Neuromarketing studies consumers’ cognitive responses to marketing stimuli. It enables researchers to get inside the minds of consumers and measure emotional and cognitive responses as they mentally process and respond to stimuli.
Neuromarketing aims to understand the mental processes that drive consumer behavior. The primary principle behind neuromarketing is that most consumers make most purchase decisions using short cuts in order to accelerate the decision making process. These decisions are based more on System 1 thinking (intuitive, subconscious, effortless, emotional, fast) rather than System 2 thinking (deliberate, conscious reasoning, effort based, logical, slow). It is the emotional reptilian brain that drives System 1 thinking rather than the analytical neocortex.
Once the thinking process behind subconscious thought is better understood, marketers can use priming to influence thinking and behavior by creating emotional associations within campaigns that influence what consumers think and do.
Because emotional and subconscious thought is difficult for consumers to verbally or consciously express, biometric research tools are used to measure and understand subconscious thought. Listed below are some of the most common biometric research tools.
- Eye Tracking is typically accomplished by having the subject wear glasses to track eye movement. The glasses record exactly what the person looks at and the path their eyes take. The data is then analyzed and typically combined with multiple subjects who have been exposed to the same visual stimuli in order to produce a heat map showing what the individuals looked at. Pupil size can also be measured in order to gauge emotion.
- EEG (electroencephalogram) is a brain imaging technique that measures electrical brain activity using electrodes attached to the scalp. It is often used to measure attention, emotion, and memory as the subject watches different test versions of an ad. EEG is frequently used in conjunction with eye-tracking.
- GSR (galvanic skin response) measures the electric conductance of a person’s skin. Because GSR can’t tell which emotion is being experienced, it is often used in conjunction with eye-tracking or other biometric measures to put the results in context and help fill in the blanks.
- Facial EMG (electrodiagnostic medical technique). With facial EMG, electrodes are attached to the face in order to measure the electrical impulses associated with the movements of facial muscles, and thus assess emotion, while they are exposed to stimuli. The sensitivity can be accurate enough to capture emotion even when subjects are instructed to not express emotion.
- fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) tracks the blood flow throughout the brain of the subject using a giant magnet as they respond to stimuli. It enables neuroscientists to analyze the pleasure centers of the brain. The more desirable the stimuli, the more significant the changes in blood flow are in the associated region of the brain.