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5 Neuromarketing techniques every marketeer should know about

Relevant topics Neuromarketing Fundamentals, Archive

In modern day neuroscience, it’s easy to get confused over all the different neuromarketing techniques out there. While virtually all of the techniques used in the field can be valuable to marketing, it’s good to understand the difference between them and how they work.

In this article, we’ll have a closer look at five regularly used neuromarketing techniques to see how they work and in what kind of context it’s most suited: eye tracking, brain imaging (EEG and fMRI), facial encoding, sensory marketing and psychological techniques.

Neuromarketing Technique #1: See through your consumer’s eyes with eye tracking

As the name suggests, eye tracking consists of measuring the eye movement patterns of your research participants. It's a tool that lets you see your brand, store or commercial through the eyes of your customers.
Because modern eye tracking equipment is very light and portable, it’s possible to create real time scenarios and register the natural eye gaze of consumers.

How eye tracking is used? How about letting consumers take a walk in a retail store equipped with eye tracking gear to analyze how they view the store.

Do they look at the promotion articles near the entrance? Is the signage actually being read? What kind of viewing patterns do consumers show when browsing a product category? In short, eye tracking offers a great way to find out things that are hard to discover using traditional marketing research.

Besides in-store possibilities, eye tracking can measure the eye-gaze of consumers online as well. For example, it can be used to measure if product placement during TV programs actually makes people look more at a product.

Neuromarketing Technique #2: Taking a look within the consumers’ brain: EEG and fMRI

If we want to know a bit more about what people think rather than what people see, there are some other techniques we could use. There are certain devices out there that you may know from a medical context that can read brain activity, such as fMRI and EEG equipment.

These brain scanners are nowadays used by neuromarketeers to look at people’s brains in order to create alluring ads, websites and packaging that press the customer’s buy buttons. That might sound a bit unethical, but it’s far less scary than it seems.

It just means that scientists can read, quite globally, if consumers like or not like a product, if they feel more like approaching or avoiding a product, or if they get excited or bored by a certain advertisement. Seems a lot like the kind of stuff you would ask in traditional marketing research, right? It just removes the process of deliberately thinking about the answers.

Nonetheless, this is very useful information for the marketer. It can help them create products that really speak to the consumer, and it can help consumers get products that make them happy.

Measuring these variables with EEG scans to analyze brainwaves provides great temporal resolution, meaning that the effects of a certain stimulus on brain activity can be read at incredible speed. For example, this is very useful to analyze which exact sequences in a commercial are viewed as positive and which ones are not.

However, it lacks good spatial resolution, meaning the source of the brain signal recorded by the EEG is hard to locate exactly in the brain. On the contrary, fMRI scans offer great spatial, but poor temporal resolution. This means we can see clearly what’s happening inside the brain, but we don’t really know what caused it.

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Neuromarketing Technique #3: It’s all in the smile: facial coding

You don’t have to peek into people’s brain to measure what they truly feel. Science has shown us we can learn a lot from their faces too.

The idea that we can learn from our facial expressions is an old one, dating back to Charles Darwin in 1872. It has since been explored thoroughly by numerous psychologists; with important contributions coming from Paul Ekman. But how do we use this knowledge to our advantage in marketing?

In the same line as equipment to measure the brain and our eye gaze, there are also sensors that can be attached to the face and measure tiny movements of muscles. When we display certain emotions, like smiling, we use specific muscles to achieve this. The same principle applies to other emotions such as anger or surprise.

Of course, a slight expression of a faint smile does not always mean that someone is happy. But the point is, facial coding equipment can measure subtle, oftentimes subconscious, reactions to stimuli that hold information about how we feel about something. Even better, it can predict what behavior will follow said expressions.

Neuromarketing Technique #4: To touch, smell see and hear: sensory marketing

In contrast to research-oriented methods like the ones we discussed above, there are more practical forms of neuromarketing that give consumers a little push in right direction. We can dip into existing findings and principles to make marketing more effective. A great example of this in the retail sphere is sensory marketing.

There are several forms of sensory marketing, such as touch, sound, or smell, and they aim to influence a brand audience by sensory stimulation. So is it really possible that simply smelling something can make people buy more products? Sometimes.

With emotional products like the ones sold in a fashion store, a bit of pleasant smells will give customers a whole new experience and will make products seem more exclusive and high end. However, fairly neutral environments like hardware or office retail shops are better off limiting noticeable smells.

And how about sound? As it turns out, consumers will pay more attention to light objects when they hear more high pitched sounds, and more to dark objects when hearing low pitched sounds. Studies have discovered that these subtle changes in the in-store environment can have quite dramatic impacts on sales.

Neuromarketing Technique #5: Mind tricks? Psychological methods

While all the methods mentioned above might seem a bridge to far for the average marketing professional, there are also some purely psychological ‘tricks’ that will give the brand audience that little push that’s often needed to make a sale.

Psychological techniques can be quite subtle. A speaking example, though perhaps more commonly known these days, is that merely removing the dollar sign listed for your products can increase your sales. Seeing a dollar sign – or for the European reader, a euro sign – subconsciously shifts people’s attention to loss and not gain.

Of course, we do get something we want in return for our hard-earned euro’s or dollars, but it’s still a bit unpleasant that we’re spending money in the first place. Removing the sign really works too, as studies have found that people spend significantly more cash on products and food when a money sign is absent.

There are many nudges like these that influence people in very subtle ways. Did you know that people are more likely to choose healthy menu options when displayed on the left side of the menu and unhealthy items on the right? Or that large, open spaces in luxury stores are associated with high social status?

All of the methods discussed above offer useful and valuable tools and insights to neuromarketeers. But not all methods are effective in all contexts. The key is knowing when to use which techniques. To learn more actionable insights about neuromarketing, how to use them, and to stay updated on the newest trends in field, be sure to subscribe to New Neuromarketing.


Further Reading

  • Six inspiring examples of neuromarketing done right

    With neuromarketing gaining increased popularity in recent years, the examples of companies using neuromarketing are quite diverse. Whether you’re going for sensory marketing techniques or a choice architectural approach, the possibilities are endless – with a bit of creativity.

    To cast some light on the wide range of different applications for neuromarketing, we present six interesting examples in this article.

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