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Neuromarketing: Surprising Facts Businesses and Marketers Should Know

Oct 8, 2018 9 min readThe Science of Social Media

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Sounds fairly complicated, doesn’t it?

Fortunately for marketers and small businesses, it doesn’t have to be. Neuromarketing is when the principles of psychology are applied to marketing research and strategy.

Understanding why people make purchasing decisions online and how they respond to various marketing strategies and tactics is a critical component in effectively marketing your own products or services.

This week on The Science of Social Media, we’re diving into the world of neuromarketing and how you can use it to get better results from your social media marketing for your brand or business.

Let’s kick it off!

Neuromarketing: Surprising Facts Businesses and Marketers Need to Know [episode transcript]

Brian: Hi everyone! I’m Brian Peters and this is The Science of Social Media, a podcast by Buffer. Your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and learning.

Hailley: Welcome to episode #115, I’m Hailley Griffis and this week we’re nerding out over neuromarketing and how you can use it to get better results from your social media marketing for your brand and business. And don’t worry, we’ll give you a better explanation of what neuromarketing is before we dive in.

Brian: We got such a strong response from listeners that loved hearing about psychology back in episode #107 so let’s get started going over another bit of marketing science.

Part I: What is Neuromarketing?

Brian: Neuromarketing. Sounds pretty complicated, doesn’t it?

Hailley: Honestly it does! I was a little nervous putting this show together but we’ve learned a lot about it and we’re here to break neuromarketing down for you and, of course, give you a few ideas and examples to incorporate into your own social media marketing.

Brian: I think the best place to start with any new concept is a strong definition. So here’s a quick definition for you. Neuromarketing is when neuropsychology is applied to marketing research.

In practice, this might look like studying a person’s cognitive response to viewing ads or product packaging.

Hailley: Exactly. The whole point is to understand the reasoning behind why people make the purchasing decisions that they do, and how they respond to marketing, and then, of course, use that knowledge to get better at marketing your own products or services.

Brian: If you haven’t heard of neuromarketing before, don’t stress. It’s actually an emerging field in marketing. The term neuromarketing was first published in 2002 but there is some research that goes back into 1990.

Hailley: You might be asking yourself why we need to jump on this complex scientific train and really there are a lot of benefits to neuromarketing for social media managers.

Marketing campaigns and strategies can become more efficient and effective, and ultimately you can align your marketing with the true needs and wants of your potential customers because you’re starting to understand how your customer’s brain works.

Part II: Neuromarketing in practice

Brian: One of the more traditional ways to use neuromarketing is when it comes to product design choices. Brands like Campbell’s Soup and Frito-Lay have used neuromarketing to redesign their packaging and make it more appealing.

Hailley: PayPal used neuromarketing to learn that their commercials that focused on speed and convenience triggered a significantly higher response than those that were advertising safety and security. PayPal wound up developing an entirely new ad campaign based on these results.

Brian: Let’s talk about how you can best leverage neuromarketing to be an even better social media marketer. Well, there are two ways to go about neuromarketing. First is to conduct your own studies on people that are your target audience, and second is to read and learn everything you can about general neuromarketing best practices that apply to most people.

Hailley: If you’re a team of one like many social media managers are, then we totally understand that you’ll probably want to stick with learning from others and applying the broad lessons. Whereas if you’re at a larger company and have a bit of budget, then maybe doing your own neuromarketing studies make sense.

Brian: Definitely! We’ll go over a little bit of both of these options for you today. Let’s start with what we can learn from big studies.

There’s a book all about neuromarketing called Brainfluence by Roger Dooley. It’s a great read if you like what we’re talking about here! We’re going to go over a few of the practical techniques he talks about for convincing and persuading customers.

Hailley: Well, in Brainfluence, Dolley shares experiments completed by the University of Michigan show that people truly can be affected by simple vs. complex fonts.

Ultimately they discovered that if you need to convince a customer to perform a certain task, you should describe that task in a simple and easy to read font.

Brian: It’s wild how powerful a simple font can be! Now of course as social media managers we should all be aiming to share designs on social media that are in an easy to read font. Another one to remember is for surveys.

I know a lot of social media managers who love surveys and it’ll be good practice from now on to make sure the instructions for the survey are simplified so you’ll have more people fill it out (hopefully!)

Hailley: Simple fonts are great for getting people to perform a task, but don’t give up on complex fonts just yet. It turns out that complex fonts help to boost memory recall! So if you use a complex font someone is more likely to remember what you wrote and it’ll likely be grabbing their attention visually as well.

Brian: Don’t go off the rails writing everything in complex fonts just yet though. This tactic is best used sparingly and for important information only.

Next up let’s talk about images. James Breeze, an Australian usability specialist quoted in Dooley’s Brainfluence studied how people view ads with babies and he learned that people who are looking at the ad will look at what the person in the ad is looking at.

Hailley: If the baby is looking at a box of diapers then the person viewing the ad is also looking at the box of diapers. But this works for more than just babies. If you are using images of people, or even animals, pay careful attention to what they are looking at because that will more than likely be the focus of your customers’ attention.

Brian: Another good lesson from this book is something we’ve chatted about on the podcast loads before, and that’s trust. Trust is, of course, crucial to many parts of business and it turns out the key to obtaining your customer’s trust is to have them feel trusted as well.

Here are a few ways outlined in the book for making your customer feel trusted:

  1. Offer a trial with few restrictions
  2. Establish credit without long forms or a lengthy screening process
  3. Provide confidential information without making a prospect or customer sign an NDA

Hailley: Last but not least, while we’re looking at learning from neuromarketing, is all about smiling. We talked about smiling and emojis in episode #107 so definitely go check that out if this sounds interesting to you.

The findings are sort of what you’d expect, if you use a photo of someone smiling then it is “mood-boosting” for the person looking at that photo and that little mood boost can affect your customer’s willingness to spend money.

Brian: Love that, so next time you’re grabbing an image whether you have a bunch of photos of your teammates, which is what we have at Buffer, or maybe you use a site like Unsplash, be on the lookout for people who are happy and smiling to use in your marketing materials.

Part III: Running your own neuromarketing experiments

Hailley: Now that we’ve talked about what we can learn from general neuromarketing lessons, let’s talk a bit about what it’s like to do your own neuromarketing experiments. Now, there are a range of options here and they go from fairly affordable to extremely expensive medical equipment, so of course, you’re in the best place to judge what level of neuromarketing you’d like to do.

Brian: Let’s start with the most affordable and then the prices will increase with each new method we talk about. So this first method is called eye-tracking, which is used to tell marketers where the attention of someone goes when they look at something.

The really basic method of eye-tracking is more like mouse tracking and it’s something you might know as heat mapping. This is when you are able to see a map of where people are primarily looking at when they look at your images or website.

There are tons of tools that let you do this pretty easily and they can be pretty affordable depending on what you’re looking for. A few options are CrazyEgg, Zoho, and MouseFlow.

Hailley: We’ve done some heat mapping here at Buffer, always neat to see.

So the other way to do eye-tracking involved more equipment. The idea is that you can team up with researchers who have glasses that have integrated cameras in them or screens that have eye trackers on them. Then the research is able to track the eye movements of the participant while they are watching an ad or looking at any other marketing content.

The idea here is that once you know where someone’s attention the ad is directed, you can change the way text and images are placed.

Brian: That can be so helpful because properly places attention really ensures that someone will remember your product or service.

Another type of neuromarketing research you can do is called facial coding. Again, this involves some equipment. Essentially you’d get specific software that assesses the movement of someone’s facial features to measure if they are reacting positively or negatively to what they are seeing.

Hailley: This is pretty cool because so much research shows that having either a positive or a negative ad, something that really evokes emotion, is bound to impact its effectiveness and as a byproduct your sales.

Of course, something to mention with both this method and the eye tracking is that not only do you need the equipment and a researcher to do the study but you’ll also need to find a bunch of participants to do this, so it can be quite a bit of work.

Brian: Now, we’re at the level of neuromarketing where people go to a whole other level and start tracking the brain activity of their potential customers. So one of the ways to do this is using EEG or electroencephalography. (What a mouthful!)

EEG uses electrodes to measure electrical waves produced by the brain and allows researchers to track instinctual emotions like anger, excitement, sorrow, and lust. The one thing that EEG is critiqued for, however, is that it doesn’t grant researches access to the deeper parts of the brain where the “pleasure center” is located, and of course, that could be a pretty big deal for your marketing.

Hailley: Okay last, but certainly not least because it is the most expensive way to do neuromarketing research, and this is using fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Using fMRI means through the help of powerful magnet researchers are able to track the brain’s blood flow as subjects respond to audio and visual cues. This is where the pleasure center comes in because it allows examiners to access this deep part of the brain and lets marketers know how people are really responding to their work.

Brian: While this sounds like a dream for most marketers, fMRI is not only extremely expensive but pretty inconvenient for participants. The equipment costs up to $1,000 per machine per hour to operate and your participants have to lie completely still in the machine while doing the tests.

Hailley: That doesn’t sound like too much fun but it is in the name of marketing!

Brian: True! I don’t see us doing any fMRIs here at Buffer anytime soon but it was still super fun to learn a little bit more about this process.

Hailley: So much fun!

Thank you so much for tuning in to the Science of Social Media today. The show notes for this episode are now available on the Buffer Blog at with a complete transcript.

If you ever want to get in touch with me or Hailley, we’re always here for your on social media using the hashtag #bufferpodcast. You can also say hi to us anytime and

Brian: Yup, we’d love to hear from you!

And thanks to everyone tuning into our show every single week. I was just looking at a map of which countries our downloads come from and was super excited to see that we reach thousands of people in countries around the world. It’s an honor and privilege to be here with you.

Lots more to come in the remainder of 2018 so stay tuned.

Until next Monday, everyone!

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 18,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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