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What is neuromarketing and how does it work?

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Last editedMay 20222 min read

We no longer consume advertising in a linear way. There are so many variables to consider when analysing how we respond to it, and they all must work together to form a wider, more cohesive picture. What further complicates matters is that we’re not even consciously aware of some of these variables. 

Measuring the success of a campaign in 2022 is vastly different from the process of doing so even five years ago and the metrics needed to tell the whole story. Click-through rates and impressions might have once been a good barometer for success, but today, we need not only to take the quantity and the quality of these results into account but also the context.

While traditional TV might still be seen as old-fashioned compared to more modern channels, it’s one of the strongest advertising mediums for brand-building in the UK. A study conducted by Ebiquity1 found that TV (and radio) remain the strongest platforms for brand-building.

So, why do industry decision-makers continue to undervalue traditional media and overvalue online and paid social? It’s to do with our phones. Increasingly, users pay more attention to their mobile devices than their TV screens, but this presents incredible opportunities for brands willing to use this second screen as a supplemental advertising platform, particularly if they are willing to explore the possibilities of neuromarketing.

What is neuromarketing?

Neuromarketing represents the promise of understanding consumer behaviour with zero uncertainty. The term loosely refers to measuring neural and physiological signals to measure consumer motivation and preference. The potential applications of neuromarketing are obvious — using that analysis to inform everything from marketing campaigns to product development.

Understanding the subconscious will be the next great frontier for marketers with an increasingly fractured media landscape to navigate. The neuromarketing sector is expected to grow exponentially between now and 2025. Marketers are switching on to the power of understanding consumer decisions via non-invasive psychoanalysis. 

Various metrics are used to measure brain response, with the most important being LTME (long-term memory encoding). This measures how much information the user registers in their long-term memory, which has implications for their future purchasing behaviours. This is incredibly valuable data for marketers.

How does neuromarketing work?

Neuromarketing is still a nascent concept. Those that do practise it also typically rely on EEG (electroencephalography that reads brain-cell activity) or fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), which uses magnetic fields to track changes in blood flow across the brain. 

However, these techniques require a willing consumer to have their brain scanned, which involves either sitting inside a large machine or having sensors placed on their head. They are also costly, and all the recorded signals must still be translated into validated indicators of consumer behaviour anyway.

Most marketers that use neuromarketing do so using more affordable and less invasive physiological proxies. These include eye-tracking to measure consumer attention and arousal (by pupil dilation), facial-expression coding to read emotional responses and everything from heart rates to respiration rates for everything else.

It’s no longer the fringe science it was once thought to be. Brands as recognisable as Yahoo, Coca-Cola, PayPal and Facebook have all used neuromarketing in recent years, and that list is only going to expand.

What does neuromarketing show us?

Suppose marketers are able to accurately track LTME (what is being encoded into the long-term memory). In that case, they can measure not only how engaged audiences are with content and how strong their emotional response to it is, how closely they are paying attention to it, and whether they are drawn to or turned off by it. They can then use this data to add significant value to a brand’s advertising communications.

When it comes to how to apply neuromarketing, meanwhile, marketers have a range of ideas. But they all agree it’s a large part of what the future of marketing will look like – and, more importantly, feel like.

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