Neuromarketing explained

Neuromarketing - Toolshero

Neuromarketing: This article explains neuromarketing in a practical way. After reading it you will understand the definition and basics of this marketing tool, including how to use it. Enjoy reading!

What is neuromarketing?

The definition

Neuromarketing is the application of neuropsychology for marketing purposes. Specifically, consumers’ cognitive, affective, and sensorimotor responses to stimuli are analyzed. This enables marketers to realize more effective and efficient marketing campaigns.

An example of this is studying how people’s brains respond to certain advertisements through eye tracking, skin reactions and brain wave activity. These techniques are used to predict the decision-making behavior with regard to consumer purchases.

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It is also possible to manipulate consumer behaviour. That is, manipulating people’s wants and needs to meet the needs of marketing interests and objectives.

This type of marketing is not just a catchy term coined by an intelligent engineer. It is a comprehensive marketing discipline that spans over fifteen years of research to demonstrate the potential for marketing efforts.

In this article you will find examples of effective case studies of neuromarketing.

how to use neuromarketing

A team of scientists from the MIT Sloan School of Management first studied people’s brains as they made a purchase. They did this using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

They looked specifically at which areas of the brain lit up or darkened. By analyzing these neural circuits, they could then predict whether a person would buy a product or not.

Notable Neuromarketing Research Findings

The results of other studies in neuromarketing are surprising. Martin Lindstrom published a book in 2008, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, in which he shared findings from a three-year study.

Some of these findings include:

  1. Cigarette warning labels stimulate the neural regions associated with craving. That’s despite the subjects themselves noting that they thought the warnings would work.
  2. Images of logos or products from popular and dominant brands, such as Apple, light up the same areas of the brain as the part that’s also activated by religious symbols.
  3. The front view of a Mini Cooper activates the same part of the brain that responds to seeing human faces.

Other things neuromarketing is applied to are:

  • A/B testing to estimate ad effectiveness
  • Testing the attractiveness of product design
  • Optimizing call-to-action (CTA) buttons

Other neuromarketing studies

Read Montague, a neuroscientist from the United States, used fMRI in 2003 to study the Pepsi Paradox. In the study, subjects were given a blind taste test of Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

From the moment the subjects knew what they were drinking, three quarters preferred Coca-Cola. Montague saw that activity in the prefrontal cortex increased, indicating complex thought processes.

He concluded that the subjects associated Coca-Cola with positive marketing images and brand messages of the brand.


In another study, researchers examined how hormones such as cortisol, testosterone and oxytocin influence consumer behavior. One study looked at the effects of elevated testosterone and male consumers’ interest in luxury goods. It was established that the hormone forces men to increase their status, such as purchasing more luxury goods.

Examples of neuromarketing research and techniques in practice

This type of marketing is widely used in practice. So often, in fact, that it is not even considered that studies were needed for this.

An old example can be found at HP. An ad from HP for the portable smartphone printer Sprocket shows a father trying to get his daughter’s attention. At first glance, that doesn’t seem to work.

At the end of the ad, he sees all the photos he has printed over the years hung in his daughter’s room and he is obviously emotional and overwhelmed.

Neuromarketing showed that many people reacted empathically to the ad, even before they could tell themselves that they were touched by the ad.

Criticism of neuromarketing

Despite the many benefits of neuromarketing, this marketing technique has also been criticized.

Manipulative nature

This type of marketing is said to be a manipulative method of marketing. Gary Ruskin of U.S. Right to Know, an anti-marketing organization, believes that neuromarketing responds to consumers’ fears and uses certain stimuli to make them make certain choices.

Neuromarketers insist that precise manipulation in that way is not possible and desirable and that such a thing does not happen. According to the marketers, the method is only used to understand how consumers make certain choices and how they develop relationships with brands, products and organizations.


Neuromarketing is often said to be pseudoscience. Neuromarketing and science are, however, different things. Neuromarketing is merely the application of instruments to provide insight into the purchasing process of consumers. Neuroscientific claims and assumptions are not made in it.

No new insights

Critics argue that neuromarketing uses pseudoscience to explain in a complex way what they already know about consumers.

Benefits of neuromarketing

It is clear that the benefits of neuromarketing are attractive to commercial organizations. They are briefly explained below.

Neuromarketing provides granular insights

The level of insights into human behavior obtained through neuromarketing can be much higher than with traditional market research. Traditional market research tools include, for example, questionnaires and focus groups.

Neuromarketing techniques look closely at consumer behaviour, preferences and wishes. With neuromarketing, it is possible to find out how people feel when they see or hear certain marketing elements.

Neuromarketing provides honest feedback

Consumers cannot lie while participating in a study for neuromarketing purposes. Therefore, these studies generate very reliable results. Once a marketer asks someone something in a normal context, that person may lie or change his or her feelings. Neuromarketing circumvents this problem.

Neuromarketing causes subconscious revelations

This method of market research provides insights that would not be revealed without the advanced techniques applied. It also shows things that people simply don’t remember.

Neuromarketing is cost efficient

Neuromarketing can make the cost of market research more efficient.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about neuromarketing? What do you think of neuromarketing? Do you think neuromarketing techniques and methods should become more accessible to smaller organizations? What developments do you think we will see in the coming years? Do you have any tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Lee, N., Broderick, A. J., & Chamberlain, L. (2007). What is ‘neuromarketing’? A discussion and agenda for future research. International journal of psychophysiology, 63(2), 199-204.
  2. Fisher, C. E., Chin, L., & Klitzman, R. (2010). Defining neuromarketing: Practices and professional challenges. Harvard review of psychiatry, 18(4), 230-237.
  3. Fortunato, V. C. R., Giraldi, J. D. M. E., & de Oliveira, J. H. C. (2014). A review of studies on neuromarketing: Practical results, techniques, contributions and limitations. Journal of Management Research, 6(2), 201.
  4. Lim, W. M. (2018). Demystifying neuromarketing. Journal of business research, 91, 205-220.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Neuromarketing. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 06/13/2022 | Last update: 04/14/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.

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