3 Essential Neuromarketing Lessons For Your Brand

In recent decades, technological advance has unleashed an explosion of progress in cognitive science. Today, thanks to the development of new non-invasive brain imaging techniques and biometric devices, we can understand consumers without even asking them to open their mouth or write a word. The arrival of neuromarketing represents a new world of possibilities with untold potential.

Unlike traditional methods in which a person is asked to verbalize their opinion, techniques such as a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), an electroencephalogram (EEG), or eye tracking, allow a direct measurement of the person’s reaction to the product. This represents an advantage over methods such as surveys or focus groups because words often do not faithfully reflect what the person really feels, either because they deliberately lie in response to social pressures, or because they are not fully aware of their reaction or preference.

Next, we will go over 3 insightful lessons taught by the rising field of neuromarketing.

1. Packaging: All that glitters is not gold

In the process of developing a new packaging for their snacks, Frito-Lay used brain imaging techniques to assess the reaction of consumers to a set of alternatives. After coding the reactions as “positive”, “negative” or “neutral”, the researchers noted that bright textures tended to cause activation of brain areas associated with guilt, while matte textures caused a more neutral reaction. In response to this study, the company changed the snacks packaging in a matter of months.

Frito-Lay’s results do not imply that bright packages are “bad”. In fact, some products would surely benefit from this type of packaging. In the case of snacks, however, bright textures tend to be associated with less healthy products.

Frito-Lay changed the packaging of its snacks after discovering that
bright textures generated activation of brain areas associated with guilt.

1. If attention you want, surprise them you must

In the digital age, excess of sensory stimuli is a fact. Our information processing capacity is limited, and this forces our brain to choose what information we need to attend to and what we need to dismiss. But what are the mechanisms that determine the focus of our attention?

To make it simple, there are two mechanisms involved: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down mechanisms are those that have a voluntary and goal-oriented component. It is thanks to these that we are able to hold our attention while driving, reading a book or watching a movie. Meanwhile, bottom-up mechanisms are involuntary and are responsible for directing our attention to salient elements (different; not expected) of our environment. As such, they cause us to turn our heads when we hear a loud sound or fix our gaze when we see a sign with high contrast colors.

Branding and advertising in general must leverage these two mechanisms: “bottom up” to capture attention and “top down” to retain it. A popular example of how to capture attention is that of a Patron ad. In one of its campaigns, the tequila brand presented the following piece:

When someone begins to read the ad, their expectation is to find the traditional saying “practice makes perfect”. However, expectations are subverted when instead of “perfect”, the person encounters the word “Patron”. Like a loud noise in a library, Patron is a salient element and because of this our brain allocates resources to its processing.

2. Where do models look in ads?

Eye tracking technology allows us to identify where the gaze is directed—and therefore what is capturing the model’s attention. Studies indicate that the presence of a person is an effective method to capture our attention. Much more effective if that person happens to be a baby. The problem is that because the gaze focuses almost exclusively on the human face, the rest of the content goes unnoticed. The solution? Models should direct their gaze to the content. This is enough to guide the public’s attention towards what we want to communicate.

A heat map shows the amount of time the look stays focused on each area. The second ad is much more effective.

These are just some of the lessons that neuromarketing can teach us. The constant progress in the field and the steep decrease in the costs of the tools needed to carry out these type of studies will contribute to neuromarketing becoming the norm in market research, marketing and branding.

March 24th, 2020 | Branding

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