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Neuromarketing; here's everything you need to know

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What are the reasons for consumers to buy specific brands? How can we tell whether a TV commercial will be effective or not? And what is the best way to set up a store? Those are questions central to the field of neuromarketing. But what is and what isn’t neuromarketing? Is it all about research? Or is it also about applying insights from theory into practice? And what does psychology have to do with it?

These questions are exactly why we have written this blog. In this blog you will get a clear overview of everything around neuromarketing. From the research methods to our favorite insights. 

1- The Definition of Neuromarketing

Let’s start with a definition of neuromarketing. Because as argued by some neuromarketeers justly, neuromarketing is a field that many people talk about but a lot less people really understand.

Neuromarketing is the discipline that sits at the intersection of three fields: marketing, market research and neuroscience. Which basically means any marketing or marketing research activity that uses the methods and techniques of neuroscience or is informed by the insights of neuroscience. That’s a mouthful, we know. Put simply, neuromarketing is about making good marketing and communication even more effective through psychology and neuroscience.

The basic idea behind neuromarketing is that people don’t say what they do and don’t do what they say, simply because the vast majority of our choices is made subconsciously. Neuromarketing uses neuroscience techniques to reveal this subconscious decision-making process of consumers, allowing marketeers to improve the effectiveness of their communications. 

Curious to find out which companies apply this form of neuromarketing internationally? Check out an overview of neuromarketing companies here.

Want to know why or how we make many of our choices subconsciously? Click here to read NMSBA’s interesting blog about subconscious matters.

And no, neuromarketing is not all about research (anymore). Originally, the term ‘neuromarketing’ was only used for research. But the meaning has extended somewhat in recent years, as many insights from neuromarketing research are used in other areas.

Take for example Booking.com. The company itself is not researching the brain but uses many principles from social sciences to increase conversion and sales on their platform. Have you ever found yourself feeling rushed because there was only one room available on Booking.com? Chances are high that you were being influenced by the psychological principle called ‘Scarcity’. Just like the principle of scarcity, there have been identified many other principles, of which you can learn more about in this marketing podcast by Roger Dooley.

2- When to apply neuromarketing

From conversion optimization to package design: the possible applications of neuromarketing are countless. Generally speaking, neuromarketing techniques are used to test whether something will work in advance. This can be a TV commercial, a packaging design, an advertisement, a webshop design: it can be almost anything. 

Take for example a TV commercial. You might think: why not use traditional methods such as a survey to find out what people think of it? But what if we told you that surveys are only capable of predicting up to around 20% of the success of a TV commercial? Would you be willing to spend an advertising budget of a few hundred thousand euros based on a prediction of 20%? Or would you rather want to include neuromarketing techniques which enables you to predict up to around 80% of the success of the commercial? 

Important to keep in mind, however, is that neuromarketing is not always preferred over traditional methods and that it depends on the context. In the following blog you can read when neuromarketing is being preferred and when it is better to stick to traditional methods such as surveys, interviews and focus groups. To summarize, neuromarketing works best for subconscious choices, whereas more traditional methods are preferred for the more conscious choices. 

Neuromarketing research is often used in specific areas:

  • Advertising: in which the success of TV and online commercials can be predicted by using neuromarketing techniques
  • Usability and user experience: in which (sub)conscious obstacles to conversion and behaviour can be removed by using neuromarketing
  • Retail: in which neuromarketing offers insights into consumer purchasing behaviour in physical stores
  • Branding: in which neuromarketing can be used to assess how strongly an association is anchored in the brain

3- Methodologies Used

Now that we have taken a look at the applications of neuromarketing, it is time to delve into the methodologies. In order to effectively apply neuromarketing, it is important to choose the right tools and methods. The neuromarketing toolbox exists of the following methodologies:

  • EEG: Measures brain waves and converts them into reliable metrics and emotions.
  • fMRI: An indirect measure of brain activity, based on oxygen in blood flows within the brain.
  • IAT: Measures how strong an association is between two concepts by means of reaction speed.
  • Eye Tracking: Measures where and how rapid someone looks at something.
  • Biometrics: Measure physiological responses such as heart rate.
  • Emotion recognition: Measure emotions based on facial expression

Within the marketing domain, the most commonly used techniques are EEG, IAT, Eye tracking, Biometrics and Emotion recognition. EEG is often preferred over fMRI for marketing research, as it can measure brain activity in the order of milliseconds, while fMRI produces scans once in a couple of seconds. Do you want to learn more about the above mentioned methods? Take a look here to learn about these neuromarketing methods!

4- Brain Metrics

As mentioned above, with EEG we measure brain activity via brain waves. But what can we exactly capture with EEG? The mostly used metrics are the following:

  • Desire: The scientific term for this metric is prefrontal asymmetry. If this metric is high it means that there is an approach motivation, whereas if this metric is low there is an avoidance motivation. 
  • Engagement: This metric indicates the degree to which something is personally relevant.
  • Workload: This metric indicates how hard something is to process for the brain. A workload that is very low indicates that it is too easy for the brain whereas a workload that is very high indicates that it is too difficult.  
  • Confusion: This metric indicates whether something is unexpected.
  • Synchronicity: This metric measures whether several participants experience the same thing at the same time. The more synchronicity, the better.   

Take a look here to learn more about using EEG for analyzing brain activity!


In the example below you can see what these metrics look like. In this example we have highlighted the metric ‘Desire’. As you can see, there is a dip in desire during the staredown scene with kickboxer Rico Verhoeven, which afterwards gets resolved when Rico starts smiling. 

eyetracking advertisement analysis Unravel Research

5- Neuromarketing into practice

Case Studies

So far the methodologies and metrics. For now, at least. Let’s get more practical and take a look at some interesting case studies:

Click here to read more case studies. 

Fun Neuromarketing Examples

As mentioned earlier, neuromarketing can be applied to many different situations. Below, we have listed some fun examples. Enjoy watching!

Neuromarketing Insights Applied

One interesting insight from neuromarketing research is what we call the ‘exam effect’. In one of our usability studies, we saw something odd. When a user forgot to fill in a field in the check-out form of a webshop, a red error message was displayed. And when the user saw this message, we saw an emotional dip in the brain. 

We questioned ourselves what was happening here, and started reasoning that the color red might be associated with an unrecoverable error. Just like in exams, where your mistakes were marked with a red pen. 

We tested this reasoning with an A/B test, in which we divided all website visitors 50/50 into group A and group B. Group A saw the website as it had always been, whereas group B saw the website with a small adjustment: an orange error message instead of a red one. AB test usability & CRO

Afterwards, we checked which of the two groups placed an order more often. In this case, we saw that the group with the orange error message (Group B) placed orders up to 15% more often. Put differently, the red error message caused an emotional dip which led to 15% less turnover.

6-Learn more about neuromarketing


Are you just as interested in neuromarketing as we are? Then we have a couple of good books to recommend to you. And since we have read many neuromarketing books ourselves, we have made a selection of the books that we found best. 

Our applied psychology for marketing book list:

  • Decoded - Phil Barden
  • Persuasive Advertising - J. Scott Armstrong
  • Influence - Cialdini
  • How Brands Grow - Byron Sharp
  • The Psychology of Advertising - Fennis en Strobe
  • Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
  • Neuro Design - Darren Bridger
  • Hooked - Nir Eyal
  • Contagious - Jonah Berger
  • Evil by design - Chris Nodder
  • Hidden Persuasion - Marc Andrews, Matthijs van Leeuwen, Rick van Baaren

Our neuromarketing research book list:

  • Introduction to neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience - Dr Thomas Ramsoy
  • Neuromarketing for dummies - Peter Steidl (don't be put off by the title, it's a really nice overview)
  • Persuasive Advertising - J. Armstrong (nice overview of evidence-based persuasion techniques)
  • The ebooks on the iMotions Guides page are also very valuable if you want to learn more about what you can achieve from neuromarketing research techniques.


Besides books you can of course also go online to find information about neuromarketing. There are many blogs about the topic nowadays, of which we have listed the - in our opinion - most valuable below. 

Obviously, the first blog is the one you are reading right now, the New Neuromarketing Blog. Here, we publish the latest insights from neuroscience. We carefully screen all new articles published in journals on neurosciences, behavioural sciences and marketing, and we only select the ones that we believe are truly valuable for marketing.

Of course, there are more valuable blogs out there:


Would you rather like to listen to the newest neuromarketing insights? Then you might want to give these podcasts a try: 

  • Hidden Brain: in which host Shankar Vedantam tells you all about our unconscious brain and how it drives human behaviour. 
  • You Are Not So Smart: which puts more emphasis on psychology rather than marketing. As David McRaney puts it himself; the central theme is that you are unaware of how unaware you are. 
  • Arming the Donkeys: as behavioural expert Ariely points out; we have more in common with donkeys than we might think. In these short podcasts, Ariely engages in relaxed conversations with social science researchers. 
  • Nir and Far: Business, Behaviour and The Brain: a sweet mix of business-related topics,  behavioural economics and user experience.
  • The Brainy Business: this podcast focuses on behavioral economics and contains the real fundamentals of economic psychology
  • O Behave: produced by the Ogilvy’s department of behavioural science practice. It not only includes how psychology can be used in marketing but also how psychology can be used to solve societal problems.
  • Copy That Pops: this podcast focuses on persuasive writing. A mix of writing, psychology and business success. 
  • Brainfluence: in which Roger Dooley guides you every week through trending neuromarketing topics

Trainings and courses

This blog was a short introduction into neuromarketing. Would you like to learn more? Then these courses might be just for you: 

The Complete Neuromarketing Essentials 

The Master of Retail Psychology & Shopper Neuroscience (Dutch)

Neuromarketing Reclame Training (Dutch)

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