The human brain houses many thoughts and emotions.
Neuromarketing is one of the ways to analyze these sentiments and understand customer behavior. The neuromarketing market is expected to reach $21,218 million by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9%. Many people remain unaware of precisely what neuromarketing is despite major companies utilizing it in one way or another.
While neuroscience has been around for decades, marketers today turn to several tactics that use psychology to influence human behavior. Neuromarketing applies to businesses seeking to improve their communication, plus it helps consumers make better purchasing choices and form new habits.
Let’s start with the basic definition of neuromarketing before digging deeper into how it impacts purchasing behavior.
What is neuromarketing?
Neuromarketing studies how the brain responds to marketing.
Neuromarketing is a way of creating content, like websites, logos, and social media material, that evokes an emotional reaction in the brain. It helps brands understand more about their customers by tapping into what drives them to make purchases and segmenting them accordingly. These insights make it easier for brands to decide on future marketing efforts by tuning into consumers’ subconsciousness.
Neuromarketing is a real field of scientific study. Companies like Time Warner and NBC have used it for years to measure customer engagement. With the help of researchers from Microsoft's neuroscience group and Google Brain, Facebook has recently examined its users’ brains while they scroll through their news feeds.
While it may seem straightforward, measuring how a person’s brain responds to a product involves capturing images of their brain while experiencing the product. But using neuromarketing, businesses can learn fascinating and complex information about the way a customer's subconscious mind influences their decision to buy from you. And they won't even know it.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), neuromarketing tracks brain activity, so businesses better understand their customers.
As people are presented with various images and sounds, fMRI measures blood flow in the brain by monitoring changes in magnetic fields produced by atoms. fMRI and EEG have each established their own respective roles in advertising research by providing different information about how the brain reacts to ads.
Understanding the Primal Brain
According to Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences, we have two brains. The rational brain only influences our decisions, but the primal unconscious brain drives attention, trust, memorization, and intuition.
The primal brain is mainly responsible for decision-making; we have that in common with all animals. On the other hand, the rational brain becomes active after decisions have been made, describing and justifying them.
The primal brain consists of 6 stimuli – and marketers need to trigger these to communicate their message properly.
- Personal: Mainly concerned with our survival and well-being. Think of focusing on your audience’s pain points and how you can solve them.
- Contrastable: Accelerates decision-making. Marketers can make their ads contrastable to reduce cognitive effort by providing easy choice options to customers.
- Tangible: Looks for something familiar, friendly, and instantly recognizable. Marketers can use concrete evidence, familiar terms, patterns, and situations to make automatically tangible ad messages.
- Memorable: Forgets most information, so marketers should create messages with a strong beginning and ending to generate attention and retention.
- Visual: Responds strongly to visuals and makes decisions quickly. Marketers should create visually appealing marketing material that captures and captivates their base.
- Emotional: Designed to trigger decisions. Emotional marketing greatly affects the primal brain through memorable messages.
How brain activity influences consumer behavior
Imagine browsing through an e-commerce website with thousands of products and hundreds of categories. What would you choose and why? Your brain plays the main role in influencing our decision-making.
There’s a reason why stores put up large, bright-colored neon signs. They want to attract your attention in a way that makes you go inside the store instead of gazing through windows from the outside.
Many businesses implementing neuromarketing use marketing strategies backed by psychological research to see how their advertisements perform. For example, designers consider color psychology when choosing color palettes. Small, subtle changes affect consumer perceptions and buying behavior. Consider these:
- People tend to choose healthy, nutritious food options when displayed on the left side of the menu.
- Large spaces in luxury stores are related to high social status.
- Removing dollar signs from pricing can increase sales.
Fun fact: Do you know that people will pay more attention to bright-colored objects when they hear high-pitched sounds and to dark-colored objects when they hear low-pitched sounds?
Some important psychological factors influencing consumer behavior are:
- Motivation: Basic needs and security necessities can motivate a consumer to purchase products and services.
- Perception: Customers develop an impression about products based on ads, reviews, or social media feedback. This perception plays a significant role in influencing buying decisions.
- Learning: Customers use products to learn more about them. This factor helps them to repeat their purchasing decision or consider switching to another brand.
- Attitudes and beliefs: Customers have certain attitudes and beliefs that make them behave in certain ways toward a product. These feelings play a major role in defining the brand image of a product.
7 messaging components that appeal to the primal brain
Once you know what motivates and excites customers to take action, engaging them becomes relatively easy. Use these messaging components to address your customers.
1. Fear of missing out
No one wants to be left out, after all. No wonder 69% of millennials experience FOMO.
Generally, people have a hard time making purchasing decisions because they feel they can get their hands on something better. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, exploits a classic human psychology loophole by making us believe that we'll lose something amazing if we don't act fast.
This is where marketers leverage FOMO in their marketing campaigns to create a sense of anxiety, which makes people believe they won’t get a great deal if they don’t make speedy decisions. You’ve heard the phrases: “Limited time offer!” “Act now!” “These will sell out!”
2. Social proof
Imagine you're shopping for a new coffee table. You find two that you like based on their pictures alone. One has over 600 reviews and an average 4-star rating; the other only has 100 reviews and a poor rating of 2 stars. Which one would you pick?
You’d likely go with the first one because over 600 people have purchased it, and enough of those people liked it enough to bring its rating to 4 stars. Why did you make this purchasing decision? Because of a psychological phenomenon called social proof.
Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the action of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”
This buying behavior happens when potential buyers are unsure of what to do. That’s why marketers use social proof from existing customers, such as reviews, recommendations, or awards, to instill a sense of assurance in potential customers’ minds. They feel safe buying a particular product because others have already given it a thumbs up.
3. Ego reinforcement
Marketing makes customers think about a product or service in a certain way. While many of Sigmund Freud's theories have been disproven by modern psychology, the three-part structure of his model of id, ego, and superego remains influential.
- ID is the primitive and instinctive part of the unconscious mind that contains all urges and impulses.
- Ego is the rational decision-making part of the conscious personality.
- Superego is the unconscious voice of conscience and the source of self-criticism.
The best sales copywriters acknowledge that you have to first talk to the id to sell to the ego. As a result, they always write to the ids of their target audience, making efforts to appeal to primitive drives.
Freud's theory also validates that a product's visual, tactile, and auditory attributes trigger consumers' emotional responses, which motivate them to make purchase decisions.
4. Desire to avoid “status quo bias”
The status quo bias refers to our preference for retaining things over changing them. People are averse to change and will avoid losing what they already have.
Why do people behave this way?
Because they view change as expensive, unsafe, and risky. If the perceived benefits of a new product don’t outweigh the perceived costs of changing their existing product, they’d rather continue to tread the same path they’re on.
Status quo bias comprises preference stability, selection difficulty, cost of change, and anticipated regret and blame. In a sales and marketing context, showcasing your brand like everyone else will only reinforce your buyer’s status quo bias.
You need to tell a powerful, disruptive story that persuades your prospects to lean toward staying the course versus changing. Convince them that their current situation is doing them more harm than good and that they should change to a better solution to achieve their objectives.
5. Approval from a credible authority figure
Big brands choose celebrity figures from different fields as their brand ambassadors to apply the authority principle to marketing. Marketing has always been about authority. Think of Lionel Messi for Pepsi, Michael Jordan for Nike, or David Beckham for Georgio Armani.
The authority principle refers to a human tendency to comply with those in control since people believe those positions have the most knowledge and power. Brands use authority figures to establish their products’ credibility in the market. People think buying and using those products will yield favorable results because renowned, successful people recommend using them.
Customers trust expert opinions to guide them in their purchase decisions.
Marketers should make no mistake - sentiment can make or break a brand.
Consumers form their feelings toward a product based on how it makes them feel. It’s the emotional connection between brands and customers that acts as a catalyst in the choices we make.
Remember how you bought a certain product only because the salesman in the shop was so courteous to you, or because that product’s look and feel made you happy. We strive to be happy and are willing to pay for things that make us feel good.
Marketers should aim to provoke strong positive feelings to garner attention to their products or service and boost sales.
7. “Less is more” approach
Faced with many choices, too much information, and brand jargon, consumers often feel overwhelmed about what to choose – and what to skip. As a result, they make bad decisions, or worse, no decisions at all. Think of thousands of advertisements doing the same thing - buy, buy, buy! This traditional advertising strategy has become repetitive and fails to interest consumers.
Since COVID-19, we’ve changed as a society. The minimalist trend is everywhere. We’re beginning to question how much we need, and many of us are deciding on “just enough” instead of “one of each”.
We prefer simple, minimal design copy over flash and glamor advertisements.
The following ideas will help marketers create effective minimalist ad campaigns.
- Know your target audience’s tastes, location, age group, and other important demographics to make an effective minimalistic ad.
- Be as clear and concise as possible with your content.
- Eliminate unnecessary design elements from ads.
- Place quality over quantity.
- Implement a minimalistic approach across all of your digital media platforms.
We think before we act
The human brain is an incredibly dynamic organ. It’s constantly absorbing information and filing it away for later use, or coming up with new ways to process that information for future use. Whether useful to us in the present, the brain never stops analyzing that information.
So the next time you see someone do something strange or remarkable, remember that it may be a product of their subconscious brain activity.
Want to get inside your customers' heads? Check out G2's newest tool, G2 Market Intelligence, to discover what your customers care about and make meaningful, timely connections.