Everything You Need to Know About Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a combination of neuroscience and marketing that helps brands gauge the emotional resonance of their marketing campaigns. Intrigued? Read on to find out more!
Everything You Need to Know About Neuromarketing

Last update: 11 February, 2021

Marketing is all about understanding consumers’ behaviors, needs, and motivations and then delivering an experience to satisfy them. Neuromarketing is a combination of neuroscience and marketing that help brands gauge the emotional resonance of their current and future marketing campaigns. 

To do this, companies like Immersion Neuroscience and Spark Neuro have developed technology that can gauge certain neurochemical and physiological responses, which both signal emotional engagement, while consuming marketing content.

Neuromarketing essentially consists of designing marketing materials (including your website, ads, email campaigns, and content) to evoke specific neurological reactions that trigger emotions or responses that are linked to purchasing .

In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about neuromarketing and how you can use it to evaluate and potentially influence your customers’ buying decisions.

Pepsi or Coke?

Consumer neuroscience became popular in the mid-2000s when business school researchers started to demonstrate that advertising, branding, and other marketing tactics can impact the brain. In 2004, researchers at Emory University served Coca-Cola and Pepsi to subjects who were lying inside fMRI machines. 

When the drinks weren’t identified, the researchers noted a consistent neural response. But when subjects could see the brand, their limbic structures (brain areas associated with emotions, memories, and unconscious processing) showed enhanced activity, demonstrating that knowledge of the brand altered how the brain perceived the beverage.

For example, brain scanning can also show that the same beverage with different price tags may produce different responses in test subjects, but so can simpler methods. A 2005 study found that people scored lower in problem-solving activities when they were served an energy drink at a discounted price than when they were served the same drink at full price. 

But do marketers really need to be told that people’s brains react differently to Coke and Pepsi to truly understand how utterly important branding is?

How does it work?

Bear in mind that neuromarketing isn’t a basic strategy. You can actually invest in high-level research tools to see how real consumers are neurologically responding to your brand’s campaigns. 

In fact, neuromarketing research commonly uses either brain-scanning or technology physiological measurements to assess consumers’ subconscious preferences. It also helps inform advertising, product development, or marketing materials.

In a study from Temple University, scientists used eight methods to test this theory, including traditional surveys, eye tracking, heart rate, breathing, brain activity with fMRI, and brain waves with EEGs.

The tools

Neuromarketing loosely refers to the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions. This can help inform creative advertising , product development, pricing, and other marketing areas. 

Brain scanning, which measures neural activity, and physiological tracking, which measures eye movement and other activities, are the most common tools:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI)
  • Eye tracking


An EEG (electroencephalogram) reads brain-cell activity through sensors placed on the subject’s scalp. It can track changes in activity over fractions of a second, but it does a poor job of pinpointing exactly where the activity occurs or measuring it in depth.

Researchers often use EEGs to measure dynamic stimuli, such as videos, TV shows, commercials, and online user experiences. In such cases, it’s interesting to see brain responses.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

The two main tools for scanning the brain are fMRI and EEG. Functional magnetic resonance imaging uses strong magnetic fields to track changes in blood flow across the brain. It’s administered while a person lies inside a machine that takes continuous measurements over time.

An fMRI can track activity only over the course of several seconds, meaning it may miss fleeting neural incidents. Moreover, fMRI machines are more expensive than EEG equipment.

Eye tracking

In addition to brain scanners , there are many effective tools for measuring the physiological proxies for brain activity. Not only are they much more affordable, but they’re also easier to use. For instance, eye tracking can measure attention via the eyes’ fixation points.

It also measures arousal via pupil dilation and facial-expression coding via facial muscle movements. It may also measure emotional responses and heart rate, respiration rate, and skin conductivity.


Although the purpose of neuromarketing is to determine how consumers respond to brands or campaigns, not everyone is convinced that it’s ethical. One study addresses ethical questions such as, “Will brands be able to influence buyer decision ?” and “Is neuromarketing manipulative?”

In and of itself, neuromarketing isn’t unethical. However, it’s important for companies to hold themselves to high ethical standards when studying their consumers. For instance, brands shouldn’t intentionally promote anything that’s harmful, deceptive, or illegal. 

Additionally, they shouldn’t study minors to figure out how to hook them on a product. Marketing should be only used to create effective ads and eliminate those that just don’t work. Thus, it’s up to you to decide how far your business’ neuromarketing team wants to go. That’s the bottom line. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Day, G. S. The threats to marketing researchJ. Mark. Res. 12, 462–467 (1975).
  • Hauser, J. R. & Shugan, S. M. Intensity measures of consumer preferenceOper. Res. 28, 278–320 (1980).
  • Hare, T. A., Camerer, C. F. & Rangel, A. Self-control in decision-making involves modulation of the vmPFC valuation systemScience 324, 646–648 (2009).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.