Biz Tips: Neuromarketing- How to Use It and Protect Yourself Against It.

Biz Tips: Neuromarketing- How to Use It and Protect Yourself Against It.


Neuromarketing- How to Use It and Protect Yourself Against It.

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It always seemed obvious to me that there must be a link between neuroscience and marketing. I went to school for finance so I had never really looked into it, but I was sure that retailers had neuroscientists on their marketing teams helping with strategy. Imagine my shock when I found out that no, actually, it would be a very rare and odd occasion for a neuroscientist to come into professional (or likely even social) contact with a marketer.

This, quite frankly, but thankfully not literally, blows my mind.

Every single one of us has a brain… neuroscience is the study of brains. Marketers want us to make decisions to buy their products. We make decisions with… our brains. Does no one else see the connection here?

Luckily, some very smart and forward-thinking researchers are beginning to see the link between the advancements made in neuroscience and their potential applications to consumer products and marketing practices.

In a paper entitled Consumer Neuroscience: Applications, Challenges, and Possible Solutions, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, the authors Hilke Plassmann, Vinod Venkatraman, Scott Huttel, and Carolyn Yoon describe in detail how the really amazing advancements in neuroscience are going pretty much undetected by the marketing community even though these advancements could have a huge impact on the success of marketing campaigns and change the way marketers think about their “targets” (the “targets”, of course, being consumers- otherwise known as human beings).

I will admit that the paper is long, difficult to understand due to the intense amount of industry jargon used, and the “actionable” impacts are less than clear- but once decoded (which I have done to the best of my ability) there a few seriously concrete insights for marketers that are invaluable.

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In addition, it’s important for consumers (that is you and me and anyone who has ever or will ever buy anything at any point) to know what new “tricks” neuroscience is providing marketers and retailers with. These are not necessarily intuitive and they are not meant to be manipulative but they can be if they are not used ethically- so the more you know the better off you are.

This Is Not A Brain Biology Lesson

I think it is important to state that this article will not outline any of the biological processes that occur in the brain. There is a difference between explaining how the brain processes information and the biological process in which neurons fire and synapses connect brain cells to coordinate motor movement etc. While the latter is interesting, it’s very technical and not necessary to understand to ascertain what is fundamentally happening inside the brain and across different brain regions during various circumstances.

3 Ways Neuroscience Impacts Consumer Marketing

1. Self Control:

The first point (Point #1 Identifying Mechanisms) made in the paper is about self-control. Right now, marketers have the following view of consumer self-control: there is a certain amount of it in the brain and if it is used up on something there will be less of it available for everything else. Think of this like money in your bank account- if you use some of it to shop online there is less of it to pay your bills. Researchers conducted experiments involving blood glucose levels in the brain and found this to be false- it turns out that there is no “set amount” of glucose stored in the brain (which is the chemical that helps curb impulses) and that the brain uses multiple mechanisms to continually replenish glucose.

Actionable Insight: Contrary to popular belief (the strength model of self-control that most marketers subscribe to) consumers can’t simply be “worn down” because eventually the amount of will-power they have available to “give” will deplete. You’ll need to use better quality, pricing, or branding to win customers over because waiting until their brains are tired won’t work.

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2. Branding:

There are many instances where consumers can’t explain why they chose a certain product or service- they just did. This makes it hard for marketers to do their job because consumers can’t articulate if it was the commercial brand messaging or the quality or even the nostalgia of the product (maybe their mother used it when they were growing up) that helped them decide. Neuroimaging of the brain comes into play here. In the second point in the paper (Point #2: Measuring Implicit Processes) the authors explain that scans of participants brains showed that certain regions of the brain “lit up” when the various conditions were tested. This encoding tells the researchers important information about what the participant was feeling at that time.

Actionable Insight: Different brain regions are responsible for different emotions. If you show your product to a consumer, you’re hoping they find it enjoyable and you really hope it does not cause them fear. But how do you know for sure when consumers themselves sometimes are not even aware of what they are feeling? Brain scans- that’s how.

Image Courtesy of Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

3. Decision Making

There are two types of decisions- fast judgment call types and well-thought-out deliberate types. It has long been the theory of marketers that consumers make these quick decisions using the emotional parts of their brains (this is the right part of the brain) and they make the calculated deliberate decision using the logical part of their brain (the left side of the brain). However, in the paper (Point #3 Dissasociating Between Psychological Processes) using fMRI scanning, the researchers have proven this theory to be less than true.

Image courtesy of

Now, the authors don’t say that we always make our toughest, most contemplated decisions with the emotional side of our brains, but they do say that they found that the left side (the logical part) of our brain “lit up” on the machine when patients were asked to make quick decisions and the right side of the brain (the emotional/ creative side) “lit up” more when the participants were asked to make longer-term contemplative decisions.

Actionable Insights: Marketers rely on being able to “play” on consumers emotions to get them to make last minute purchases, but it turns out that, at least on some level, consumers use the logical part of their brain to make these types of quick judgments. This could definitely alter the way “quick add” products are presented to consumers and should be given at least some consideration when creating branding and marketing campaigns.


You are very susceptible to being influenced either, consciously or subconsciously, by the marketing messages you receive on a daily basis. You don’t even need to be engaging with a product or a brand to be exposed to advertisements. They are everywhere, on city buildings, buses, newspapers, social media, etc. — it is just extremely hard to avoid marketing altogether.

However, knowing what is going on inside your head when you take in these messages is paramount to how you ultimately process them. Understand that your self-control is not “depleted” by the end of the day, trust your gut when a brand makes you feel a certain way, and contemplate decisions for as long as you feel necessary in order to avoid buyers remorse because both emotion and logic play a role in every choice in your decision-making process.

I hope this helps in providing some clear examples of how research and advancements from the field of neuroscience can impact business-related industries such as marketing, sales, public relation, and branding.

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Neuromarketing- How to Use It and Protect Yourself Against It. was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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