Neuroscience focuses on the workings of the brain and how it affects our behaviour and cognitive functions. Our brains define who we are, what we know and the way in which we behave. Its neural pathways transmit information around the body, and this is what neuroscientists are most interested in.
Brands can harness this to work out why people have an emotional response to some adverts or brands and not to others. Neurobranding or neuromarketing focuses on the fact that 90% of thinking happens on a subconscious level. The ultimate goal of a marketer is to access this and generate an emotional response in an audience. Humans are emotional animals and when we feel an emotion we give it all of our attention. Therefore a brand that can tap into our emotions is more likely to be successful.
Neuromarketing research generally uses either brain-scanning technology or physiological responses to study consumers’ subconscious desires to help guide advertising, product development, or marketing materials. It is often done through brain scanning —with either fMRI or EEG technology — or physiological tracking, including eye movement measurements, facial coding, or measurements related to body temperature and heart rate.
fMRI technology involves a machine with powerful magnets that tracks blood flow to certain parts of the brain to let marketers know how people are really responding to their material. It is expensive and time-consuming.
EEG involves electrodes attached to a skull cap which can measure brain activity. It is cheaper and more convenient than fMRI and the subject can move, which they can’t in fMRI.
Ways in which brands can use neuroscience to improve their marketing
Most of the decisions we make are based on what we believe, which is set in stone at an early age. We react rather than respond. For instance if you put a snake in a room and bring in 3 different people you are likely to get 3 different reactions. 1 might like the snake, 1 might be indifferent and the 3rd may recoil in horror. These are all reactions based on our subconscious.
To achieve success, brands need to tap into this subconscious. This will enable them to do the following:
1. They can tell a more compelling story
To harness our emotions, brands need to tell stories that will generate an emotional response in audiences. Emotional stories release the hormone Oxytocin in our brains, this encourages us to form an emotional connection to a brand.
2. Make packaging more appealing
Brands have used neuromarketing to assess how consumers respond to their packaging. Campbells and Frito-Lays have used it to work out that consumers didn’t like shiny packaging with pictures of crisps on, but responded better to a matt finish with images of potatoes.
3. Choose colours
Colour choice in branding is important. Different colours provoke different emotional responses in us:
Orange – Friendly and also enthusiastic.
Yellow –, sunshine, joy, warmth. Playful character.
Blue – calm and trust.
Green – fresh calm and nature.
Red – energy, romance, vitality, power.
Businesses thinking of rebranding should consider the colours they use to reflect what their business is about. Exhibition stand contractor Quadrant2Design is one such company. They chose green and black to reflect the professionalism of the company and its sustainable credentials.
4. Design more effective ads
The main goal of neuromarketing is to design more effective adverts. Roger Dooley in a study for baby product ads tracked viewers eye movements to see where their attention was drawn. In the ad featuring a picture of the baby looking at the camera, eyes were drawn to the baby’s face rather than the copy. But in the image where the baby is looking at the copy, it received much more attention than the previous ad. This is because we tend to subconsciously mimic what others are doing, so if we see someone looking at something, we will follow suit.
5. Set optimum prices
If two products are priced at £9.99 and £10 we are instinctively drawn to the cheaper one, even though it is only by 1 pence. Evidence also shows that if we see the product before we see its price, our brains focus on the product features. But if we see the price before the product we are more concerned about whether the product is worth the price.
Doing it right
Apple is one of the most popular companies worldwide, with a wide spectrum of loyalty. A study of its users by neuroscientists found that they had an emotional connection to the brand. The study was about scanning the brains of Apple and Samsung customers as they read different news about the company which can be positive, neutral and bad news. With these studies, they found a big difference between both groups.
The Apple users showed identification with the brand: Some parts of the brain were activated by positive news about Apple, however, the pain centres will be activated when we have bad news. Something different happened with Samsung, the feeling of those users was completely neutral. This is the same response that people have when they empathise with close friends or relatives but don’t feel the emotions of people they don’t know.
Whereas Samsung users didn’t care when reading news about the brand Samsung. So Apple has succeeded in generating an emotional response in users, which aids their brand loyalty.
Neuroscience can be utilised by brands to discover exactly what consumers think about their services or products, brand or marketing materials. It enables marketers to check whether a part of the brain has a subconscious reaction to something the consumer sees or not. This can guide choices of adverts, packaging, colour and price. Brands that can elicit an emotional response in their audience tend to be more successful as it generates brand loyalty.