Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA)

Articles and Blogposts

  • September 16, 2013 10:15 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    Serie: Quick Neuro Wins for Retailers. Neuro Retail Revolution speakers share their tips. Part 4: visual attention on websites


    Check for bottom-up visual attention. Extensive eye-tracking research has documented that bottom-up attention is automatically activated, without conscious control, immediately when a person sees something new in his or her visual field. 

    People unconsciously divide web pages into areas of promise. Some features of viewed objects are naturally visually salient, which means they automatically attract bottom-up visual attention. Examples are: brightness relative to background, distinct borders, the center of the viewing area, tight groupings of visual objects, overlapping items, movement (especially around the edges), faces and locations where faces are looking. 

    These automatic attractions are so predictable that we can find good results without eye-tracking. The software can deliver up to 80% accuracy compared to a real eye-tracking study, which saves a lot of money.” 

    Steve Genco is a director at Intuitive Consumer Insights. He is co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies.

    This tip appeared in an article about retailing in the quarterly Neuromarketing Theory & Practice.

    Serie: Quick Neuro Wins for Retailers. Neuro Retail Revolution speakers share their tips. Part 4: visual attention on websites

    Check for bottom-up visual attention. Extensive eye-tracking research has documented that bottom-up attention is automatically activated, without conscious control, immediately when a person sees something new in his or her visual field. 

    People unconsciously divide web pages into areas of promise. Some features of viewed objects are naturally visually salient, which means they automatically attract bottom-up visual attention. Examples are: brightness relative to background, distinct borders, the center of the viewing area, tight groupings of visual objects, overlapping items, movement (especially around the edges), faces and locations where faces are looking. 

    These automatic attractions are so predictable that we can find good results without eye-tracking. The software can deliver up to 80% accuracy compared to a real eye-tracking study, which saves a lot of money.” 

    Steve Genco is a director at Intuitive Consumer Insights. He is co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies.

    This tip appeared in an article about retailing in the quarterly Neuromarketing Theory & Practice.

  • September 12, 2013 10:13 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    Serie: Quick Neuro Wins for Retailers. Neuro Retail Revolution speakers share their tips. Part 3: involve your employees.

    Karin Glattes: "Turn your employees into ambassadors"

    karinglattesInvolve your employees. Shopping is a human emotion. Your employees are the ones who can evoke this emotion on an everyday basis in your clients. Stop talking about the shopping experience that you want to offer, and let them feel, smell, touch and experience what you are talking about. Give them a feeling of what you are aiming at, in your own stores and those of others. Many workers will change their daily routines immediately when they actually experience the goal their boss is aiming to achieve.

    Karin Glattes is a director at Unternehmen Kunde

    This tip will appear in an article about retailing in the next edition of the quarterly Neuromarketing Theory & Practice.
  • September 09, 2013 10:09 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    Serie: Quick Neuro Wins for Retailers. Neuro Retail Revolution speakers share their tips. Part 2: brochures.

    Martin de Munnik: “Get more ROI on your brochures”

    Neuroresearch shows that 80% of all brochures fail to activate a buying intention. Most often retailers forget to make one or more promises that appeal to and activate the consumer.

    martin neurrroThey also often forget to envisage their target audience themselves, which means that the brain cannot activate its mirror function. To be more effective a retailer should do as follows.

    1. Offer a reward. The brain is very sensitive to rewards, so make a promise that shows what the consumer will gain.
    2. People always mirror themselves in others: show people visuals of happy consumers making successful use of the product.
    3. Justify your discounts: make them credible. Customers want to know why you are offering a discount, and why you are doing so now. Better brochures could save the retail industry a lot of money: looking at the Netherlands alone, retailers spend more than €7O0 million a year on brochures.

    Martin de Munnik is managing partner at Neurensics

    This tip will appear in an article about retailing in the next edition of the quarterly Neuromarketing Theory & Practice.
  • September 06, 2013 10:06 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)
    Serie: Quick Neuro Wins for Retailers. Neuro Retail Revolution speakers share their tips. Part 1: pricing

    Kai-Markus Mueller: “Involve the pricing story and environment”

    kai neurrro

    Humans rarely perceive things in absolute terms. Most things we see are influenced by their surroundings or by what we have seen in the past. Interestingly, even the way we perceive numbers is biased in this way. There is a category of numbers that is highly relevant for market success: prices. A product placed withing a plethora of higher priced products seems to be a good deal, while when placed among cheaper alternatives it will appear overpriced. A slice of basic chocolate cake at a price of €2.50 at a fancy pastry shop may seem cheap because it is surrounded by many expensive pastry creations. A slice of chocolate cake for the same price sold at the bakery next door, where a muffin or a brownie costs just €1, makes the cake appear overpriced.

    It is fascinating that this effects remains even if the perceptual distortion is well-known. In one study subjects were explicitly informed about such biases. The participants' number estimates were still influenced by previously shown numbers. Because prices are somewhat arbitrary numbers associated with a product, they are especially susceptible to their surrounding and to surrounding prices.

    Kai-Markus Mueller is MD of The Neuromarketing Labs in Germany one of the speakers on the Neuro Retail Revolution

    This tip will appear in an article about retailing in the next edition of the quarterly Neuromarketing Theory & Practice.
    Via Radboud University Nijmegen

  • August 26, 2013 10:04 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    A new method of analyzing MRI brain images enables researchers to determine which letter a test subject was looking at.

    brain scan letters
    Image courtesy of Radboud University Nijmegen

    By analyzing MRI images of the brain with an elegant mathematical model, it is possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before. In this way, researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen have succeeded in determining which letter a test subject was looking at.

    The journal Neuroimage has accepted the article, which will be published soon.

    Functional MRI scanners have been used in cognition research primarily to determine which brain areas are active while test subjects perform a specific task. The question is simple: is a particular brain region on or off? A research group at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University has gone a step further: they have used data from the scanner to determine what a test subject is looking at.

    The researchers ‘taught’ a model how small volumes of 2x2x2 mm from the brain scans undefined known as voxels undefined respond to individual pixels. By combining all the information about the pixels from the voxels, it became possible to reconstruct the image viewed by the subject. The result was not a clear image, but a somewhat fuzzy speckle pattern. In this study, the researchers used hand-written letters.

    Prior knowledge improves model performance

    “After this we did something new’, says lead researcher Marcel van Gerven. ‘We gave the model prior knowledge: we taught it what letters look like. This improved the recognition of the letters enormously. The model compares the letters to determine which one corresponds most exactly with the speckle image, and then pushes the results of the image towards that letter. The result was the actual letter, a true reconstruction.”

    “Our approach is similar to how we believe the brain itself combines prior knowledge with sensory information. For example, you can recognise the lines and curves in this article as letters only after you have learned to read. And this is exactly what we are looking for: models that show what is happening in the brain in a realistic fashion. We hope to improve the models to such an extent that we can also apply them to the working memory or to subjective experiences such as dreams or visualisations. Reconstructions indicate whether the model you have created approaches reality.”

    Improved resolution; more possibilities

    “In our further research we will be working with a more powerful MRI scanner,” explains Sanne Schoenmakers, who is working on a thesis about decoding thoughts. “Due to the higher resolution of the scanner, we hope to be able to link the model to more detailed images. We are currently linking images of letters to 1200 voxels in the brain; with the more powerful scanner we will link images of faces to 15,000 voxels.”
  • August 14, 2013 10:02 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    What does a bookstore smell like? If you frequent used or antiquarian book sellers, you probably think of musty paper, perhaps with an occasional mildew note. In big box bookstores like Barnes & Noble, the predominant aroma is often a pleasant espresso smell from the coffee bar. But, all of these retailers need to rethink their scent environment – a new study to appear in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that infusing a chocolate scent into a bookstore kept shoppers browsing longer and inspecting more merchandise.

    ChocolateResearchers in Belgium monitored customers in a bookstore both with and without a subtle chocolate aroma. They found a significant effect on shopper behavior. When the scent was present, shoppers were:

    More than twice as likely to examine multiple items
    More than twice as likely to read synopses for multiple books
    Nearly three times as likely to interact with store staff
    Less than half as likely to seek out one item and go directly to the register

    The scientists also found that items “congruent” with the aroma of chocolate, food-related books and romance novels, saw an uptick in interest from female shoppers. There was an indication of a positive effect on sales, but the data was insufficient to draw a conclusion.

    They did note that customers browsed non-congruent categories less when the scent was present, so chocolate scent isn’t a panacea for every retail sales environment.
    Still, this study offers more evidence that subtle changes in environment can affect customer behavior. Music, too, can have an impact. In Audio Branding: ‘Tis the Season, I describe how a wine shop sold four times as much French wine when French music was playing in the background.

    What should retail stores do? While chocolate scent might be a good choice for a generally pleasant smell, dispersing an aroma that relates to the products for sale would likely be better. Selling hunting gear? Perhaps a woodsy pine scent. Similarly, a seaside aroma might work for a swim shop.

    Chocolate scent may not be enough to reverse the decline in bookstore sales, but this study points the way to keep customers in any retail environment shopping longer and looking at the merchandise more closely.

    Roger Dooley is the author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing (Wiley, 2011) and one of the speakers of last year's edition of the Neuromarketing World Forum in São Paulo. Find Roger on Twitter as @rogerdooley and at his website,Neuromarketing.

    This article originally appeared at Keep Your Customers Shopping... With Chocolate!
  • August 08, 2013 09:58 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    The role of marketers is to influence consumer behaviour, both short- and long-term, in favour of the brands they manage. We need to retain our customer base, increase purchase frequency and turn non-users into users. Therefore the question of why consumers buy what they buy, and the search for what it is that determines their choices, are at the core of marketing.

    In a ground-breaking experiment (see figure 1), neuroscientist Brian Knutson, Professor at Stanford University, and his colleagues (2007) wanted to find out if it was possible to predict purchase behaviour by analyzing neural activity. His research began with images of products and brands undefined for example a box of chocolates undefined shown for a few seconds. Then, additionally, the price appeared on the screen, and finally the respondents had to state, by pushing a button, whether they would buy the chocolates or not.

    figure 1

    Figure 1 Illustration of the classic neuro- economics study ‘Neural predictors of purchases’ by Knutson and his colleagues from Stanford University

    Brain activities were measured the entire time using brain imaging (fMRI). This showed that the picture of the product or brand increases the activation of the so-called ‘reward system’, which is known to be triggered when we value something. It’s as if the brain says, ‘I want to have this.’ This wanting is based upon the value that we expect the product to deliver. In our associative memory we have experiences with the brand undefined from using it directly or indirectly, from processing its advertising or from seeing other people using it. Based on this associative learning we have an expected value delivered by the brand. If this expected value is high, then the reward system shows a high level of activation. If the value is low, then the level of activation will also be low.

    Now what happened when the price was also shown? When the price was exposed to the respondents, an entirely different area of the brain was activated, namely the insula. This area is normally activated when we experience pain undefined for example, when we cut our finger (physical pain) or if we are excluded from a group (social pain). In other words, when looking at price, the brain experiences pain undefined so that means that price isn't anything rational. Price is hot! Price is pain. To explain this we have to be aware that there is no ‘shopping’ module in the brain, nor is there a ‘buy button’ or a brand module. Rather, the brain has to ‘decide’ which of its existing neural modules, all developed for reasons totally different than shopping, should deal with products, brands and prices. The result makes intuitive sense. Products and brands reward us because they help us to achieve our goals. Prices imply giving away something we already own, and which is of significant value to us: money. That this is coded as a painful experience seems reasonable.

    The scientists then uncovered the underlying principle that determines whether the brand or product will be bought or not. The principle they found is strikingly straightforward: if the relation between reward and pain exceeds a certain value, the respondents are willing to purchase this item for this price. Our brain calculates a kind of ‘net value’ and if this is high enough, if the difference between reward and pain is great enough, then we buy. Based on this principle the scientists were able to accurately predict whether the respondents would buy these products or not, hence the title of their paper, ‘Neural predictors of purchases’.

    Knutson's results show that purchase decisions are based on a reward-pain relationship. This means that in marketing we have to levers to influence consumer decision making - reward and pain - and that they can be independently addressed. In order to make consumers buy, we can increase reward and at the same time decrease pain. It’s not uncommon, though, for marketers to adopt a dualistic mindset. For us, the question is whether to focus on the brand or, for example, on a special price offer, as if there were a dilemma in doing both. There isn't. The goal is to increase the ‘net value’ the brain calculates based on the expected reward of the product and the price. This enables the same piece of advertising to focus on the value that the brand or service offers but also to include a ‘hard sell’ price message (such as ‘for a limited period 30% off’). The first message increases the expected reward, the second reduces the pain, and the unity of both increases the net value.

    This simple but fundamental basis of decision making explains why Starbucks can command a premium price for its coffee, or why some people will pay three-figure sums for designer sunglasses. The reward triggered by the brand increases the perceived value, which makes us less resistant to the higher price. The price is higher but, correspondingly, the reward is too, so that, subjectively, a better value - cost relationship exists than that for cheap sunglasses.

    Source: Few pages from Decoded, The Science Behind Why We Buy

    phil bardenPhil Barden (Managing Director, Decode marketing ltd) is a proven marketer with over 25 years' experience including senior and international roles at high profile companies such as Unilever, Diageo and T-Mobile. He is the local NMSBA representative in the UK, speaker at the Neuro Retail Revolution on 3-4 October 2013 in Amsterdam and the author of Decoded, The Science Behind Why we Buy.
  • July 25, 2013 09:56 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)
    Why touchpoint management is a necessary success factor of everyday retail decision making

    Honestly: Do all your touchpoints really show the same emotional picture? I know: Professional CEM (Customer Experience Management) in retail- as in other industries – is like pulling together a puzzle. So many bits and pieces that need to fit together. So many bits and pieces that might lead to irritation if missing or showing “unexpected” details.
    And yes: an exciting game but still a challenging one for a lot of retailers in the battle of daily customer decision making. So many unknown touchpoints that nobody has ever dealt with or thought of before: Social media, rating platforms, on/offline combinations, new advertising strategies, showrooming, the shopping experience itself with all the different known elements from product range, store design, services, etc.

    Do all of these touchpoints along the customer decision journey talk the same emotional language? Are you sure you know and (!) are proactively designing all those touchpoints out there? Do I get to see the same picture whether I`m an applicant, a customer or a journalist? Does this emotional picture differ you from all the other competitors out there and help your customers to feel the unconscious emotional “yes” for their buying decisions all along the way?

    No wonder it makes sense to bring in neuro-expertise to all those elements of this complicated puzzle as the picture needs to be built so carefully and with so much attention to detail. But you probably already know what I´m heading at:
    No expert has a chance to create his input if the prerequisite - the basis of it all - is not clear enough: Who are you? Who is your target group?

    Now we are talking about limbic positioning as a first step with all the necessary consequences for the elements of your puzzle. Those need to strategically derive from this first step. Only then your customers will get the chance to experience the difference at all levels, at every single moment of truth: no matter if reading an article, talking to friends, seeing an ad, picking up the phone to call your employees or just happens to walk into your store.

    It can be fun working with such an attention to details. And be sure of one thing: Once your people know what makes your company special – know their uniqueness, have experienced (!) how much fun it can be to surprise and inspire their customers, they will be part of the ongoing game – ensuring the consistency of your emotional message as well as the everyday customer experience.

    Every touchpoint counts… so let´s start working on them with all our expertise: what do you stand for?

    Karin Glattes, UnternehmenKunde Germany, is an expert on customer experience management supporting companies in various industries in their culture change towards customer centricity. She includes neuroscientific insight and latest results at many stages of her projects. After finishing her studies in Vienna, Austria, her carreer started off in public relations at Burson Marsteller Austria, followed by change management work at accenture as well as TMI.

    She holds key note speaches and together with her team offers idea coaching as well as creativity workshops and experience days for employees to ensure a learning concept by heart instead of techniques and ratio. She believes in a series of german “e”s: Echtheit authenticity, Emotion emotion, Erlebnis experience – Ergebnis result!

  • July 16, 2013 09:54 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)

    ...They Aren’t Helpless Either.

    Neuromarketing still triggers a fear response in some observers who believe it can somehow produce marketing messages that are so enticing to consumers that they will be literally irresistible. We discuss this concern at length in our new book Neuromarketing for Dummies (N4D), which will be published by Wiley on August 5.
    Much of this fear expressed by critics of neuromarketing seems to be based on the erroneous belief that consumers are weak and passive recipients of marketing messages and, therefore, are easy dupes of wily and clever marketers (and neuromarketers).

    This misunderstanding of consumers comes from a misunderstanding of the brain science that underlies neuromarketing. In fact, research shows that consumers are equipped with highly evolved behavioral guidance systems that make them formidable players in the economic game of buyer versus seller. As we show at length in N4D, consumers are not rational actors as predicted by classic economic and marketing theory, but they are intuitive actors who deploy both conscious and nonconscious impressions, evaluations, and choices to help them navigate the marketplace and make good decisions in an extremely complex and noisy commercial world. Here are some lessons for marketers that emerge from the new Intuitive Consumer Model.

    Some lessons for marketers

    Your consumers’ preferences and decisions are influenced in ways quite different from the direct persuasion model you grew up with. You can’t simply ask them about these influences, because they aren’t aware of them.

    Nonconscious goal pursuit is a major source of consumer behavior. It is counterintuitive to say that people can have goals that they are not aware of, but the science on this point is beyond dispute. Nonconscious goal pursuit is adaptive and flexible. Consumers in pursuit of nonconscious goals are persistent and motivated to succeed, even though they aren’t aware of what they’re doing. If you understand the goals your consumers are pursuing, both consciously and nonconsciously, and connect your product to the satisfaction of those goals, your consumers will find a way to get to your products.

    Consumers have built-in resistance to persuasive messages, even very subtle ones like slogans. This resistance can produce reverse priming effects, which means your hard-earned advertising and marketing dollars may be producing the opposite effect to the one you’re trying to create. You need to understand what messages your marketing is sending, and whether those messages are triggering resistance or the persuasion you are seeking.

    Your advertising functions as a nonconscious prime. Priming is not necessarily logical, so exposure to your advertising may activate goals and reactions you never intended. You need to understand what goals and behaviors your advertising is priming, as well as what goals and behaviors your competitors’ advertising is priming.

    Brands can act as primes and trigger nonconscious goal pursuit. Research has demonstrated, for example, that Apple primes creativity and Disney primes honesty. People respond nonconsciously to brands in difficult to predict ways. You need to understand what goals and behaviors your brands prime, as well as what goals and behaviors your competitors’ brands prime.

    If neuromarketing has one key lesson for marketers, it’s to remind you that you need to respect the intuitive powers of the consumers you want to influence. Consumers are, in fact, not easily fooled and will seek out what’s ultimately good for them, not what’s good for you or your brand. Consumers in modern economies have developed some strong corrective responses and decision-making shortcuts that make persuasive messaging even harder, not easier, to deliver.

    Neuromarketing doesn’t provide a bundle of “cheap tricks” to help marketers take advantage of helpless consumers. It provides a more scientifically grounded way to understand the brains of both marketers and consumers, and with this new information, it holds out the possibility of making marketing more effective for marketers and less intrusive for consumers everywhere.

    Steve Genco is a pioneer in the field of neuromarketing and co-author of Neuromarketing for Dummies (Wiley, 2013). In 2006, he founded one of the first neuromarketing research firms. From 2009 to 2012, he was Chief Innovation Officer at another well-known neuromarketing vendor. He is currently working with Intuitive Consumer Insights, promoting his book and helping clients develop and execute market research programs and business strategies that blend traditional research techniques with the latest advances in neuromarketing. Steve will be a featured speaker at the Neuro Retail Revolution event, Oct 3-4, in Amsterdam.


  • July 09, 2013 09:51 | Carla Nagel (Administrator)
    Neuromarketing is an ideal method for evaluating marketing stimuli, since all commercial communication is ultimately judged in the consumer’s brain. This is also the case for product packaging.

    Neurensics has used neuromarketing to investigate several packaging designs, resulting in a very important insight. The brain reacts much more advantageous to packaging that communicates the brand’s image than packaging that communicates brand-incongruent information. Perhaps it is better to no longer use the term product packaging, and instead introduce the term brand packaging.

    Everyone is familiar with the ritual of doing groceries. You walk into a supermarket, looking for a category of products. Then you find yourself standing in front of a shelf, faced with a multitude of choice. Previous research* has shown that the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. The abundance of choice leads to paralysis, as it were. Especially when it comes to products that all look more or less alike, such as marmalade, mayonnaise or lettuce. So how are we, as consumers, able to make a choice between products that are intrinsically almost the same?

    Product packaging can help us in making an optimal decision. It serves as a signal to consumers, enabling the possibility of a quick choice. Hence, to compete with similar products a package design must stand out. However, this difference must be a subtle one, as the design must still adhere to the conventions of the product category. When taking these guidelines into account, what is the best way for a product design to stand out, and promote buying behavior?

    Neurensics used an MRI scanner to find out of certain elements of a product design can make a difference. One of the elements under investigation was text. For example, we studied the text on the product design of deodorant brand Axe, to discover how word choice can increase a consumer’s buying intention.

    brand packaging

    While the original Axe deodorant design has no text, we put two words on the product packaging: 'seductive', which has a relationship with Axe’s brand image, and 'powerful', which is related to the product. Unlike popular notion that copy on the packaging does not matter, Neurensics saw an increase in brain activation in regions that are important in determining purchase intention, when the word 'seductive' was used. In other words, a text that refers to a brand value of Axe is significantly more effective than a text that refers to a product value.

    It seems, therefore, that product packaging that communicates a brand’s image can help persuade a consumer to choose that brand. Neuroscientific research by Deppe and his colleagues** has shown how this brand induced process works in our brain. A brand is used as a shortcut, a somatic marker, that can be used to make an automatic and effortless choice. When consumers choose between brands, and one of the options is a consumer’s favorite brand then the choice process becomes quick and emotional. In fact, areas in the brain which are responsible for making rational decisions are deactivated by the sight of the consumer’s favorite brand.

    The stronger the brand’s image is communicated, the faster the consumer is persuaded to buy the brand. Marketers would therefore do well in dropping the term product packaging to introduce the concept of brand packaging. This could potentially save a great deal of time and decision avoidance, the next time we do our groceries.

    *Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006. (2000)

    **Deppe, Schwindt, Kugel, Plassmann and Kenning. Nonlinear responses within the medial prefrontal cortex reveal when specific implicit information influences economic decision making. J Neuroimaging. Vol. 15(2):171-82. (2005)

    As a founding partner at Neurensics, Europe’s first neuro-economic research firm, Walter Limpens contributes daily to the practical applicability of neuromarketing. Neurensics uses fMRI techniques to ‘peek’ directly into the living brain of consumers, mapping out important subconscious thoughts.

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