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How to Apply Neuromarketing to Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Reading time: 5 minutes
human brain figurine

Did you know the wiring of the human brain can impact the effectiveness of your marketing strategy? Here’s how it can and should be implemented into your digital marketing strategy.

What Is Neuromarketing?

In the most basic sense, neuromarketing uses what we know about the brain to do better marketing. There are research and testing components, such as using EKG measuring devices that track galvanic skin response, like facial expressions. When we do a “normal” study with human subjects giving their thoughts and responses, we don’t always understand what’s happening subconsciously. Neuromarketing pulls back the curtain a little further.

How Does Neuromarketing Work?

Humans have what is called a “primal” brain, which they share with animals. The primal brain is responsible for survival, drive, or instinct. For example, humans can instinctively react to and run from a lion just like a gazelle can.

This part of the brain moves fast and is situated lower inside the head than the “rational” brain that we humans and some mammals have grown through evolution. The primal brain reacts strongly to six stimuli and can be applied to marketing tactics. They are: personal, contrastable, tangible, memorable, visual, and emotional.

  1. Personal: Personalization is important because the primal brain reacts to me. I need to survive. This stimulus doesn't have patience, empathy, or concern for its well being.

    It scans for threats before it attends to pleasure, and vigilance drives its response's speed and nature. So personalized things that are about me react strongly to this primal brain.

  2. Contrastable: The primal brain is sensitive to “before” and “after.” Think of weight loss programs, for example. If you only show the person after they’ve lost weight, but you don't show the before picture, the marketing response will be less effective than if you show the before and after.

    Things like risky versus safe, have/have not, slow/fast, these contrasts allow the brain to make quick, risk-free decisions. Otherwise, the brain has to slow down and process.

  3. Tangible: The primal brain is always looking for something familiar and friendly that can be recognized quickly. It looks for something simple, concrete, and just easy. Otherwise, you have to go into a “higher-level” brain and expend calories when the brain is trying to save calories and energy.

    That's why simple messages and value propositions are so important. Otherwise, this primal brain can't process complexity without slowing down and using a lot of effort from the higher up, or rational brain. Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is the de facto book on this.

  4. Memorable: The primal brain remembers very little. In marketing, putting the most important content at the beginning and repeating it at the end is essential to a memorable message that goes from your primal brain up into your “memory-storage,” or rational brain. What you say in the middle of your message or delivery should be brief and convincing. The primal brain loves stories because a good narrative is a pattern that we can easily process, which makes it easier to remember.

  5. Visual: The primal brain is visual. When we see hero images on websites, such as a picture of parents holding their kids, the brain processes this sort of imagery quickly, without any effort. You don't have to think, “Maybe I should have a nice, warm feeling about the family with their kids.” It’s simply automatic, which is why imagery is so important.

  6. Emotional: The primal brain is strongly triggered by emotion. Going back to the image of the parents and their kids, there's also an emotional response. This is what gives you that “Aww,” feeling. It's a primal reaction to that imagery.

The goal of these six stimuli is to engage. Using the six stimuli to evaluate your messaging, your website with imagery, your ads, etc., will help move people towards action, such as engagement or retention of a marketing message.

Why Has There Been Criticism of Neuromarketing?

Some people might say it's an invasion of privacy, or perhaps manipulation. In neuromarketing, we always want to be ethical in the way we go about communicating messages. The research and testing aspect of neuromarketing has its own set of guidelines and ethical standards to be followed.

But when it comes down to it, neuromarketing is about not ignoring what we know about the brain. It’s about being more empathetic and personal and considering emotion.

How Should Businesses Be Using Neuromarketing?

Step one is making sure businesses look at the data. Then, when you get into the A/B testing and test a different version of the homepage to see which one increases conversions, you should have a theory before you experiment. That’s a helpful framework for guiding A/B testing.

Use what you already know about the brain, rather than guessing what version would be better for the A/B test. It's a potent tool to use in informing everything that you're doing with digital marketing. But a lot of businesses are using neuromarketing to the full extent. It can be the difference in an ad campaign that flops or a homepage that doesn't lead to conversion.

Can Neuromarketing Be Used for Both Inbound and Outbound Strategy?

Absolutely. For inbound strategy, the whole customer journey is a bottom-up effect. For example, you can try to trigger your marketing message's retention and memory on your site.

Outbound is similar in that it's just using what we know about the brain in messaging. It can be applied to everything— marketing, politics, anything where there's a message.

Where Can I Learn More About Neuromarketing?

An interesting source to learn more would be from the originators of this neuromarketing field. They are a company called Sales Brain, and they have a book called The Persuasion Code. Sales Brain is an excellent place to learn more about the background and research studies of neuromarketing.

To weave neuromarketing into your ad campaign, web design, homepage, or messaging, you will most likely want to contact an agency like O8, who understands it. It is a critical portion of a holistic digital marketing strategy that you will want the experts to guide you through and implement.

Watch Our YouTube Playlist on Neuromarketing

About Seth Viebrock

In no particular order, Seth has built websites for famous artists like Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, led a team as CTO at a social network startup company, co-presented at Stanford and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation Conference on an EEG study in consciousness, traveled to Tokyo for data center network security assessments, worked on world-class e-commerce software as a software engineer, and provided Drupal expertise for Estee Lauder and their many international brands. Seth grew up with the web, starting his first web design company at the age of 16, and this company in...
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