Neuromarketing Research and the Benefits for Consumer Insights

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Traditional market research tries to understand a consumer’s decision-making process from a conscious viewpoint, while neuromarketing research aims to understand customer behavior through physiological responses. Sometimes consumer’s may hold one view consciously while subconsciously believing something else. This is known as cognitive dissonance. Customer surveys and focus groups might not reveal this dichotomy. “Neuromarketing research can help marketers understand their target audience better than the target audience even understands themselves,” says Market Research Executive Recruiter, Lindsey Bartlett.

Neuromarketing Technology

Neuromarketing research uses technologies that observe brain activity and biometrics to determine how people respond physiologically to marketing messages. These tools reveal information about impressions, reactions and emotional responses when exposed to marketing stimuli.

Electroencephalogram or EEG

EEG is considered the oldest neurophysiological tool dating back to 1924. It is a non-invasive brain imaging method that detects brain electrical activity using different electrodes placed on the scalp. EEG is used to investigate cognitive processes such as attention, arousal, emotion, engagement, excitement, memory, reward, sensory perception and valence. Neuromarketing studies tend to use EEG the most, 60.5% of the time either alone or in combination with other tools. The invention of “wearable EEG” allowing increased subject mobility greatly increased the viability of its use.

Eye Tracking

This technique allows the measurement of eye positions, eye movement and pupil dilation to to determine how information on a screen is related to behavioral and emotional responses. Eye Tracking is portable, non-invasive, simple to use and relatively inexpensive making it the second most used technique in neuromarketing.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging or fMRI

fMRI is a brain imaging method used to analyze regional, time-varying changes in brain metabolism. It can create product activation maps showing which parts of the brain are involved in certain processes. The science of this technique is widely accepted and with its widespread availability, non-invasive nature and good spatial resolution you think it would be the method of choice. It is less commonly used due to being very expensive and requiring limited movement of the subject due to having to be in a tube.

Facial Expression Recognition Software or fERS

fERS records and analyzes facial expressions based on decision classifiers and is able to improve purchase prediction. It can be used to measure positive or negative reactions to marketing stimuli and is portable and very easy to use. fERS alone has limited application for consumer neuroscience research as it does not measure important cognitive processes such as attention, memory and sensory perception.

Electrocardiogram or EKG

EKG measures the electrical activity of the heart. Changes in the heart rate could be correlated with changes in the emotional state of a subject. This is a very simple, portable, non-invasive and widely used tool that has a good temporal solution.

Galvanic Skin Response or GSR

GSR is a physiological tool that measures the electrical conductance of the skin through one or two sensors attached to some part of the hand or foot typically. The assumption is a change in the autonomic tone (both skin and subcutaneous tissue) will be in accordance with the emotional state of the subject. Unfortunately different skin types can create variability in responses across subjects making results difficult to aggregate.

Neuroscience Applications in Marketing


Almost half of all neuroscience studies investigate the impact of advertising on consumer behavior, emotions and cognitive processes. This research analyzes how consumers experience, process and assess advertisements. EEG is used to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising by measuring the brain activity within milliseconds. Eye Tracking allows researchers to determine consumer’s visual attention through heat maps, scan paths and eye fixations. fMRI is used to test advertisement effectiveness for product images.


Neuroscience can help marketers better understand brand choice and brand loyalty. It can help companies create and design strong brands that are easy to remember and have a strong emotional appeal. Studies are done on the differences in neural activation between loyal and disloyal customers of a store during purchasing decisions.

Online Experience and Website Optimization

Consumer neuroscience tools can be used to assess the effectiveness of online strategies by analyzing the emotional responses of consumers to online ratings and reviews. Measuring the physiological and emotional responses associated with different strategies like discount coupon or a five-star rating may help determine how consumers perceive digital marketing strategies and determine the emotional responses to specific reviews or discussion topics. Visual design and layout, usability, speed, content and search and consumers emotional response to these factors can be used to optimize websites and apps. Eye Tracking is an effective tool to test how users interact with a website.


Price fairness, premium pricing and promotion can all use neuroscience tools to study effective strategies. Neuroscience tools can be used to study the difference in brain activity when consumers are exposed to low, optimal and upper price thresholds. Consumer neuroscience studies investigate how people enjoy consuming identical products more when they have a higher or premium price.

Product Development

How does a product’s design, visual and tactile attributes influence consumers’ brain activity? As simple as packaging design and its effect on consumer’s engagement and affective processing.

Product Experience

Appearance, odor, flavor, taste and texture attributes can influence sensory perception and preferences of different products like food, lipstick, music, water and wine. Portable devices like wearable EEG and ET measure consumer’s physiological response in store.

Neuromarketing Research Conclusions

Digivate.com listed some conclusions neuromarketing research has revealed about all human beings:

  • Humans are driven mainly be emotions, not logic.
  • 95% of decisions are made subconsciously.
  • Avoiding pain is a stronger motivator than seeking pleasure.
  • Social norms such as reciprocity, authority and social proof influence our behavior.
  • Certain colors elicit a particular emotional reaction.
  • Visuals are processed more quickly than words.
  • Images of beautiful women, children and puppies are universally appealing.
  • Prices with round numbers, like $100, are processed more easily, but numbers like $99.99 are perceived as a better deal.

Are you working with neuromarketing research or want to? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Market Research and Consumer Insights Executive Recruiter, Lindsey Bartlett at lbartlett@smithhanley.com.



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