Neuromarketing is the science of influencing consumer choices by understanding the brain processes behind them. The field has been around for many years but has only become a buzzword recently because large corporations are using it to transform their marketing.

For example:

  • PayPal invested millions into understanding what people like about its proposition. Using brain-wave research, they found that speed attracted people far more then safety and simplicity. As a result, they created by a more focused and effective ad campaign.
  • Frito-Lay found that consumers prefer matte bags to shiny ones. This put an end to the glossy packaging that had long been the standard for the company’s snack foods.
  • A study of 106 subjects found that cute babies featured in ads distract consumers from the text on the page. The solution was to have the baby look in the direction of the copy: this way, the text gets read more often.
“Products are made in a factory,but brands are created in the mind”

Walter Landor

Interesting, right?

In the past, neuromarketing was limited to multinationals with huge budgets. Using EEG, fMRI and eye-tracking technologies just wasn’t cost-effective for regular businesses. Today, that has changed. We now understand enough about neuromarketing from previous case studies that any business – large or small – can leverage the way the human brain works.

In this article, we’ll show you 7 ways to hook customers by doing just that.


1. Tap into positive emotions to make content go viral

71% of B2B marketers use content to generate leads. This makes sense: content marketing delivers triple the leads of outbound traffic at just 38% of the cost: a 689.47% edge in ROI.

But can you make content that’s consistently viral – or at least consistently shared?

Neuromarketing research says “yes”.

A 2014 BuzzSumo study of 100 million+ articles examined which emotions make people share content. Awe, laughter, joy and amusement were responsible for 57% of the shares tracked.

The “most shared” negative emotion – anger – only led to 7% of the study’s shares.

So while news may often be negative, content that gets shared is positive. If you want to increase your potential for going viral, keep things happy and light.

And make sure to…

2. Differentiate between what people say they feel - and what they actually feel

In 2008, Frito-Lay used encephalography to discover that people enjoy the cheese dust that Cheetos leave on their fingers. Apparently, the messiness makes them feel subversive.

To capitalize on this feeling of rebeliousness, Frito-Lay made an ad campaign where Cheetos’ Chester mascot encourages people to prank others. In one ad he gets a female airline passenger to quiet her snoring neighbor by sticking Cheetos up his nose.

When shown this ad, a panel of consumers said they found it rude, offensive and mean… But when Frito-Lay ran EEG tests, they found that women were actually delighted by the video.

They just didn’t want to say so in front of other panel members.

The takeaway is to look at how consumers really feel. You may not want to run EEG tests – but you can use tests, web analytics and neuroscience-backed questions to learn the truth. Don’t take what consumers say at face value – and always remember to…


3. Put ads and content where people will see it

Studies have repeatedly shown that people don’t scan an entire webpage before leaving it.

Specifically, a Nielsen Group study, this moz.com study and this blog-specific experiment all found that people scan pages in an F or E shape. This means they focus more on the left side of the screen, only moving horizontally to the right when something piques their interest.

The takeaway? If you want your ads and content to be noticed, try moving them to the left – or adding attention-grabbing elements to that side of the screen.

And if you really want to grab your target audience’s attention…


4. Appeal to the Lizard Brain

The human “lizard” or limbic brain is responsible for our strongest, most urgent feelings. That might sound like cockamaney pseudoscience but is actually a real thing – or at least a valid way to look at how we make choices.

The lizard brain responds to 3 things: sex, food and danger. This is why commercials tend to be sexualized, and news – negative. This is what keeps viewers glued to their T.V. screens and computer monitors.

To hook your target audience on the same gut level, simply add food, danger and/or sex to your next campaign. You don’t have to be direct – in fact, you can make people think about all these things by…

5. Leveraging anchored responses

Remember Pavlov’s dog experiment? If you don’t, here’s what happened. A team of researchers repeatedly fed a test dog right after ringing a bell.

After a while, the researchers made the same sound but didn’t give the dog food. By then, the dog had come to associate a bell’s ringing with getting fed and started salivating – even though there was no reason to do so.

The reason was that the scientists had “anchored” – or linked – the dog’s expectation of food to the sound of a bell.

And with neuromarketing, you can use similar deeply programmed responses to your advantage.

For example, when people hear an airport alert or a news countdown sound, they pay attention. This is a powerful anchor because failing to pay attention to an airport announcement puts you in danger of missing your flight.

You can take advantage of this by starting a video or audio recording with an alert sound to make sure people listen to it.

A more straightforward anchor is the use of the word “free” in your marketing. Duke University’s Dan Ariely tested free products vs cost-reduced ones extensively, and found that free consistently beats deeply discounted – even if a discount offers more savings.

This can be partly explained by…


6. Fear aversion

Humans are far more likely to buy when they fear losing something. This appears to be a hardwired response common to multiple primates: Yale’s Keith Chen found that capuchin monkeys, too, are risk-averse.

This explains the gut-level desire to buy products going out of stock; to take advantage of expiring deals; to spend on time-limited offers we wouldn’t otherwise care about.

Take advantage of fear aversion to drive people to immediate action. Just make sure to make good on the promise of loss. Today’s businesses and consumers catch on to common sales tactics and will know if you faked your fear aversion trigger.

And, of course, remember that neuromarketing isn’t always complicated. Boosting your sales and conversions can be as simple as…


7. Using colors effectively

Experienced web designers know that red buttons lead to more clicks than green ones. To the rest of us, this might seem counterintuitive; after all, isn’t red aggressive and therefore bad?

Well… Maybe. But remember point 2: what people appear to feel and what they actually feel is often different.

The truth is that choosing the right colors is extremely complex. Picking the right hues and shades isn’t enough; you need to use them together to create a synergistic effect.

If you do things just right, you may become one of the few lucky brands that’s instantly recognizable through color alone in its industry.

But even if you don’t, that’s okay. It’s common wisdom in neuromarketing that the consumers’ brain primarily cares about its selfish interests; not your brand.

And while neuromarketing is “hot” right now – a recent entrepreneur.com article implies that it will replace growth hacking – don’t feel intimidated.

The fact is that neuromarketing has been around for a long time and you probably use it already.

For instance, picture the trademark Marilyn Monroe face: eyes half-closed, eyes looking up, lips slightly parted.

It’s a look that 1940s and 1950s men found extremely appealing…

Perhaps because it accurately mimiced the closed eyes, dropped jaws and parted lips that humans make when orgasming.

Intentionally or not, Marilyn Monroe cleverly used neuromarketing to appeal to men long before the term was invented.

So don’t overcomplicate things; dive into the links on this page and see how you can improve your marketing by leveraging the responses hardwired into the human brain.

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