRV could suggest a positive or relaxed response.
  3. Analysis: After the ad viewing, the HRV data is analyzed to understand the viewer’s emotional journey during the ad. This can provide valuable insights into which parts of the ad were most engaging or resulted in strong emotional responses.

Skin Conductance

Your skin’s ability to conduct electricity changes with moisture levels (read: sweating), revealing emotions. In neuromarketing, this fluctuating skin conductance is used to measure consumers’ emotional responses to various marketing strategies. It provides a direct, unfiltered measure of the autonomic nervous system’s activity. 

GSR sensors

Galvanic skin reaction (GSR) means how much your skin sweats when you feel something. GSR sensors are one of the tools that neuromarketing uses to see how people react to different things they see, like ads, products, or brands. GSR sensors are put on your fingers or hands, and they record your skin sweat over time. The data can show when your skin sweat changes a lot or a little, which means how strong and how long you feel something. 

GSR sensors can tell how much you feel, but they cannot tell if you feel good or bad. So, they are often used with other tools, like eye tracking, face analysis, or brain waves, to get a better idea of what people like and why.

VR In Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing uses virtual reality (VR) to see how people feel and think when they are in virtual worlds and see different things, like products, ads, or stores. 

Virtual Reality (VR) in neuromarketing transports you to a different reality. Here, sights, sounds, and interactions are adjusted to influence your decisions. Then your actions and choices can be studied.

neuromarketing vr

How is VR used in neuromarketing?

  1. Immersive Product Testing: VR allows consumers to interact with products in a virtual environment. This can offer insights into consumer product usage and reactions in real scenarios.
  2. Store Layout Optimization: VR can be used to create virtual stores, allowing researchers to test different store layouts and see how they affect consumer behavior. This can help optimize store designs to increase sales.
  3. Emotional Engagement: VR experiences can be highly engaging and emotionally impactful. Neuromarketers can use VR to gauge emotions towards marketing materials for better ad campaigns.
  4. Consumer Decision Making: By monitoring brain activity during VR experiences, neuromarketers can gain insights into the decision-making processes of consumers. This aids marketers in comprehending the elements affecting buying choices and in efficient marketing targeting.

Neuromarketing is a growing field that delves into the consumer’s mind to understand their desires. We’re on the verge of significant trends in this field, so let’s explore the upcoming opportunities.

The Rise of Neurofeedback 

Neurofeedback is the next big thing in neuromarketing. This technology allows marketers to understand the customers’ emotional response in real-time, enabling them to make instant modifications to their campaigns. As we move forward, expect more brands to gravitate towards this tool. 

Neuromarketing and Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and neuromarketing are a match made in heaven. AI can analyze the huge amounts of data generated by neuromarketing studies, identifying patterns and trends that humans might miss.

Personalization Through Neuromarketing 

As neuromarketing continues to evolve, personalization will become increasingly significant. By understanding how different brains react to different stimuli, marketers can create highly personalized campaigns that resonate with individual consumers. 

Neuromarketing is not about manipulating consumers, it’s about understanding them better.
– Gemma Calvert

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