9 neuromarketing campaigns and the science behind them.

Neuromarketing is still a relatively recent innovation. It relies on medical technologies to look at how people’s brains respond to marketing content.

This is a unique technique, as it adds another layer of science and research to marketing. While many companies are slow to embrace neuromarketing, it is worth learning more about. After all, it provides an objective measurement that allows marketing teams to make educated decisions. This can lead to a range of insights that would otherwise be unavailable.

What is neuromarketing, and how is it useful in marketing research?

As mentioned, neuromarketing relies on medical technologies to gain insight into how our brains react to various marketing. One technology that it commonly uses is functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

Market researchers look at the fMRIs to track changes in the brain. Understanding changes allows researchers to gain insight into what part of someone’s brain influences their decision and why. Essentially, neuromarketing provides a more accurate and quantitative alternative to traditional questions they ask focus groups.

For example, if someone is asked their opinion on a product, they may only share part of their feelings. Hiding some information may not even be intentional. By contrast, using an fMRI can help researchers see the impact the advertisement has on the person. There is less of a need to put their words into thought, and it is easier to be objective instead of subjective.

This last element is one of the most important, as it lets market researchers and participants in focus groups alike overcome any conscious bias.

How does neuromarketing work?

The process for neuromarketing is somewhat straightforward, combining elements of traditional market research and medical research.

It relies on a range of medical technologies that track our subconscious and conscious responses to the marketing stimuli. Those technologies do so by observing biometric and brain activity. The following are just some of the medical technologies commonly used in neuromarketing:

  •   fMRI
  •   EEG
  •   Heart Rate Monitor
  •   Galvanic Skin Response
  •   Eye Movement
  •   Facial Coding

The science behind neuromarketing campaigns

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate the science behind neuromarketing is to examine some examples of how it has been used so far, as well as the information the research has gleaned.  

1. Importance of time spent designing a website.

Bergman and Noren conducted neuromarketing research to see the effect of various factors on the first impression a website makes on someone. They created websites with varying trust stamps, contact information, backgrounds, and colors. Participants saw the websites for seven seconds and were then asked questions about them. The researchers paid attention to their answers and how long it took to respond to a different version of the website, with 31 versions used.

website example

There were a few important factors. One was that taking more or less time to respond to a website did not affect its trust level. The other finding is likely much more important:

The amount of time the designer spent designing a website was the biggest factor influencing participants’ trust in the website.

2. Phone call predictions and smoking

One of the more frequently cited neuromarketing studies was by Falk, who looked at the brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex’s ability to predict call volume for antismoking campaign ads. These ads came from the National Cancer Institute. It looked at three ad campaigns advertising phone lines to help people quit smoking. Falk and her colleagues recorded the number of calls received, the brain response to the ads, and the perception of participants’ activity.

Falk found that brain activity correlated to how many calls the ads actually received. But there was no correlation between how effective people perceived ads to be and their actual effectiveness.

The key takeaway from this neuromarketing study was that our brains might understand more than we consciously realize.

3. Trust and payment methods

A study by Casado-Aranda, Liébana-Cabanillas, and Sánchez-Fernández examined the impact of payment methods on trust, an important emotion. The study examined credit cards versus PayPal payments. Those participants made online purchases while being measured by an MRI.

The MRIs showed that making “unsafe” electronic payments activated parts of the brain associated with negative emotions. By contrast, using perceived “safe” payment methods activated areas of the brain associated with rewards.

The researchers concluded that PayPal is perceived as safer, more effective, and more rewarding.

4. Product framing

Jina, Zhangc, and Chen examined the impact of product framing on making decisions about products. The study involved wool coats framed either positively or negatively. That framing was done by either showing the wool or synthetic fiber percentage. The researchers looked at the amount of initial care as well as the final decision.

The study found that negatively framed products had more initial attention but made it harder to complete decision-making. The positively framed products were also perceived to be of better quality.

5. Ad design in tourism

One study by Muñoz-Leiva, Hernández-Méndez, and Gómez-Carmonac took a neuromarketing approach and used eye-tracking to look at tourism advertising. The researchers compared advertisements from TripAdvisor, Facebook, and a hotel blog, measuring promotional recall and eye movement.

They found that the Facebook banner had both the most recall and the most attention from the eyes. The researchers theorized that this was partly due to website design and complexity. This theory was based on the fact that the TripAdvisor ad had more extraneous content on the page.

Another note is that this study found low recall and low eye movement to indicate the ad’s visibility. That information indicates that marketers may want to consider more than just banner ads.

6. The impact of visual vs. Audio marketing

The University College London completed a neuromarketing study to compare the emotional impact and effectiveness of visual vs. audio input. The researchers found comparable scenes in books and movies and compared the audio input from the audiobook to the visual impact of the movie scene.

graph of EDA heart rate and temperature from game of thrones

Interestingly, people were 15% more interested in the videos, but their bodies disagreed. Listening to the audiobook led to a higher body temperature, higher skin conductivity, and faster pulse.

7. Chips Ahoy’s eye-tracking study

After a study looking at its packaging, Chips Ahoy realized that consumers found the writing hard to read with bland or neutral images. The company responded by using eye-tracking to measure the effect of various designs on consumers.

This study led to the brand changing its packaging in a few ways. These included improvements to text and colors, having more engaging and fun images of the cookies, and selling the cookies in a resealable tube.

8. Cheetos’ EEG study

Chips Ahoy is far from the only company to conduct its own neuromarketing research. Cheetos combined focus groups with EEGs to see how consumers responded to its new advertisement. Interestingly, the focus group did not like the ad, while EEGs showed that participants enjoyed the ad.

It turned out that those in the focus group didn’t want others to think they thought the ad was funny because they were worried other focus group members would think they weren’t nice.

9. Decision paralysis from too many choices

A neuromarketing study from Columbia University showed that having too many choices can lead to decision paralysis. The study found that people had a lower chance of stopping in front of displays that had a more comprehensive selection of options.

Common questions about neuromarketing

Is Neuromarketing Illegal?

Neuromarketing is legal, but there have been some debates about its ethics. The big question regarding ethics and neuromarketing comes from the fact that it reveals opinions and processes that participants (and shoppers of a product or service) aren’t consciously aware of. This leads to common questions as to whether neuro marketers could unfairly manipulate people into buying something.

The general consensus is that neuromarketing is not less ethical than any other type of marketing. After all, every type of marketing aims to influence viewers subconsciously.


What Companies Use Neuromarketing?

Companies have been using neuromarketing for years. As of 2009, Microsoft, PayPal, Yahoo, Frito-Lay, and Hyundai were already using neuromarketing. More and more companies are using neuromarketing, and today, it is safe to assume that most of the major brands are either directly using neuromarketing or using information gleaned from other neuromarketing studies.


Why Is Neuromarketing Bad?

Neuromarketing is not necessarily bad. As mentioned in the previous discussion of neuromarketing ethics, the most common criticism is that marketers could manipulate people. Additionally, those that use neuromarketing won’t intentionally promote illegal or deceptive things.


Neuromarketing uses at fMRIs, EEGs, and other medical technologies to gain insight into marketing strategies. It lets companies get more objective information when creating marketing strategies. The result is the ability to create more effective marketing campaigns. 

Besides building your neuromarketing campaigns, consider partnerships to help enhance all marketing campaigns.  Becoming a Podium Partner can help you and your clients grow your businesses, thanks to scalable messaging tools and solutions.

Thomas Clawson
Thomas Clawson Partner Marketing Manager

Thomas Clawson is a partner solutions professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects marketing agencies with their clients.

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