Marketing 28 May 2014

How marketing influences your brain. Or is it the other way round?

Why is it that we buy so many products by force of habit? Without even noticing, our hands will grab the product we’ve bought many times before. As we make 500 million decisions daily and 95% of these decisions are made unconsciously, it is clear that we cannot think rationally about everything.

Things we often see and do are stored in the part of our brain that is in charge of our 'habits'. However – lucky marketers – our brain also has an adventurous part that is sensitive to new experiences that we find attractive or that give us a euphoric feeling (desire).

There’s just one little problem: we also have a little part of the brain that is involved in emotions like pain and disgust. This part will be stimulated when we see the price of a product. Ow, spending money hurts! We combine the activities from the different brain areas in our frontal lobe and make a decision. How much do I want to have the product compared to the price I have to pay? It doesn’t need much explanation that the art of marketing is basically convincing the brain that desire dominates pain.

How does it work?

The field of neuromarketing gives insight into the subconscious emotions and motivation of consumers. Neuroscience has discovered thirteen emotion areas in the human brain. Neuro researchers can measure the brain activity in those emotion areas, for instance when a person is shown an advertisement. Does the ad activate the ‘desire’ or the ‘anger’ area? This makes a huge difference to the success of your advertisement! 

Lessons learned

The field of neuromarketing has given us some valuable insights. A few examples:

  • Activate emotions and memory. Happiness is not what you experience, it’s what you remember. People want to join the happy family. This is the secret to Coca-Cola’s success all over the world. Their message has been happiness for years already. 
  • Be consistent. A consistent message builds trust and recognition for your company or brand.
  • Don’t focus on ‘how it should not be’. An insurance company that focuses on avoiding trouble is less successful than a company that focuses on the happy feeling and ‘no worries’.
  • “I see what you mean.” Use faces, preferably of women. A face, and especially the eyes, have a positive impact on the emotion of ‘trust’. But be careful! Don’t let the face distract your reader from the message. If you have the face looking at the product or text, your message will be more successful.

Although neuromarketing is a fairly young science, a lot has already been written about it. A very interesting science to keep up with and use to your advantage!


Neuromarketing at HZPC

At HZPC, we always try to keep up with the innovations that contribute towards moving our organisation forward. Consumer behaviour and consumer demands are always on our minds. The knowledge of neuromarketing will help us to interpret consumer behaviour. For the future it would be very interesting to know what people really think about the potato. Which parts of the brain will light up? Desire, disgust, trust, or perhaps familiarity? Oh, and yes, we have those lovely ladies in our corporate communication for a reason…

More about neuromarketing

Mirror neurons make you buy more beer

Another interesting attribute in the brain are the so-called mirror-neurons. A very common example: when someone yawns, you will start yawning as well. Laughter is also contagious and so is grief.

Brands use this knowledge. A short commercial on the big screen in a sports stadium with a man drinking beer and sure enough, more beer will be sold during the interval! Seeing someone drinking simply makes you thirstier. Imitation is not a lack of your own opinion, it’s the mirror-neurons that are to blame.

Eye tracking

Following eye movements gives insight into which parts of your website or advertisement are interesting for people. How long do they look at which part of the page?

However, it doesn’t say anything about why they look at a certain place or the emotions they feel when doing it. The example above does teach a lesson: make sure a face looks at where you want your audience to look.

Surprising neuroresearch by Cosmopolitan

Which magazine cover do you prefer? Dutch readers of Cosmopolitan magazine were asked that question. The test group indicated a clear preference for the red version of the cover.


However, neuroresearch indicated differently! Test groups were shown the different magazine covers while lying in an MRI-scan. What was measured was which parts of their brains lit up while looking at one of the covers. As you can see, three emotions involved in a purchase process (desire, value, trust) were most active when the purple cover was shown.

All three covers were sold at the same time in stores. However, the sales of the purple magazine were +10%! A good example of people telling you what they think, but doing what their subconscious says.