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Neuromarketing is a commercial marketing communication field that applies neuropsychology to marketing research, studying consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.[1] It uses technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response; sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state, also known as biometrics, including heart rate, respiratory rate, and galvanic skin response; facial coding to categorize the physical expression of emotion; or eye tracking to identify focal attention - all in order to learn which brain areas are involved. Certain companies, particularly those with large-scale ambitions to predict consumer behaviour, have invested in their own laboratories, science personnel or partnerships with academia.[2]


Marketing professor Gerald Zaltman patented the Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET) in the 1990s; aimed to sell advertising.[3]. The essence of ZMET reduces to exploring the human unconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors stimulating the purchase.[4] Graphical collages are constructed on the base of detected images, which lays in the basis for commercials. Marketing Technology ZMET quickly gained popularity among hundreds of major companies-customers including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nestle, Procter & Gamble. Zaltman and his associates were employed by those organizations to instigate brain scans and observe neural activity of consumers.[3] Zaltman's marketing research methods enhanced psychological research used in marketing tools.[3] Psychoanalysis techniques such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagining), eye tracking, electrodermal response measures and other neuro-technologies are used to get observations that can be correlated with individual's surmised emotions and social interactions.[5] Non-conscious brain activity was recorded while participants viewed ads. Neuromarketing, which investigates observed behaviours, thus provides models of consumer behavior and can also be used to re-interpret extant research. It provides theorization of emotional aspects of consumer behaviour.[6] Zaltman's marketing research methods enhanced psychological research used in marketing tools.[3]

In the late 1990s, both Gemma Calvert (UK) and Gerald Zaltman (USA) had established consumer neuroscience companies. In 2006, Dr. Carl Marci (USA) founded Innerscope Research, which was acquired by the Nielsen Corporation[7] in May 2015 and renamed Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. Unilever's Consumer Research Exploratory Fund (CREF) too had been publishing white papers on the potential applications of Neuromarketing.[8]

The term 'neuromarketing' was only introduced in 2002, published in an article by BrightHouse, a marketing firm based in Atlanta.[9] BrightHouse sponsored neurophysiologic (nervous system functioning) research into marketing divisions; they constructed a business unit that used fMRI scans for market research purposes.[9] The firm rapidly attracted criticism and disapproval concerning conflict of interest with Emory University, who helped establish the division.[5] This enterprise disappeared from public attention and now works with over 500 clients and consumer-product businesses.[9]


Neuromarketing, marketing employing psychoanalysis techniques, is a recent method utilized to understand consumers.[10] Neuromarketing is also used with Big Data in understanding modern-day advertising channels such as social networking, search behaviour and website engagement patterns.[11]

Neuromarketing engages the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), biometrics, facial coding, eye tracking and other technologies in investigating and learning how consumers respond and feel when presented with products and/or related stimuli.[10] The concept of neuromarketing investigates the non-conscious processing of information in consumers brains.[12] Human decision-making is both a conscious and non-conscious process in the brain.[13] Non-conscious information has a large influence in the decision-making process.[12] Conventional market research, such as focus groups or surveys, are typically used to understand behaviour and decision-making. However, it results in an incompatibility between market research findings and the actual behaviour exhibited by the target market at the point of purchase.[12] Neuromarketing rather focuses on the MRI and EEG scans which produce brain electrical activity as well as blood flow. Market researchers use this information to determine if products or advertisements stimulate responses in the brain linked with positive emotions.[10] The concept of neuromarketing was therefore introduced to study relevant human emotions and behavioural patterns associated with products, ads and decision-making.[14]

A greater understanding of human cognition and behaviour has led to the integration of biological and social sciences. The concept of neuromarketing combines marketing, psychology and neuroscience. Consumer behaviour can now be investigated at both an individuals conscious choices and underlying brain activity levels.[15] The neural processes observed provide a more accurate prediction of population-level data in comparison to self-reported data.[12] Neuromarketing can measure the impacts of branding and market strategies before applying them to target consumers.[12][16]


Collecting information on how the target market would respond to a product is the first step involved for organisations advertizing a product. Traditional methods of this research include focus groups or sizeable surveys used to evaluate features of the proposed product.[16]). This method of research fails to gain the consumer's non-conscious emotions.[15] Some of the conventional research techniques used in this type of study are the measurement of cardiac electrical activity (ECG) and electrical activity of the dermis (AED) of subjects.[17]

Neuropsychology allows insight into differences seen in individuals by three non-invasive methods of measuring brain activity.[18] These include electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).[12][16] Marketers can then advertise the product so that it communicates and meets the needs of potential consumers with different predictions of choice.[16][19]

Segmentation and positioning[edit]

Based on the proposed neuromarketing concept of decision processing, consumer buying decisions rely on either System 1 or System 2 processing or Plato's two horses and a chariot. System 1 thinking was intuitive, unconscious, effortless, fast and emotional. In contrast, decisions driven by System 2 were deliberate, conscious reasoning, slow and effortful. Zurawicki that buying decisions are driven by one's mood and emotions; concluding that compulsive and or spontaneous purchases were driven by System 1.[20]

Marketers use segmentation and positioning to divide the market and choose the segments they will use to position themselves to strategically target their ad. Using the neurological differences between genders can alter target market and segment. Research has shown that structural differences between the male and female brain has strong influence on their respective decisions as consumers.[20][21]

Young people represent a high share of buyers in many industries including the electronics market and fashion industry. Due to the development of brain maturation, adolescents are subject to strong emotional reaction, although can have difficulty identifying the emotional expression of others. Marketers can use this neural information to target adolescents with shorter, attention grabbing messages, and ones that can influence their emotional expressions clearly. Teenagers rely on more 'gut feeling' and don't fully think through consequences, so are mainly consumers of products based on excitement and impulse. Due to this behavioural quality, segmenting the market to target adolescent's can be beneficial to marketers that advertise with an emotional, quick response approach.[20]

Study examples[edit]

Companies such as Google, CBS, Frito-Lay, and A & E Television amongst others have used neuromarketing research services to measure consumer reactions to their advertisements or products.[22] In a study from the group of Read Montague published in 2004 in Neuron,[23] 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the "Pepsi Challenge", a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Half the subjects chose Pepsi, since Pepsi tended to produce a stronger response than Coke in their brain's ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region thought to process feelings of reward. But when the subjects were told they were drinking Coke three-quarters said that Coke tasted better. Their brain activity had also changed. The lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers, and the hippocampus, an area related to memory, were now being used, indicating that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions. The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand.

The findings made by Crespo-Pereira, Martínez-Fernández and Campos-Freire determine that around a dozen public broadcasters in Europe already apply visual neuromarketing strategies as an innovative tool to test and design entertainment products, commercial blocks and competitiveness.[24]


Many of the claims of companies that sell neuromarketing services make are not based on actual neuroscience and have been debunked as hype, and have been described as part of a fad of pseudoscientific "neuroscientism" in popular culture.[25][26][27] Joseph Turow, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, dismisses neuromarketing as another reincarnation of gimmicky attempts for advertisers to find non-traditional approaches toward gathering consumer opinion. He is quoted in saying, "There has always been a holy grail in advertising to try to reach people in a hypodermic way. Major corporations and research firms are jumping on the neuromarketing bandwagon, because they are desperate for any novel technique to help them break through all the marketing clutter. 'It's as much about the nature of the industry and the anxiety roiling through the system as it is about anything else."[28]

Some consumer advocate organizations, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, have criticized neuromarketing's potentially invasive technology. Jeff Chester, the executive director of the organization, claims that neuromarketing is “having an effect on individuals that individuals are not informed about." Further, he claims that though there has not historically been regulation on adult advertising due to adults having defense mechanisms to discern what is true and untrue, that it should now be regulated "if the advertising is now purposely designed to bypass those rational defenses ... protecting advertising speech in the marketplace has to be questioned."[22]

Advocates nonetheless argue that society benefits from neuromarketing innovations. German neurobiologist Kai-Markus Müller promotes a neuromarketing variant, "neuropricing", that uses data from brain scans to help companies identify the highest prices consumers will pay. Müller says "everyone wins with this method," because brain-tested prices enable firms to increase profits, thus increasing prospects for survival during economic recession.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee, N; Broderick, AJ; Chamberlain, L (February 2007). "What is "neuromarketing"? A discussion and agenda for future research". International journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology. 63 (2): 199–204. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2006.03.007. PMID 16769143. 
  2. ^ Karmarkar, Uma R. (2011). "Note on Neuromarketing". Harvard Business School (9-512-031). 
  3. ^ a b c d Kelly, 2002
  4. ^ "Carbone, Lou. Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Financial Times Prentice Hall (2004): 140-141, 254.".
  5. ^ a b Fisher, Chin and Kiltzman, 2011
  6. ^ Genco, S.J., Pohlmann, A.P. and Steidl, P., Neuromarketing For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, 2013
  7. ^
  8. ^ David Lewis & Darren Brigder (July–August 2005). "Market Researchers make Increasing use of Brain Imaging" (PDF). Advances in Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation. 5 (3): 35+. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Ait Hammou, Galib & Melloul, 2013
  10. ^ a b c Kolter, Burton, Deans, Brown & Armstrong, 2013
  11. ^ "Tapping Into How Consumers React With Neuromarketing". Artifact Advertising. Artifact. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Agarwal & Dutta, 2015
  13. ^ Glanert, 2012
  14. ^ Neuromarketing Science and Business Association, n.d.
  15. ^ a b Shiv & Yoon, 2012
  16. ^ a b c d Venkatraman, Clithero, Fitzsimons & Huettel, 2012
  17. ^ Baraybar-Fernández, Antonio; Baños-González, Miguel; Barquero-Pérez, Óscar; Goya-Esteban, Rebeca; de-la-Morena-Gómez, Alexia (2017). "Evaluation of Emotional Responses to Television Advertising through Neuromarketing". Comunicar (in Spanish). 25 (52): 19–28. doi:10.3916/c52-2017-02. ISSN 1134-3478. 
  18. ^ Morin, 2011
  19. ^ De Clerck, 2012
  20. ^ a b c Zurawicki, 2010
  21. ^ Kotler et al, 2013
  22. ^ a b Natasha Singer (3 November 2010). "Making Ads that Whisper to the Brain". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ Samuel M. McClure, Jian Li, Damon Tomlin, Kim S. Cypert, Latané M. Montague, and P. Read Montague (2004). "Neural Correlates of Behavioral Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks" (abstract). Neuron. 44 (2): 379–387. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2004.09.019. PMID 15473974. 
  24. ^ Crespo-Pereira, Verónica; Martínez-Fernández, Valentín-Alejandro; Campos-Freire, Francisco (2017). "Neuroscience for Content Innovation on European Public Service Broadcasters". Comunicar (in Spanish). 25 (52): 09–18. doi:10.3916/c52-2017-01. ISSN 1134-3478. 
  25. ^ Wall, Matt (16 July 2013). "What Are Neuromarketers Really Selling?". Slate. 
  26. ^ Etchells, Pete (5 December 2013). "Does neuromarketing live up to the hype?". The Guardian. 
  27. ^ Poole, Steven (September 6, 2012). "Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks". New Statesman. 
  28. ^ Natasha Singer (13 November 2010). "Making Ads that Whisper to the Brain". The New York Times. 
  29. ^ Peter Osterlund (11 October 2013). "First they scan your brain. Then they set their price". 60second Recap. 
  • Agarwal, S.; Dutta, T. (2015). "Neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience: current understanding and the way forward". Decision. 42 (4): 457–462. doi:10.1007/s40622-015-0113-1. 
  • Fisher, C.; Chin, L.; Klitzman, R. (2010). "Defining Neuromarketing: Practices and Professional Challenges". Harvard Review Of Psychiatry. 18 (4): 230–237. doi:10.3109/10673229.2010.496623. 
  • Glanert, M. (2012). Behavioral Targeting Pros and Cons - Behavioral Targeting Blog. Behavioral Targeting. Retrieved 31 March 2016, from
  • Kotler, P., Burton, S., Deans, K., Brown, L., & Armstrong, G. (2013). Marketing (9th ed., pp. 171). Australia: Pearson.
  • Kelly, M. (2002). The Science of Shopping — Commercial Alert. Commercial Alert. Retrieved 30 March 2016, from
  • Morin, C (2011). "Neuromarketing: The New Science of Consumer Behavior". Soc. 48 (2): 131–135. doi:10.1007/s12115-010-9408-1. 
  • Shiv, B.; Yoon, C. (2012). "Integrating neurophysiological and psychological approaches: Towards an advancement of brand insights". Journal of Consumer Psychology. 22 (1): 3–6. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2012.01.003. 
  • Venkatraman, V.; Clithero, J.; Fitzsimons, G.; Huettel, S. (2012). "New scanner data for brand marketers: How neuroscience can help better understand differences in brand preferences". Journal of Consumer Psychology. 22 (1): 143–153. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2011.11.008. 
  • Mary Carmichael (November 2004). "Neuromarketing: Is It Coming to a Lab Near You?". PBS (Frontline, "The Persuaders"). Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  • Media Maze: Neuromarketing, Part I

Further reading[edit]

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