How neuroscience can inform consumer research?

With neuroscience, industries and research companies have learned how to more effectively reach their customers.

In this article we are going to answer the question ‘’How neuroscience can inform consumer research?’’ We will show you how neuroscience is a perfect tool for companies to improve their sales and products by studying consumers.

How neuroscience can inform consumer research?

Neuroscience can inform consumer research by providing information on consumer behavior to provide insight into the neural underpinnings of advertising processing, choice and decision behavior.

Did you know that neuroscience allows a more complete and objective understanding of consumer wishes and actions, and it becomes a versatile and consistent tool in accompanying companies to adjust and carry out their marketing strategies?

This field has come to make contributions to our understanding of the consumer decisions we make on a daily basis, but it’s not as well known as Behavioral Economics.

Now, we do not always consciously make our decisions when buying a product or choosing a brand or service. Although many buyers argue for one reason or another, others actually move the cash register.

To know them, many entrepreneurs have decided to explore the mind of the consumer, who has more and more options due to the increasing supply and permanent market stimuli.

There are some general parameters that over the years have been built based on knowledge about the science of color, music or design. But now they begin to explore the minds of consumers more deeply. One of the pioneers in this area is the market research company Nielsen, which developed its area of consumer science.

The company launched its Institute of Behavioral Sciences worldwide, a set of multidisciplinary programs focused on studying consumer behavior so that leaders from different industries can get to know it better.

The Institute recruited 22 neuroscientists from around the world, several with PhDs, who are in charge of turning scientific data into useful information applicable to business

The journey into consumers’ minds began at Nielsen six years ago. Then she bought Neurofocus, a pioneer in combining the available knowledge on consumer behavior to apply it to marketing issues, in what is known as neuromarketing.

But the new bet goes much further. It seeks to reach a world hitherto unexplored by science: why human beings make the decisions they make and what moves in their mind while they do so.

For companies this is quite an enigma and many businesses have failed in the attempt to decipher it. Indeed, although in surveys or tests of products and services the consumer expresses certain preferences verbally, when going out to buy they are inclined towards others.

Today 45% of innovations decline to the second year and the success rate for new products is very low, according to data from Nielsen. “Hitting” products and services to make them stay in the consumer’s mind is perhaps the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face today.

For the Nielsen expert, the advances made in neuroscience have allowed finding the answers. In this way, they have been able to measure more precisely how effective or valued the communication of brands, products and services are; what attributes are most appreciated by customers or even how to generate – or eliminate – consumer habits.

Lessons that neuroscience has left for advertising

All of these are critical issues for good business performance. But what are the main lessons that neuroscience has left for advertising so far, regarding communication between companies? And how to achieve success in the launch of products or services? The Nielsen executive highlights some of the best practices.


The brain always seeks coherence, and communication with consumers must always keep a perfect alignment between what is said and what is seen. Therefore, when commercial talks about soft drinks, the image must be focused on this attribute, otherwise there is a dissociation in the consumer’s mind and the message is lost.

The light

Both in the presentation at the point of sale and in its advertising, this issue is fundamental because from the intensity of the light, consumers connect with the products or services. In addition, depending on the handling and the temperature of the light, you can create connections with customers.

The synthetic

The digital world has put great pressure on communications: summarize an idea in 140 characters, condense a message into a fixed image or capture people’s attention in a short video. And this is achieved by solving the competition between the visual and the sensory.


In audiovisual communication, the first 5 seconds are the golden rule. If in this period you have not managed to capture the attention of the consumer, you may not be able to. That is why in those first seconds the customer must be ‘hooked’,

The emotional

Science in the world has shown that before a person decides on a purchase, they have experienced emotion for a product or service. “Emotions underlie all your decisions,” says this expert. He explains that although the brain makes us rationalize decisions, it’s the emotions, what is not aware of people, that lead them to buy.

The music

One way of enhancing people’s emotions is precisely music, which takes them to a sensory state that brings them closer to –or further away– from a product or service. That is why this is one of the most powerful tools to move decisions.

The gap between science and business

Science is focused on finding the truth and generating new knowledge. Businesses, on the other hand, are more interested in having enough information to act.

Naturally, these domains operate under completely different incentives, systems and objectives, but every decision made in a company is based on some assumption about human behavior and will have consequences for people internal or external to the organization.

If in business we get a little closer to science we can avoid very costly mistakes.

As executives, we must always question the assumptions on which we act, review what their origin is, if they are based on proven findings and if there is new information that contradicts them.

In this way we can effectively optimize the collection of data about our consumers and generally address business problems from a psychological point of view. In fact, every decision-maker within an organization must have scientific literacy and understand how to critically evaluate the methodologies and discoveries that science routinely brings.

What we can learn from Consumer Neuroscience?

Using primarily techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (or fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG), consumer neuroscience allows us to know which areas of the brain are involved in decision-making and how conscious and unconscious perceptions play out. a role in this process.

Therefore, it’s not only concerned with the direct behavior of users as is often the case with A / B testing, but also with the psychological experience that leads to a behavior. For example, you can measure which button color a user clicks the most, but you will have no idea why unless you start investigating more and delve into the psychology of the user.

Furthermore, in practice it’s frequently sought to complement what we can learn through these techniques with traditional surveys, especially retrospective measurements, taken some time after the subject has participated in the research.

In this way we can connect the conscious experience with the unconscious experience obtained from tests with neuroscience tools and understand if they agree or if we see opportunities for improvement.

Predict consumer behavior

Yes, neuroscience can predict consumer behavior by up to 77%. This is the statement of Dr. Carl Marci, Chief Neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.

One of the biggest challenges for those seeking to apply the knowledge obtained by neuroscience in marketing is the interpretation of the data. In the specific case of Dr. Marci and his team, they wondered which of these measures had value and in what combination.

Which led them to develop a study in which 60 broadcast ads were taken and the subjects were simultaneously studied for 5 months. The study combined facial coding, biometric measurements, as well as electroencephalograms with self-reports from their subjects.

This combination of techniques and analysis was called the Video Ad Explorer. It’s thanks to this that they reached a prediction rate of 77%.

This number is born from a statistical model that included all the data, conscious and non-conscious, that were obtained from the subjects. But also other variables, such as the media plan, segmentation and size of the products.

At the moment, the Video Ad Explorer tool is the one that has achieved the highest index of prediction of consumer behavior. However, this research presented during 2016 is not the only one in this regard.

Neuroscientists continue to explore and accumulate knowledge that can shape future theories and models. The remaining 23% could be right around the corner, for example in the brain waves of a study subject connected to an encephalography machine.

More than technology, it’s all about psychology

Access to these technologies and even understanding of our brain is still in its infancy.

But don’t worry, more than the use of state-of-the-art technology, the important thing for decision-makers is to have a basic understanding of the principles of psychology and to stay perpetually up-to-date, especially since in psychology we find much more solid foundations than in neuroscience in its current state.

There is still a long way to go for consumer neuroscience, much of what we think we know for sure today could change tomorrow.

Undoubtedly, advances in consumer neuroscience will allow us to continue expanding the possibilities of what we can learn from our consumers, especially supported by advances such as those brought by artificial intelligence.

At the end of the day, all companies are in the business of understanding their consumers so it doesn’t hurt to add a bit of psychology to what we already know to ensure sound business decisions.

In this article we answered the question ‘’How neuroscience can inform consumer research?’’ We showed you how neuroscience is a perfect tool for companies to improve their sales and products by studying consumers.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Kenning, P. H., & Plassmann, H. (2008). How Neuroscience Can Inform Consumer Research. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 16(6), 532–538.

Hubert, M., & Kenning, P. H. (2008, July). A current overview of consumer neuroscience. Retrieved November 2, 2020, from ResearchGate website:

The MIT Press. (2016). Consumer Neuroscience. Retrieved November 2, 2020, from The MIT Press website: