Tapping in to someone’s emotional response is more valuable than the verbal response they may give.  That visceral reaction tells us what they are feeling, rather than what they are thinking.  Using techniques gained from the study of neuroscience, marketers can better understand both behavior and motivation.  In turn, this can help identify the triggers leading to engagement and conversions.

It’s why marketers are now using EEGs, biometrics, facial coding, eye tracking, and functional MRI’s to gage response.  By measuring both the conscious and unconscious response, you can capture the data from consumers that they may not be able to articulate.

Emotional Branding

What does Dr. Christine Born, a Radiologist, know about marketing?  Quite a bit, it turns out.  Dr. Born and her team tested people using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the power of brands.  It turns out that your brain has an immediate reaction to branding images even before you know anything about a product.  How something looks and feels can elicit an emotional response.

“The results showed that strong brands activated a network of cortical areas and areas involved in positive emotional processing and associated with self-identification and rewards,” said Dr. Born. What that means is the strong brands lit up the brain, with less effort – regardless of the product or service category.  Weak brands put off a negative emotional response and took more effort.  Neither are good.

Branding is more than a logo, a typeface, and a color.  Emotional branding shapes the unconscious reaction.  Emotions stimulate the brain three times faster than rational thought, meaning you often make up your mind before you even begin processing the facts.

Strong images make a bigger impression than text.

Visual Connections

Your brain makes a visual connection immediately.  It takes what it sees and senses, and compares it with past memories.  It will begin associating the feelings about those memories with what it sees and assigns values.  A recent bad experience at a restaurant may evoke a negative perception every time you see an ad for it.  A nostalgic memory of your first car may forever keep that brand name in the positive column – unless it’s colored by a bad experience later in life.

Emotion and memory play a significant role in brand affection and brand loyalty.

A study done by the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine put soft drink tasters to the test.  Participants in blind taste tests subjects had no preference between two soft drinks.  Brain activity showed that to be true.  But when participants were told one drink was Coke, and the other Pepsi, only Coke activated parts of the brain stimulated by reward.  More subjects preferred Coke, but only when they knew it was Coke.


When you are giving consumers choices, make sure that there are marked differences between products.  A large number of similar products with subtle differences has been shown to affect the decision-making process negatively, making each subsequent choice harder.  Fatigue can leads to disengagement.  For retailers, an effective tactic is to use filters and wizards to narrow down choices to a modest number of options.

Keep choices clear and defined.  Remember, your choices are impacted by your emotions more than facts.

Pricing & Perceived Value

Product pricing plays a significant role in how consumers make decisions.  You’ve been exposed to anchor pricing tactics whether you know it or not.  It’s why stores and websites will show a retail price and then a discounted price.  A label that says the price is $29.95, but marked down to $9.99 seems like a bargain – whether it is or not.  It gives consumers the feeling they are getting a great deal because of the reference price.

While most people will tell you they make decisions based on logic, studies show that most decisions are impacted in large part by emotion.  A price is only good if you feel that it’s reasonable.  A markdown from $29.95 to $9.99 feels like a bargain, but a markdown from $199.99 to $9.99 feels wrong.  It might lead you to believe the first price is a jacked-up number or the quality of the product itself is bad.  Yet, it’s the same price in both examples.

In another neuroscience study using fMRI, researchers at the California Institute of Technology did brain scans will test subjects tasted wines.  The results showed that telling the subjects similarly priced wines, but told them one was much higher priced.  The taste testers agreed the more expensive wine tasted better and their neural signals proved that out – even though there was no actual difference in the wines.

Perceived value is more important than the actual price.

Social Proof

There’s power in social proof.  That’s a fancy way of saying there’s power in popularity.  If something has been viewed a million times, it must have value.  It thousands of your friends like something, it must be good.  If people you know, or respect, have chosen to engage, it must be worth your while as well.

As a group, people are influenced more by those in their circles.  Teenagers trust other teens opinions more than what their parents think.  Demonstrating who others in the tribe feel about your marketing can make a difference.

A Neuroscientific Approach To Promotion & Marketing

Using a strategic approach to your promotional and marketing campaigns can increase your results significantly.

  1. Have clear, easy-to-process visuals and images
  2. Add in strong visual elements whenever you can
  3. Have a consistent brand identity
  4. Tap into positive emotional responses
  5. Have clearly defined choices with demonstrable differences
  6. Create perceived value in coupons, giveaways, and prizes
  7. Identify your target audience and adjust your tone to their values
  8. Demonstrate social proof of value when possible.