It turns out consumers don’t know why they buy the things they buy. At least, they are really bad at explaining why. But neuroscience is giving marketers better insight into consumer behavior, and you might be surprised at the findings.

Barbara O’Connell, Senior Vice President at Consumer Neuroscience Practice, explains that while consumers may not really understand why they take certain actions, research in psychology and neuroscience shows that people are strongly driven by instinct. Studies have also shown that surface-level factors, such as an items being cool or fun have more of an impact on buying behaviors than cost.

So why exactly do consumers do the things they do? Why does anyone make one decision over another when it comes to buying? Our brains are a lot simpler than we’d like to believe, and our nervous systems have much of the answer.

The human nervous system is quite the masterpiece, and as marketers learn to understand and use neuroscience to impact the behaviors of consumers, branding and marketing will become more effective. Let’s look at four factors that have a strong effect on the way humans behave.


Structural Design

The nervous and endocrine systems work together to produce behavior, but structurally, the two systems are complete opposites. The nervous system is completely hardwired through a system of connections in a highly organized grid. Neurons are fast and efficient. On the other hand glands can release hormones to any part of the body, although a target receptor is required, and unless the hormones locate one, no effect takes place.

How can the structural design of the nervous system, and the fast and efficient speed of the neurons, affect consumer behavior? You explain the factors really nicely, but a few sentences after each factor (so each one would look like this) might have tied it into the goal of your audience: to learn something they can apply



The hardwired and close connections of the neural system make reactions occur in a matter of milliseconds. Hormonal reactions happen much slower and rely upon traveling through the bloodstream and making a connection with receptors, causing a much slower effect on behavior.


Length of Impact

Because neural reactions happen quickly and efficiently, they control our most primitive and instinctive behaviors. The consequence is that their effects are short-lived.  Hormonal connections impact behavior for longer periods of time than their neural counterparts. Particularly, hormones that affect the production of proteins in the body have an even longer-lasting impact on behavior than hormones that do not.


Distance of Action

While the nervous system is wired throughout the entire body, neural transmissions happen more locally than globally, bodily speaking. The endocrine system’s use of the bloodstream as a transmission method and its ability to be released at any point within the body make it more far-reaching and globally impactful than neurotransmitters.


How to Use the Science

Now the question becomes, how can we use the science to create more effective branding and advertising schemes?

Neuromarketing firms like True Impact, have been helping brands and advertising companies develop better and more impactful marketing plans. Using high-tech medical equipment, True Impact and similar firms are able to view brain scans of human subjects as they watch advertisements or look at packaging.  True Impact has also established a partner site, The Whiz Cells, which was created a selling platform in which they capitalize upon these many neuromarketing factors in order to better help consumers be more effective in selling their old devices.  It’s like eBay with some heavy neuromarketing.

Diana Lucaci describes the value of True Impact’s research, “’The person in the machine might not be aware of it, but we know exactly what he was looking at when everything fell apart, and can recommend ways our client can fix it.’”

This is more effective and less expensive than traditional focus groups and surveys. The findings of neuromarketing research are completely objective and virtually free from error and misinformation. The result is highly specific and targeted branding, packaging and advertising.

Did you know that the shiny, yellow potato chip bags illicit feelings of guilt from women? Frito-Lay discovered this truth through neuromarketing research in 2009 with True Impact. The company changed their packaging, which obliterated the guilt, and profits went up more than eight percent.

Dr. A. K. Pradeep, CEO at NeuroFocus, developed some best practices regarding advertising and consumer behavior.  Pradeep recommends the method of business mapping to highlight the locality of these trends:

  • Women enjoy images of human interactions and women in groups enjoying activities–they respond to direct eye contact – particularly in the northeast.
  • Women process language more fluently than men and respond better than men to text-based ads across the nation.
  • Men are impulsive buyers who respond to athleticism, advancement and success found most apparent in the Midwest.
  • Men are drawn to spatial imagery.
  • Lead with emotion, as it builds brand connection and long-term influence.
  • Keep images on the left and text on the right for easier neural processing.

Neuromarketing is proving to be a valuable tool for brands and marketing agencies, and it creates the opportunity for truly powerful and impactful advertising.