We all know that when people say one thing it’s quite
possible that they mean another. “I’m fine!” in the UK is a particular
Now, if we were to strap them to a lie detector test, we’d
know the answer once the needle lost control and started scribbling chaotically.
Neuromarketing works according to the same principle.
Neuromarketing refers to the use of modern brain science to figure out what humans really think when making purchasing decisions.
The combination of advertising strategies and neuroscience
can help you understand what compels customers to invest in your product or
service. Armed with this knowledge, you can rethink your strategies and create
Let’s look into some neuromarketing studies and see how their results can help give your business a marketing edge.
Look into my eyes
Eye-tracking has proved an important tool that has changed the perception of how people respond to visual stimuli such as ads, video, websites, and in-store displays.
Babies are a popular “tool” in the advertising world, and
you’ll find many youngsters popping up on billboards and TV screens.
James Breeze, an eye-tracking specialist, conducted a study of how people viewed baby ads. He used eye-tracking technology to measure the direction and duration of 106 subjects’ eye movements.
When asked to look at an ad with the baby looking straight
out of the page, heat maps showed that they focussed most of their attention on
the child. This distracted from the message behind the headline and ad-copy.
When the subjects were presented with the baby positioned to
stare up at the ad’s headline, the ad’s copy captures far more attention.
Breeze concluded that: “In advertising, we will look at what
the person we see in an ad is looking at. If they are looking out at us, we
will simply look back at them and not really anywhere else.”
The heart tells a story
If I asked you to choose whether you’d prefer to watch a “cool
and quirky” video that markets an interesting product—or listen to a podcast
that uses audio to tell the same story—what answer would you give?
If you’re anything like the subjects of a study undertaken last year then you probably answered “video”.
The study asked its subjects to watch evocative scenes from
Game of Thrones and Silence of the Lambs, then asked them to listen to the
audiobook version of the same scene. The experiment sought to investigate to what
extent the delivery medium affected one’s conscious and sub-conscious
engagement with narrative.
When asked which medium helped them engage with the
narrative and presence in the story, they ‘self-reported’ that they engaged
with the video more than the audio – by 15%.
Their physiological responses told a different story.
The scientists conducting the study measured the subjects
- Heart rates monitors to measure mental effort.
- Electrodermal activity to judge emotional
- Brain scanners to highlight which parts of the
brain were activated.
The results revealed that people listening to the story had
stronger physiological responses to the auditory scenes – with higher results
across the board.
Their brains recreated the same activity as it did when telling
the story. Not just that either, it found telling the narrative was not limited
to the part of the brain normally linked to language, but involved emotional,
sensory and motor systems, which brought about the notion that listeners were
actually experiencing the story.
The authors hypothesized that listening to the story is a
more active process of co-creation through the engagement of the imagination.
Whereas watching the video is a more passive process due to the fact there is
less scope for personal interpretation.
So, the common claim that videos generate more user
engagement than audio seems to contradict the biometric data.
Intuition, risk, and the formation of online trust
Historically, when you sealed a deal, you looked the
customer in the eye and shook their hand.
The rise of e-commerce has taken away the ability to seal the deal like this, which means customers need to find new ways to trust you. Global e-commerce sales amounted to $2.3 trillion in 2017 and are expected to more than double by 2021.
Despite this, the average online conversion rate has stayed
- 5.27% of people accessing websites through
- 4.22% of people accessing on tablets.
- 2.19% of people accessing on Smartphones.
To put this into context, the brick and mortar store conversion rates sit between 15%-30%. Consumer behaviour research has proved the disparity between the online and offline figures can be attributed to the lack of a physical transaction – the missing handshake.
So, in light of this information, what can you do to try and
bridge the gap between these numbers?
Mahdi Roghanizad and Derrick Neufeld—authors of the “Intuition, risk, and the formation of online trust” paper—identified and set out to confirm two hypotheses:
- “When evaluating whether to trust a website while making low-risk decisions, consumers tend to rely on deliberative and explicitly logical reasoning processes.”
- “When faced with higher-risk decisions, online consumers are more likely to turn to associative (intuitive) reasoning processes.”
The authors split 245 research subjects into six groups and
exposed each to a different version of a bookstore’s website. Some viewed the
actual website while some saw a “crippled” copy that lacked key pieces of
information, such as e-commerce security certificates and product return
After this, the subjects were asked to make two decisions
based on what they saw:
- Low risk: Whether they would, hypothetically, purchase a book from the website.
- High risk: Whether they would hand over their personal information to the site in exchange for a $20 gift card.
The results proved their hypothesis. When people make
decisions involving risk, they rely more on intuition than logical, rule-based,
and rational reasoning.
This outcome challenges the established notion that people think logically when making high-risk decisions online. This means that redesigning aesthetics like page layouts, fonts, images, and colours, play an important role in customer trust formation.
Unpacking the benefits
Find new viewpoints: Neuromarketing research gives you a more granular insight into the customer mind – measuring the subliminal effects of design, such as brand logos, and videos, such as animated explainers. You can take this knowledge to design imagery to grab more attention and drive more emotional engagement.
Discover emotional and non-conscious responses: Humans
experience a wealth of emotions throughout the day and neuromarketing can help
you locate those feelings that influence our buying behaviour. When you can’t
rely on asking questions, you can uncover the triggers to these emotional
Understand immeasurable responses: When you ask
consumers to detail their attention levels and rate their emotional responses,
the answer you get likely doesn’t capture the entire picture – as we saw in the
“heart tells a story” study. Neuromarketing research can give you valuable
diagnostics and data that extracts people’s true reactions to stimuli – namely,
Neuromarketing – The future?
The quest to understand the mind of consumers is continuing at a rapid pace and the points mentioned above barely scratch the surface of what the science can do for your business.
As innovations drive technological advancements and bring down costs, neuromarketing’s capabilities and applications are sure to become more mainstream in the world of marketing.