Have you ever gone to the store to buy milk just to leave with a cart full of stuff? And no, it isn’t just you. This is actually a very common buying behavior. With help from neuromarketing, businesses across the nation can get inside your head (literally) to find out more about how you shop. Your emotions have a huge influence on your buying decisions.

Take a seat and let’s dive into the world of neuromarketing!

What is Neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing is the science of human decision making and measures how people respond to products and advertisements. Instead of asking for your opinion on an item, neuroscientists will know whether you like it or not by tracking your body’s response.

The study of decision making is important because it gives businesses an idea of what products to market and how to advertise them well. Neuromarketers gather this information through case studies using a variety of tests.

These assessments track your reactions and gather data so businesses can create better advertisements, products, and services. These tests include:

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

An fMRI uses radio waves to generate images of your brain. It measures the amount of oxygen being consumed by your brain to track its activity. When you respond positively to an advertisement, your brain will consume more oxygen because it’s engaged.

Galvanic Skin Response (GSR)

Commonly known as skin conductance or a lie detector test, this assessment measures how much you sweat. Your body naturally perspires whenever you feel positive or negative emotions. Although a GSR doesn’t reflect the type of emotion you feel, it does calculate the intensity of your emotional response by assessing how much you sweat.

Electroencephalograph (EEG)

An EEG is very similar to an fMRI. It takes a snapshot of the brain, but instead of measuring oxygen levels, it measures electrical activity. Just like an fMRI, an EEG can tell if your brain is responsive towards a particular advertisement or product.

Eye Tracking

This involves tracking your eye movement to determine where you’re looking and for how long. If you find an ad boring, irrelevant, or controversial, you’ll most likely be disengaged or looking all over the place.

Facial Coding

Our face is home to 60 different muscles, which show our emotions. By using facial coding, neuromarketers can track your facial movements to determine whether your reaction to an ad or product was happy, angry, or sad.

Voice Analysis

For this test, it doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you say it. Voice analysis measures characteristics of your voice like pitch, tone, and speed rate. When you’re excited about a product or advertisement, you tend to speak in a higher pitch or at a faster pace.  

Overall, these tests track your body’s natural responses to commercials, ads, products, and more. You may say you loved that insurance commercial or your new vacuum, but your brain would give away the real answer.

How Does Neuromarketing Work?

Neuromarketing takes the data from the various tests listed above and uses it to understand consumers. Since about 95% of purchasing decisions are driven by the subconscious part of the brain, the results help businesses effectively market to the wants and needs of their customers.

Researchers have suggested that the human brain is made up of three figurative parts: new brain, middle brain, and reptilian brand.

While your reptilian brain makes most of your buying decisions, your middle brain has the ability to release chemicals, or neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. This neurotransmitter makes you happy, which is why it’s also known as the “feel good” chemical.  

Whenever you receive something for free like a t-shirt from a cannon at a baseball game or rally towel at a golfing event, you’re left with a more favorable impression because your brain’s natural response is to release dopamine. A sense of happiness makes your experience more positive and keeps you going back for more!

How Our Senses Influence Buying Decisions

Despite the reptilian brain calling the shots, your brain also interprets products and ads through sensory marketing. This form of marketing uses techniques that target your senses, including sight, touch, sound, taste and smell.

Check out how Hershey Kisses reel you in by appealing to your 5 senses:

Source: candycentral.com

Sight: Hershey Kisses come wrapped in a variety of shiny tinfoil. From silver to purple, the bright colors draw in your attention.

Touch: The tactile feeling of ripping off the foil so you can eat the chocolate leaves you with a rewarding hands-on experience.

Sound: As you remove the wrapper, you can hear it crunch under your fingers. Your brain recognizes this sound, knowing you can now eat the chocolate.

Taste: Even if you don’t like chocolate, Hershey Kisses come in different flavors for you to enjoy. These include candy cane, vanilla crème, caramel, and so much more.

Smell: The smell of chocolate, mint, or almond is almost as good as the taste. The next time you get a whiff, you’ll wish you had more.

Even if you don’t use all 5 of your senses, the same theory can be applied to just about any product. Ever wonder why you love squeezing stress balls or cuddling up in a fleece blanket? The tactile feeling of squeezing something spongy relieves stress, whereas a soft fabric reminds you of warmth and comfort.

Your senses are the key to making emotional connections, which is why brands often combine them in their marketing efforts. A multi-sensory experience stimulates your brain and triggers your emotions, making the overall encounter more positive and memorable. The more your senses are heightened, the more intensely you’ll perceive a brand.

Why is Neuromarketing Important for Marketers?

Neuromarketing can pinpoint exactly what consumers react to, including the color of the packaging, the sound the box makes when shaken, or if the item feels soft or coarse. All of these things help a brand develop better marketing strategies.

The reptilian brain, which makes all of your buying decisions, responds to 6 stimuli. These include:

  • Self-Centered
  • Contrast
  • Tangible
  • Beginning & End
  • Visual
  • Emotion

Take a look at how marketers use each stimulus to advertise their products, services, or message.

#1: Self-Centered – “What does it have to do with me and my well-being?”

Source: conversionxl.com

This ad from Porsche emphasizes the idea of being better than your neighbors with one of their luxury vehicles.

#2: Contrast – You want to see differences to make quick, risk-free decisions.

Source: cosmeticsandskin.com

Maybelline shows the before and after when using their line of makeup. Your brain is then able to choose which one looks better.

#3: Tangible – Your reptilian brain needs visual evidence to help process unfamiliar concepts or written information.

Source: www.scion.in

By dividing up the Earth into slices of pie, Scion is showing that our planet is getting pieced apart and gobbled up. This imagery evokes a stronger feeling than trying to use words to deliver the same message.

#4: Beginning & End – Whether it’s a story, movie, or ad, our brains focus on the beginning and end, often overlooking the middle.

Source: mealtimeclm.com

This process can also be applied in real life. For example, 25% of kids made better lunch choices when the healthier food was placed at the beginning and the end of the cafeteria line.

#5: Visual – The reptilian brain processes information visually.

Source: Evolved Thinking Digital

You know how to open a container of Chips Ahoy cookies because of the imagery on the packaging, not the word “LIFT.” This visual cue helps your reptilian brain process how to get inside and enjoy a cookie.

#6: Emotion – Fear, guilt, happiness, etc. help the brain process and memorize information.

Source: cars.usnews.com

The idea of hitting a child because you’re not paying attention to the road is more powerful than just the message: “Don’t Text and Drive.” It shows the emotional consequences of what could happen if you’re distracted behind the wheel.

Marketers would be wise to employ these strategies. Visual, emotionally-engaging ads are far more effective than ones that are simply logical or cut and dry. It all goes back to our brains and how we process information.

Final Thoughts

Tapping into the consumer brain is what neuromarketers do best. Without them, we wouldn’t have great ads, products, or brands.

While testing our subconscious brain is the only way to get surefire, accurate results, studying the brain and its decision-making processes is always changing. Businesses rely on neuromarketing to explain consumer buying behavior because we don’t actually know what we want.


Birkett, A. (2017, August 11). 6 Neuromarketing Stimuli That Speak to the Old Brain. Retrieved from https://cxl.com/blog/old-brain-stimuli/”>https://cxl.com/blog/old-brain-stimuli/

Dooley, R. (2014, September 29). What is Neuromarketing? Retrieved from https://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/what-is-neuromarketing.htm

Farnsworth, B., Ph.D. (2019, April 02). What is GSR and How Does it Work? Retrieved from https://imotions.com/blog/gsr/

[TEDx Talks]. (2013, May 20). Is There a Buy Button Inside the Brain: Patrick Renvoise at TEDxBend [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rKceOe-Jr0

[TEDx Talks]. (2018, May 17). Neuromarketing: Know Why You Buy | Same Usher | TEDxTufts [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMkkVCQdoa4

Pro Motion! (2019, February 08). Sensory Marketing – How to Appeal to Your Customers Through All 5 Senses. Retrieved from https://www.promotion1.com/sensory-marketing-appeal-customers-5-senses

About the author

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten is a promo expert with a passion for branding . Her vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several articles and published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.