Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state (heart rate, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it.

Companies such as Google, CBS, and Frito-Lay amongst others that have used neuromarketing services to measure consumer thoughts on their advertisements or products.[1]

The word "neuromarketing" was coined by Ale Smidts in 2002.[2]


The neuromarketing concept

The neuromarketing concept was developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990. The technology is based on a model whereby the major thinking part of human activity (over 90%) including emotion proceeds in subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. For this reason the perception technologists of the market are very tempted to learn the techniques of effective manipulation of the subconscious brain activity. The main reason is to inspire the desired reaction in person’s perception as deeply as possible.

The base of neuromarketing is meme[3][4] (by Richard Dawkins - a unit of cultural information similar to gene).[5] Meme is a unit of information stored in the brain. These units are effective influencing human who is making choices and decisions within 2.6 seconds. If “meme” is chosen properly we remember the good, joke or song and would share it. “Memes stay in memory and they are affected by marketers”.

Examples of memes: Aromas of fresh bread, sweets, grandmother's pie; Characters in fairy tales, melodies that cannot be out of head. Thus neuromarketers examine people (brain scan, revealing subconscious motives) and manipulate them.

Best-known technology of neuromarketing was developed in the late 1990s by Harvard professor Jerry Zaltmen (Gerald Zaltman), once it was patented under the name of Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET). The essence of ZMET reduces to exploring the human unconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors stimulating the purchase.[6] Graphical collages are constructed on the base of detected images, which lays in the basis for commercials. Marketing Technology ZMET quickly gained popularity among hundreds of major companies-customers including Coca-Cola, General Motors, Nestle, Procter & Gamble.

Coke vs. Pepsi

In a study from the group of Read Montague published in 2004 in Neuron,[7] 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the "Pepsi Challenge", a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Half the subjects chose Pepsi, since Pepsi tended to produce a stronger response than Coke in their brain's ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region thought to process feelings of reward. But when the subjects were told they were drinking Coke three-quarters said that Coke tasted better. Their brain activity had also changed. The lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers, and the hippocampus, an area related to memory, were now being used, indicating that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions. The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand.


Some consumer advocate organizations, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, have criticized neuromarketing’s potentially invasive technology. Jeff Chester, the executive director of the organization, claims that neuromarketing is “having an effect on individuals that individuals are not informed about." Further, he claims that though there has not historically been regulation on adult advertising due to adults having defense mechanisms to discern what is true and untrue, that it should now be regulated “if the advertising is now purposely designed to bypass those rational defenses . . . protecting advertising speech in the marketplace has to be questioned."[1]

Joseph Turow, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, dismisses neuromarketing as another reincarnation of gimmicky attempts for advertisers to find non-traditional approaches toward gathering consumer opinion. He is quoted in saying, "There has always been a holy grail in advertising to try to reach people in a hypodermic way. Major corporations and research firms, are jumping on the neuromarketing bandwagon because they are desperate for any novel technique to help them break through all the marketing clutter. ‘It’s as much about the nature of the industry and the anxiety roiling through the system as it is about anything else."[8]

Selected publications


  • Zaltman, G. and L. Zaltman, Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers (2008).
  • Zaltman, Gerald. How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Markets. Boston: Harvard Business School Press (2003).

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b Natasha Singer (3 November 2010). "Making Ads that Whisper to the Brain". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ David Lewis & Darren Brigder (July/August 2005). "Market Researchers make Increasing use of Brain Imaging". Advances in Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation 5 (3): 35+. 
  3. ^ ^ a b c d Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (2 ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 192, ISBN 0-19-286092-5, "We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me, if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'."
  4. ^ ^ Millikan 2004, p. 16; Varieties of meaning "Richard Dawkins invented the term 'memes' to stand for items that are reproduced by imitation rather than reproduced genetically."
  5. ^ ^ Shalizi, Cosma Rohilla. "Memes". Center for the Study of Complex Systems. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
  6. ^ "Carbone, Lou. Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Financial Times Prentice Hall (2004): 140-141, 254.".
  7. ^ Samuel M. McClure, Jian Li, Damon Tomlin, Kim S. Cypert, Latané M. Montague, and P. Read Montague (2004). "Neural Correlates of Behavioral Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks" (abstract). Neuron 44 (2): 379–387. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2004.09.019. PMID 15473974. 
  8. ^ Natasha Singer (3 November 2010). "Making Ads that Whisper to the Brain". The New York Times. 

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