intro to neuromarketing by Rachel Oates

What Is Neuromarketing?

When my new housemate saw me flicking through a 2,000 page neuroscience textbook last night she assumed I was a biology student (which would have been true 3 years ago…), except I’m not, I study Business Management. Understandably, she was pretty confused and asked how biology had anything to do with business to which I gave her a long string of answers and uses for it which probably left her pretty baffled and bored – great first impression Rachel! But it did inspire me to write this post about one of my favourite areas of applying Neuroscience to business; Neuromarketing.

Since I discovered it, I’ve been fascinated by the concept; I mean, it combines 2 of my favourite things, Marketing and Human Biology, can you get any more interesting?!

The thing about marketing is that it’s so much more complex than some people realise; you need to be able to completely understand your customer in order to build a profitable and mutually beneficial relationship with them. You need to not only understand what they want and need but why, you need to be able to predict how they will respond and react to your current and future messages and products and you need to know how to make them stick around. And that’s just for starters.

Photo From Unsplash - Person Thinking - Neuromarketing

The thing is, people can tell you what they think they want but how accurate really is that? Remember the myth that we, as people, only ever use 10% of our brains? Not strictly true. To put it more accurately, we’re only ever using a small portion our our brains consciously; the rest of it is used for sub-conscious thoughts and processes. For example, the brain is responsible for keeping our heart beating and understanding sights and sounds, but we don’t do any of that consciously – we can’t just think ‘hey, heart, stop beating!’ because it’s completely automated by our brains.

Similarly, a lot of our though processes and decision making also happens subconsciously, often at least partially influence by our intrinsic values and beliefs which we might not even be aware of ourselves. Some even believe that ‘95% of the decision making process takes place at the non-conscious level.’ (1)

How We Can Use Neuromarketing

So with so much going on in our heads that we’ve previously been unaware of, surely it makes sense to want to understand it? Imagine how useful it would be for us marketers if we could understand why people think the way they do, what appeals to a certain type of person and why, what sights, smells, and sounds grab people’s attention first, how are people really responding to your brand on a biological and chemical level? Plus, we can take it a step further, we could begin to look at why certain groups of people respond differently to different stimuli, maybe even because of physiological or chemical differences in their brains, and how we can utilise this to appeal to them specifically.

And it’s not just businesses that would benefit. But understanding consumers on a level which they might not even be aware of, we can ensure that they get the best possible service and products to make them happy. For example, a key research technique now is to use eye-tracking software to see where people’s attention is first drawn to on webpages, print advertisements, etc (2).

Using neuromarketing to influence digital marketing with photo from Unsplash

So imagine we find out that the consumers in our target audience first look at X part of the page and are drawn to Y colour; we can ensure that the key bits of information on our website, for example the navigation bar, is positioned in that area, with that colour background. This will make overall navigation and use of the website far easier for them, which improves their whole experience with the company. It’s mutually beneficial for both the consumer and the organisation.

But It’s Not All Good…

The thing about Neuromarketing is that, despite the name and all it has to promise, it’s not that much of an exact science. While the brain is currently understood to a fairly reasonable level, not a huge amount of accademic research has been done into applying neuroscientific principles to marketing. Plus, the little that has been done hasn’t really been peer-reviewed or examined in any detail to confirm reliability. (4)

Furthermore, this creates more issues. As limited reliable research is available it means that, from a business and marketing perspective, it’s difficult to see how much use neuroscientific techniques could be or what the potential ROI for neuromarketing could be. All this coupled with, arguably, subjective data collection and interpretation methods means that Neuromarketing has a long way to go before we can really utilise it’s potential but for now it’s definitely an interesting area that I’m keen to see develop.


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