How neuroscience is used in marketing?

Do you think it is possible to know and predict the brain’s reactions to a brand or product? If you want to know more about neuromarketing, don’t miss the following article.

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’How neuroscience is used in marketing?’’ we’ll talk about what it is and how companies use this technique to improve their results.

How neuroscience is used in marketing?

Neuroscience uses techniques that study the effects that a product, a brand or a communication strategy has on the consumer’s brain in order to predict consumer behavior.

It seems that the constant digitization and the increasing increase in technology, has left aside our most human part. Neuromarketing shows us that now more than ever, digital marketing uses techniques that evoke emotions to improve sales results, within the demands of the market.

Neuromarketing is a technique that is based on neuroscience (or the behavior of the human brain) and digital marketing. How? Studying the observation and measurement of the physical and sensory responses of the human being to specific stimuli.

This technique studies the effects that a product, a brand or a communication strategy has on the consumer’s brain in order to predict consumer behavior. So that companies can improve their products, packaging, advertising and even their establishment to the stimuli that customers and potential customers really value.

In other words, this marketing strategy aims to understand how consumers think to convert them into potential customers. As curious as it may seem, we tend to think that advertising does not affect us when the truth is that it is more than proven that the vast majority of purchase decisions are conditioned by our subconscious.

Bases of the neuromarketing strategy

How are they able to convince the brain through neuromarketing? Neuromarketing strategies try to give consumers’ brain responses to specific stimuli, thus evoking positive emotions either through image, smell or another type of stimulus. The bases of the neuromarketing strategy expose how:

  • It’s close to the consumer: the brand tries to convince the consumer that this is a win to win and in this way they create a closer and more consolidated bond.
  • Differentiate yourself from the competition: within the great market density found in any digital company, making a difference will make it easier for you to be remembered.
  • Connect with the most human part of the company: connecting with the interests or values ​​of consumers is a great way to get closer to them and achieve engagement and loyalty towards your brand.
  • Being positive: it is shown in advertising that positive emotions connect better with users, being empathic with their needs improves the attitude towards the company and will spread that thought towards your products and therefore towards your brand. 

The example that never fails is Coca Cola, any user would associate it with the happiness brand.

Neuromarketing and “the Pepsi Challenge”

You may remember the famous “Pepsi Challenge“, held in the 1980s. In this advertising campaign, Pepsi invited participants to try its product and that of its main competitor and market leader (Coca-Cola) without being able to distinguish both drinks. The result? More than half of the participants chose Pepsi.

How can consumers prefer a product and end up buying a competitor’s? Neuroscience expert Read Montague asked himself the same question and repeated the experiment, measuring brain activity with an MRI. He also applied another variation to his experiment: the participants DID know what they were drinking.

The choice was massive and the preferred product was Coca-Cola. Surprisingly, it was discovered that the consumption of this product stimulated areas of the brain that Pepsi could not activate. The reason? The intense and powerful advertising campaigns that Coca-Cola had previously developed.

The director of the Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Houston College of Medicine, Read Montague, explained that these results are due to the fact that, “It takes a human being 2.5 seconds to make a purchase decision, in which there is a struggle between thought, rational and emotional ”.

Types of neuromarketing

Three types of neuromarketing can be differentiated:

  1. Visual: it is in which the sense of sight intervenes, it has been shown that it is with the sense that images reach the brain faster and in advertising where the messages are most effective.
  2. Auditory: sound has always been a very important channel for the human being, music helps to reinforce the message and creates feelings and stimulates behaviors in the human being.
  3. Kinesthetic: it is the branch that is least used in neuromarketing, but it is also useful at times. It has to do with the senses of taste, touch and smell.

How to measure the stimuli before the different products

How does neuromarketing measure our behavior in front of a certain product? There are numerous techniques to measure how our subconscious acts in the face of different stimuli but we are going to focus on the four most famous ones.

EEG or electroencephalography is the first tool that neuromarketing draws on. This non-invasive technique is used during moments of rest and sleep and consists of placing electrodes on the scalp that measure the electrical distortions it detects. Its advantages? Its accessibility and low cost.

Magnetoencephalography (or MEG) measures the magnetic fields that are produced in the brain. It is also a non-invasive technique and the quality of the results is generally superior to the quality of the previous method. However, it is not as economical as the previous one and it is not valid if the participant has metal implants.

PET or positron emission tomography is an invasive technique that consists of monitoring various brain functions that suffer alterations due to brain activity.

And, finally, the most used tool in neuromarketing is called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). It is a non-invasive technique that monitors, like the previous one, several functions that suffer alterations due to brain activity. These zones of alteration are the ones that really allow us to see what arouses interest in the individual.

What happens in our brain when shopping?

The reptilian and limbic brain in shopping

On many occasions, the purchases we make are not because we need it, but because we want it. This is attributed to the influence that the reptilian brain has on the limbic.

In these cases, emotions influence us to feel a pleasant feeling regarding a product, and our most primitive part decides to buy the product for this reason. From this perspective, little influence of the neocortex is observed.

Another aspect that is related between the brains that we call “more” primitive and shopping is sensory perception. This is because when we see a product, different areas are activated automatically that tell us if this is pleasant or not. These perceptions are decisive, since they cause our brain to react and be driven to make the purchase of that product.

Neurons decide what to buy in just 2.5 seconds.

And 80% of those 2.5 seconds are spent in the amygdala, the area of the brain that all marketing strategies should target, according to neuroscience experts. It is there where emotions are developed and it is these, and not the reason, that make the purchase decision.

Neural and sensory research in marketing has only just begun and will be increasingly complex, thanks to the development of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, which allow machines to recognize emotions and ensure sales through the analysis of facial expressions, temperature, heart rate or voice.

In fact, neuromarketing already established theories and patterns that make it easier for brands to achieve the objective of their marketing strategies. According to the professors of IMF Business School, there are five “non-rational” elements that can be used to provoke the purchase decision in an accurate way:

  1. Time. Messages like “limited edition“, “last days” or “only while supplies last” cause the brain to enter the loss zone. If you add to these the shortage of consumers’ time, there is a good chance that the purchase will take place.

Less time, more options for the brand to influence the irrational springs that move us to buy. The connection of both factors explains the success of the sales, which are becoming an increasingly frequent resource for companies: Black Friday, Day without VAT.

  1. The experience. Unconsciously our brain uses purchasing habits and past experiences before making a purchase decision. 

For this reason, marketing strategies try every day to influence more in the perception that the client has of the brand, the more positive it is, the more opportunities there are for them to consume again.

  1. The halo effect. In 1920, the psychologist Edward Lee Thorndike coined this term to refer to the relationship between a person’s physical attractiveness and the positive attributes that we make. 

In marketing they use it to convey the attractiveness or qualities of a person to a product.

  1. The diving goggles effect. This term refers to the distortion of reality that can cause receiving certain stimuli just before the purchase, favoring the positive predisposition for consumption.
  1. The lure. Very common technique used to make one product seem more advantageous than another thanks to a third option. 

If a consumer is in doubt between two articles, proposing a third with characteristics inferior to the first, but better in some way than the second, will help the consumer to acquire the first even though the price is higher.

Neuroscience, its importance in marketing

Neuromarketing is a discipline that is here to stay, and its fields of application are as many as there are a variety of products and services. When analyzing the perception of price, more than one investigation corroborated that profit maximization based on rational thinking is not the main motivation that gravitates in the customer’s decision making. 

In most cases, the triggers for purchases are emotions, values and everything that activates the brain’s reward system.

That is why neuromarketing applications should be a complement, and not a substitute, for traditional market research and consumer knowledge techniques.

On the contrary, the union between neuroscience techniques and traditional behavior studies will provide a more complete vision to better understand consumer behavior and decision-making.

So tell us your opinion, do you think neuromarketing is essential for a good marketing strategy? or on the other hand, do you think it is manipulation by companies? Share us if you liked the content!

FAQS: How neuroscience is used in marketing?

What is neuromarketing research?

Neuromarketing consists of a set of techniques that, supported by measurements made with neurotechnology devices, allow evaluating the brain and physiological reactions of consumers to different marketing stimuli.

What is Neuroscience used for?

Neuroscience is the set of scientific disciplines that study the nervous system, in order to approach the understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the control of nervous reactions and the behavior of the brain.

What companies use neuromarketing?

Here are four top brand names that have relied on Neuromarketing to conduct market research:

The Weather Channel.

How can we measure attention using neuromarketing tools?

Eye tracking can measure attention (via the eyes’ fixation points) and arousal (via pupil dilation); facial-expression coding (reading the minute movement of muscles in the face) can measure emotional responses; and heart rate, respiration rate, and skin conductivity measure arousal.

Why is neuromarketing bad?

Some people consider neuromarketing as unethical, intrusive and abusive, which attacks the privacy and autonomy of society.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’How neuroscience is used in marketing?’’ We talked about what it is and how companies use this technique to improve their results.

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


Murphy, E. R., Illes, J., & Reiner, P. B. (2008). Neuroethics of neuromarketing. Journal of Consumer Behaviour: An International Research Review, 7(4‐5), 293-302.

Morin, C. (2011). Neuromarketing: the new science of consumer behavior. Society, 48(2), 131-135.

Gang, D. J., Lin, W., Qi, Z., & Yan, L. L. (2012, May). Neuromarketing: marketing through science. In 2012 International Joint Conference on Service Sciences (pp. 285-289). IEEE.