Neuromarketing: how the brain reveals our ‘buy buttons’

Neuromarketing: how the brain reveals our ‘buy buttons’

Written by: Emily Tuohy, Design: Monika Monko 

Did you know that we judge people purely based on their appearance? That we judge the competency of a leader by the size of their mouth? That we are irrational beings and that we give emotional preferences to brands or products, with no underlying rationale whatsoever? These what might seem slightly outrageous claims to you, are completely true. Thanks to neuromarketing, researchers have been able to tap into the consumers’ pleasure center and what makes the brain tick, discovering the bricks of consumer choice and our “buy buttons”. 

Neuromarketing is celebrating its 15th birthday this year, and in light of that, MAEUR celebrated with its first Trend Event incorporating Neuromarketing as its theme. As Forbes states “It’s easy for businesses to keep track of what we buy, but harder to figure out why.” Neuromarketing has opened these doors. We as consumers are very capable of proclaiming which brands we like or dislike, how much we are willing to pay for a certain item or even how it affects our mood – matching a value to a certain brand or product. But the hard part, which no form of focus group seems to be able to unfold, is the mystery of why we give this value or where the decision comes from. The MAEUR Trend Event gave light on these questions. 

It started off with MAEUR’s president, Tycho introducing the event and telling about his first moment of learning about the irrational decisions behind consumer buying behavior. The first speaker was one of the founding fathers of neuromarketing, Ale Smidts, who spoke about the science behind it. Did you know that we as marketers can determine and predict the exact effectiveness of an advertisement or campaign, just by looking at the brain and how the consumer reacts to it? Not what the consumer says about it, but the actual implicit processes which become visible that we as humans aren’t able to vocalize because they’re immediate reactions. Smidts also spoke of neuromarketing techniques and which advertisements work best – a combination of informational and transformational seem to be the key to winning over someone’s mind. So when an advertisement tells the consumer what the product’s functions are, but also provide the opportunity to create imaginative situations in the future with the product. 

The second speaker, Dr. Roeland Dietvorst, co-founder of Alpha.One and post-graduate of Erasmus, gave light on other interesting matters based on study results. Studies show that we as human beings judge a male leader’s competency by the size of his mouth, without even realizing it. And what about a woman? “A woman is not judged by the size of her mouth,” (audience laughs) “but by her good genes, her beauty and intrinsically judged ability to procreate,” claimed Dietvorst. So does that mean that to increase votes for a president or politician, we need to increase a male’s mouth size and beautify women? Studies are still being held, but for now, Dietvorst has already noted a linked success. Moving on to other topics Dietvorst discussed, did you know that people give door-to-door charity collectors more money when they visibly wear a luxury brand logo, even though your rationale might say quite the opposite? It all comes down to conspicuous consumption or compliance behavior. When you see someone with a luxury logo, your brain automatically thinks they are successful and you want to be liked by them, which eventually leads to a higher donation. You pay them more money in order to ‘be-friend’ them. 

Last but not least, Yvette Belt Beekman, KPN Director of Marketing Communications, linked neuromarketing to practical examples in the business world. She spoke of how the market-leading tele-provider used neuromarketing to encourage the transition from transformational to emotional campaigns.  They introduced “Voel je vrij” (translation: Feel Free), a widely interpretable slogan, with the aim to connect people throughout the world. The firm put the slogan into good force during the Amsterdam Gay Pride. In a world of countries and cultures where there are boundaries of being able to Be Yourself, KPN provided millions of people virtual presence through live streaming with #Pridestream.  It was a huge hit and an amazing boost to the brand’s transition. Beekman discussed the successfulness of the brand’s transition using brand and ad-preferencing based on neuromarketing. They were able to link their new campaigns to shifts of the consumers’ opinions about their brand. 

We learned how conspicuous consumption works, how ads affect our emotions and how our buy buttons get triggered, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Neuromarketing is opening up more and more doors as the technology unfolds, and has even provided scientists with the ability to remodeling images processed in our brains. The brain sees words as pictures and scientists can now project those pictures into the world. This new development is still fuzzy, but it’s definitely a new development for digging deeper into our decision-making pleasure centers.