Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMSBA)

Articles and Blogposts

  • May 13, 2016 13:39 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Gesa Lischka (Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH)

    Today’s customers find supermarket shelves increasingly bursting with new products, new flavors and new designs. However, about 80% of all these product innovations fall flat at PoS. Among& the many parameters for a successful product launch, packaging design plays a crucial role. In capturing customer attention the design can “make or break” a product at the point of sale. This case study describes a packaging design process that aims at optimizing the saleability of the product based on neuroscience.

    Popp Feinkost GmbH is one of Germany’s biggest household names for bread spreads, fine foods and specialty salads. The company used neuromarketing strategies in the packaging design process for a brand new product – “StreichDuett”, a range of chilled spreads to be launched in Germany in 2015. The packaging underwent a full make-over based on results from IAT and fMRI studies a three stage process, conducted by “Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH”, Hannover and Professor Dr. Weber of Life & Brain GmbH, Bonn.


    Salty rather than sweet. In the initial process stage, marketing agency “Kochstrasse™ – Agentur für Marken GmbH” was commissioned with a rework of already existing layouts. These layouts were based on best practice design guidelines and had been created by one of Popp’s advertising agencies (#1). As desired by the client, Kochstrasse™ only slightly simplified this layout in order to enhance the processing fluency (#2). However, Kochstrasse™ expected the whole design to underperform in terms of consumer comprehensibility. A follow-up implicit association test (IAT), conducted by Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber’s team on the premises of Bonn University confirmed this: While “StreichDuett” clearly had to be positioned as a product for dinner, the packaging evoked impressions of a sweet breakfast. A result diametrically opposed to the desired intention.

    Tweak, tune and test. Based on the IAT, Kochstrasse™ redesigned the layouts substantially, including photo shootings and new artworks for two packaging lines. As desired by the client, version 1 (#3) concentrated purely on food imagery. In order to evoke more appropriate associations, Kochstrasse™ recommended an alternative version 2, involving a female portrait on the package (#4). Both versions underwent an fMRI testing procedure at Life & Brain with 40 participants. As expected, both designs performed better than the previous layouts, with a notable difference between the mere food (#3) and human face illustrations (#4). Also, we discovered remarkable differences between implicit and explicit test results.

    Implicit, not Explicit. In an explicit interrogation test, the “classic” packaging (#3) performed best, i.e. significantly better than the package layout with the woman’s face (#4). However, these explicit, conscious customer preferences could not be verified in the fMRI. The fMRI results here are clear – and disagree with classic market research: the packaging with the woman’s face (#4) performed best. It yielded the highest activation rate of the participants’ reward centre (ventral striatum). This is especially remarkable, because a number of studies correlate higher fMRI test results with a higher saleability.

    The packaging redesign process for Popp Feinkost demonstrates the benefits of close cooperation between designers, neuroscientists and marketing professionals. The design and testing process clearly revealed weak points in the initial design, helping to avoid making wrong decisions and reach informed design decisions, unbiased in terms of trends or personal taste. Popp Feinkost appreciated these results and will put both packaging designs to field tests. Since various studies suggest a correlation between high fMRI results and good sales performance, the company is now considering the use of a very promising packaging design that otherwise would have been rejected. 

    This case demonstrates the importance for designers to “speak neuroscience”, i.e. integrating psychometrics and neuroscientific testing methods into the creative workflow. Firstly, neuromarketing input (and testing) greatly enhances the design process from an agency perspective and allows for evaluation of the true emotional impact of a design. Secondly, the translation of “neuro insights” into a creative brief may well be a challenging task, albeit one that generates surprising yet substantial results. Brands from any sector – B2B and B2C – will greatly benefit from this kind of marketing workflow.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • April 22, 2016 14:30 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Diana Lucaci (True Impact)

    It is a well-established fact that memory is not perfect. Today, there are too many details to remember, so in order to mitigate the risk of forgetting, many people delegate their memory to technology. Within this research, we wanted to understand how the impact of technology has been shaping human memory regarding information and events. To gain perspective we examined how smartphone ownership has changed the way that people interact with the world on a day-to-day basis. The role of personal photography has certainly changed in the lives of Canadians by way of digital photography, and smartphone marketplace increase. It is important to understand how the increased technology use impacts emotion and memory recall.

    Typical market research using surveys is a good start to understanding consumer opinions and insights. However, the addition of neurological and biological measures allows for understanding of what a person thinks and feels, beyond even their own awareness. Using neuro monitoring (EEG) we measured emotion and attention on a momentto-moment basis. Additionally, eye-tracking showed us points of visual attention and pupil dilation, which tells us what is most visually noticed, as well as the person’s level of interest in it. The combination of traditional market research tools (survey performed by Fresh Intelligence), and the above-mentioned biological measures, creates a powerful and dynamic tool to more eff ectively assess the consumer experience.


    The EEG analysis generated two key metrics: emotional engagement and attentional activation. Emotional engagement was derived from left-right alpha asymmetry in the pre-frontal cortex, indicating changes in subjects’ emotional reactions. Greater relative activity in the left frontal region strongly correlates with approach motivations, including liking, wanting, motivating to action, purchase intent, and willingness to pay for something. Greater relative activity in the right frontal region correlates with withdrawal motivations, such as disliking, disgust, and avoidance behavior

    [Davidson, 2013]. The level of emotional engagement at each stage was measured as deviation from the total average level of engagement, across all subjects, across the whole experiment. 

    How the research set-up was organized

    The study was broken up into the following three testing groups:
    Control Group (1) – Watched video only
    Testing Group (2) – Watched video, took a photo with their own smartphone, could refer to photos later
    Testing Group (3) – Watched video, took a photo with their own smartphone, could not refer to photos later.

    Hypothesis or formulated research question
    As our questions were bridged between the marketing and academic research spheres, our solution was a holistic hybrid approach. We started with expert interviews, talking to a professor of cognitive psychology from the University of Toronto, a corporate memory trainer and a doctor from a major Toronto hospital specializing in memory loss. Armed with the insight from these discussions, and a deeper understanding of what memory is and how it functions, the study included a detailed experiment using electroencephalography (EEG).

    What was the outcome of the research?
    The study received the Best in Class research award, from the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. The key to its success was twofold: an innovative, neurological approach to understanding the role of technology on the brain, and seamless collaboration between traditional and cutting edge research techniques. 

    The primary finding of the study was that taking a photo with a smartphone while watching a video makes the experience more enjoyable. This was not surprising considering that most people are very attached to their phones.  However, it was interesting to note that although the experience was more enjoyable for those subjects permitted to take photos, the performance on a memory test when the photo was not used to aid recall was worse than the group who used the photo. Among those participants who watched the videos without taking a photo, the level of emotional engagement was not very high, however, they performed much better on the memory task. 

    In addition, when we measured the level of emotional engagement while recalling the video, the group who did not take photos had a more positive reaction overall. One key takeaway is this: if you’re watching a concert, try to resist taking too many photos and simply take in the experience. Not only will you remember the event in more detail, but you will treasure the memory and recall it with ease.


    Marketing is the art of assigning meaning to a brand or product, and it all begins with being engaging and memorable. Our research suggests that customers are less likely to remember brands’ messaging now than they were in the past. The ease with which details can be delegated to devices means people expend less eff ort engaging with ads and processing their messages. While the best brands and the best marketing campaigns are unforgettable, marketers have to work harder to build those memories and associations, avoiding the pitfalls of our growing reliance on technology; and building on our love and enjoyment – at a neural level – of our devices. 

    The research presents both challenges and lessons for researchers. Much of traditional market research is based on recollection and recalled opinions: what did you buy in the last three months, how did you feel about that choice, what were your thoughts on this brand. Simply relying on memories is not reliable, so researchers need to be creative and complement traditional research with consumer neuroscience in order to continue producing accurate and valuable insights. Passively collected data become more important, and there is increasing value to incorporating real-life, in-moment exploration of consumers’ decisions. Fortunately, the results also show some of the tools to do this, with respondents’ increasing love of photography and smartphones being just two gateways into these moments.


    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. Order the 2016 Neuromarketing Yearbook now!

  • March 03, 2016 10:40 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    By Anil V. Pillai, Terragni Consulting

    India is a fascinating economy. As one of the fast growing BRIC nations, the country has seen unprecedented growth since the mid ‘90s until around 2010, post which the economy slowed down and now shows signs of growth again. Largely consumption-driven, this economy has spawned a middle class that is the size of the EU! By 2025, it is estimated that the overall consumer spend is slated to jump up by 2.5 times. This growth therefore demands attention from global marketers.

    India is viewed as a key growth market whose drivers are rising disposable incomes and a vast population. Recent studies by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) indicate that if India continues to grow at the current pace, average household incomes will triple over the next two decades and the country will become the world’s fifth largest consumer economy by 2025, up from 12th at present.

    The market

    India is likely to emerge as the world’s largest middle class consumer market with an aggregated consumer spend of nearly US$ 13 trillion by 2030, as per a report by Deloitte titled ”India matters: Winning in growth markets”.

    As per the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, fuelled by rising incomes and growing affordability, the consumer durables market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.8 per cent to US$ 12.5 billion in FY 2015 from US$ 7.3 billion in FY 2012. Urban markets account for the major share (65 per cent) of total revenues in the Indian consumer durables sector. In rural markets, durables, such as refrigerators, and consumer electronic goods are likely to witness growing demand in the coming years. From US$ 2.1 billion in FY 2010, the rural market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25 per cent to touch US$ 6.4 billion in FY 2015.

    The growth of internet retail is going to complement the growth of offline retail stores. Online retailing, both direct and through marketplaces such as eBay, will triple to become a US$ 8.34 billion industry by 2016, growing at a whopping 50–55 per cent per year over the next three years, according to rating agency Crisil. The same study of the Ministry of Commerce quoted above also indicates that with growing consumerism and disposable income, India’s used goods market is likely to touch US$ 19.18 billion by 2015 from US$ 13.34 billion at present. 

    What does this mean for the field of neuroscience in business?

    As marketers and brand managers endeavor to compete in this price sensitive but discerning market, consumer insight takes on a heightened importance. While the challenges of getting true insights are difficult in the most mature of markets, in the Indian context it is even more true.

    Given the geographic spread of this vast sub-continent, the number of spoken languages (122 languages/dialects!!) and illiteracy in vast swathes of the consumer demographic, standard methods of garnering insight are fraught with complexity and cost challenges. A paradox in India is the ubiquity of the mobile phone. Even in the most remote of consumer populations, a mobile phone is available.

    Neuroscience has an emerging role in India. Methods such as eye-tracking and galvanic skin response, and to a certain extent implicit testing, are tools that can overcome the challenges that are posed by the unique requirements of this market place (tools such as fMRI are perhaps still too expensive for this market). The caveat is that these tools have to be adapted to the Indian context. A recent experience we had with implicit testing showed us that even with urban youth audiences, the test was preferred over a mobile phone as opposed to any other internet device. Therefore any test not tuned to working effectively over a mobile phone will meet with poor respondent conversions. Such is not necessarily the case in other markets. Cost per respondent is also a challenge. Currently the field of neuroscience and its applicability to the Indian context is in its infancy and the equipment and infrastructure required for the usage of these tools are expensive, which many organizations balk at. For organizations that can overcome the twin challenges of adapting the tools to local conditions and costs, there are significant opportunities. This is the beginning and as Joe Wilke, President of Nielsen Neuro puts it, the India business is among Nielsen’s fastest growing markets worldwide and the company having established one neuroscience lab already in Mumbai, India, is looking at possibilities of opening a second lab in Delhi as well. *

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Read more:
    This article was published inNeuromarketing Theory & Practice. Want to enjoy more excellent neuromarketing reading? Subscribe to this quarterly at 
    Or order the Neuromarketing Yearbook

    Learn more:
    Learn more about neuromarketing at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Dubai on April 4-6, which is the largest neuromarketing gathering in the world!

    * source:

  • February 08, 2016 14:33 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    Women already knew it long before; when you ask a man if he likes your dress, and he takes a little too long to answer, his actual thoughts may be something entirely different from what comes out of his mouth as a reply. Femke van Zandvoort (NMSBA) collected some views on IAT and related issues via interviews with some of the leading practitioners who apply this methodology

    If you explicitly ask people about their attitudes, personality or other characteristics you are not necessarily going to get a true answer. This is partially because people will distort the truth to paint themselves in a better light, and partially because people are often unable to accurately reflect on their attitudes and behavior. Duncan Smith of Mindlab says the validity of self-report is also compromised because many people are completely oblivious to their characteristics and do not always have conscious access to what drives their decision-making. With implicit measures these problems can be bypassed.

    Implicit measures are a range of techniques that aim to capture people’s underlying associations, motivations, beliefs and attitudes. The techniques were originally developed in academia, largely as a way to measure social attitudes, such as underlying prejudices and stereotypes that people are either not consciously aware of, or not willing to articulate, as they don’t want to appear prejudiced, says Darren Bridger of Neurostrata.

    Smith explains that we constantly sort, categorize and link concepts; black/white, male/female, hot/cold. This is done very quickly, efficiently and automatically in our brains. Smith: “Essentially, we build a map of the world in our brain that allows us to make judgments and decisions without having to use as many resources. Implicit testing allows direct insight into this map of representations, and how they can be influenced by the outside world.” 

    Different implicit paradigms
    In general the research techniques that have been adopted by the marketing and advertising community have been those based on reaction times. These techniques are based on two key principles. Firstly, whenever we see a word or image, all the things that we associate with it (whether we are conscious of these associations or not) become primed. That is to say that they will come to mind more quickly and easily given the opportunity. Secondly when a person is given a task that involves them recognizing a word or image, they will recognize it quicker if they are first shown a word or image that they mentally associate with it. Bridger: “In other words if they are primed, it speeds up their recognition reaction speed. Hence in these tasks reaction speed becomes a measure of the degree of association between two things, such as a word and a brand logo.”

    There are many different implicit testing models but the main ones used in the context of neuromarketing are semantic priming, where a briefly presented word or image is presented, and the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The IAT is primarily used for brand positioning, brand tracking and pre/post ad evaluation. In a typical semantic priming test, a visual word or “prime” (for instance a possible brand attribute word such as ”fashionable”) will appear on screen for a few milliseconds. After this prime, one of two randomized targets (for instance “Burberry” or “Louis Vuitton”) will follow. 

    Gemma Calvert explains that the tests are performed by means of computerized web-based applications that force respondents to react extremely quickly to words or images flashed up on the computer screen. Calvert: “The method exploits the fact that subconscious and conscious brain responses (referred to by Daniel Kahneman as “System I” and “System 2” respectively in his popular book ”Thinking Fast and Slow”) occur within different timeframes. So by requiring respondents to respond very quickly, typically less than a second, it is possible to capture the literal strength of association between different concepts and emotions that they have stored in their memory.” 

    Phil Barden of Decode Marketing stresses that ”implicit” is not the same as ”unconscious”. Barden: “The main point is to distinguish between (a) the type of process being measured (automatic versus controlled) and (b) the type of measurement (direct versus indirect). The distinction between automatic and controlled processes is more meaningful than the indirect/direct distinction regarding measurement techniques. The key is to prevent adjustments of responses through controlled (system 2) processes.” 

    History of implicit measures
    Unconscious bias and stereotyping have been known since the 19th century but implicit memory was only studied in more detail in the 1980s. The most popular IAT was developed in the 1990s by a team led by psychologist Anthony Greenwald. 

    Sarah Walker of Millward Brown mentions the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et all. 1998) is a social psychology measure designed to detect the strength of automatic association between concepts. A quick answer means a strong association towards a subject. The stronger the association, the more closely the ideas are connected in memory”. It was originally introduced by Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz (1998) and is still widely deployed by psychologists as a method to understand intuitive responses. 

    Benefits of implicit measures
    Thom Noble of Neurostrata believes implicit measures are extraordinarily powerful as a neuro-tool: “As a hard core marketer, I would say it is the single most useful tool in the neuro-verse.” 

    According to Walker, implicit testing allows the assessment of attitude/cognition without requiring people to introspect and deliberate over their responses; in doing so, implicit measures address some of the

    limitations of explicit measures. For example, they are less susceptible to response biases such as social desirability (Fisher, 1993; Steenkamp, de Jong, & Baumgartner, 2010), and can help measure responses that may be introspectively inaccessible (Wilson, 2002). 

    The tests have evolved over time and research can now take place on tablets or smartphones, so participants can take the test in their own time and environment of choice. This is an advantage for the participant, but it also makes it an affordable and quick option for the researcher, as you do not need to invite groups to a central location. 

    Another advantage, according to Rafał Ohme of NEUROHM, is that clients are much more ready to use implicit technology than ”hard neuro” technology. Ohme: “It is a very good starting point for inviting clients to the world of neuromarketing. Sometimes clients are still quite afraid of micro volts and brain waves, or even more scary; fMRI images. Instead, implicit gives you something that is quite familiar to you. It gives wonderful opportunities to give insight in implicit subconscious,

    without the heaviness of brain waves.” Ohme mentions another benefit in that you can reach groups that you would never be able to invite to a central location. Ohme: “For instance, top private banking executives will never visit you for a focus group, because it takes too much time. With implicit reaction times, they just have to sit in front of a computer or smartphone, and give you five minutes of their time.” 

    Limitations of implicit measures
    There are, however, also some limitations to the tests, besides some general market research limitations. One limitation, as Smith explains, is that the outputs are not 100% accurate on an individual basis. A high implicit score does not mean that a person will definitely behave one way or another, but there is research showing that implicit scores can be used to better predict things such as voting behavior, than using explicit questions alone.” 

    A limitation according to Calvert is that implicit measures only capture responses to the attributes you choose to include, as opposed to, for example, fMRI which measures activity across the entire brain. In other words; implicit measures will give you answers to the questions you think are important. The results therefore can be misleading. 

    Ohme believes the most important thing about reaction times is to control the noise. Ohme: “For instance, you would have to control for the length of expressions,  because when using longer expressions, it takes longer to answer the question. For instance the expression: ‘understand my needs’, takes longer to process than the expression ‘fun’.” There are also many individual differences. Some people are fast and some people slower to respond in general. These issues can be solved by including a calibration phase in the test. You can then compare reaction ”units” of one person with ”units” of someone else. Walker supports the opinion that “because of these differences in reading and comprehension times, the validity of this technique is really limited to single words, contrary to the claims of many vendors. Meaning, there are limitations on the types of associations that can e measured in this way.” 

    And, finally, although implicit measures provide valuable insights that were invisible before, it does not replace existing methods. As Ohme puts it: “It just provides the second layer. The first layer being explicit, the second being implicit. I would like to think of implicit as the sound that was introduced in Hollywood movies. Before, you had silent movies. And now, you have movies with sound.”

    According to Bridger, implicit measures are of particular use in some areas that have been traditionally hard to investigate, including testing early stage creative concepts for their ability to evoke desired feelings and associations, multi-sensory stimuli (such as sound and music), and experiential areas such as simulations of website experiences. The use of implicit measures is surely no longer limited to applications in marketing departments. As Ohme explains: “It creates completely new opportunities for us, neuromarketers, because so far 99% of our clients were marketers. With reaction times you can open doors for HR and sales departments, as with this you can, for instance, measure the level of satisfaction of your employees.” 

    Noble goes further to say they have commercialized and extended it into recruitment, cost-optimization programs, premiumization, service design, multi-sensory, experiential, politics, government negotiation tactics / arbitration, auditions, casting, TV and film scripting and pilot projects, gaming and box office prediction, amongst others. 

    There are a lot of companies worldwide offering implicit testing, for example Decode Marketing, NEUROHM, Neurosense, Neurostrata, Mindlab, Millward Brown, and Sentient Decision Science to name just a few. 

    One of the largest implicit studies run to date was conducted by the NMSBA (neuro against smoking project). This study involved testing 4996 respondents across 24 countries (heavy and light smokers) in their first three years after reaching the legal age to purchase cigarettes in a given country. A neuropsychological implicit association test was conducted with its audience to uncover new valuable insights to the existing discussion on cigarettes warnings. The study found that pictorial health warning messages are more effective than text messages only and communication oriented toward harm done to self and others is more effective than warnings focused only on smokers’ health. 

    “We are at the breakthrough stage with neuromarketing research”, reckons Ohme, “where we stop being fascinated with the possibilities of the equipment, and we and are more fascinated with the insights and expertise we receive from neuro tools.” If you compare the neuro presentations we had at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Amsterdam with the ones in Sao Paulo, New York and Barcelona, you see a growing number of presentations focusing on the insights and on how to help your clients, not on what type of electrodes you are using, says Ohme. “So for the next Forum I hope we will be providing more and more solutions to our clients instead of questions. Those are for the academia; business wants solutions,” he concludes. 

    By Femke van Zandvoort
    Editor in Chief Neuromarketing Theory & Practice 

    Read more:
    This article was published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice. Want to enjoy more excellent neuromarketing reading? Subscribe to this quarterly at

    Learn more:
    Learn more about neuromarketing at the Neuromarketing World Forum in Dubai on April 4-6, which is the largest neuromarketing gathering in the world!







  • January 27, 2016 12:34 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    We depend on our eyes while navigating the retail environment. Without visual clues to orient ourselves, we become confused, frustrated and overwhelmed. In-store signage helps us get to where we want to go. It also helps retailers to:

    • Lead shoppers to locations where they will make purchases
    • Promote brand awareness
    • Stimulate customer spending by making value propositions visible.

    To understand how in-store signage works, researchers frequently observe and interview shoppers. They look at sales data and even walk with customers who are willing to narrate as they shop. In 2013, Swedish researchers Tobias Otterbring, Erik Wastlund, Anders Gustafsson and Poja Shams undertook a field study to investigate how instore signage affects the visual attention and decision-making processes of shoppers. Eye-tracking devices, worn by volunteer shoppers, enabled Otterbring and his colleagues to quantify the amount of visual attention directed at instore signage. 1] These devices 2] made it possible for “researchers to watch what the subject’s watching, with the gaze point continuously marked onscreen …the footage transmitted wirelessly from the glasses.”

    The team conducted two experiments that:

    • Took place at the same food market
    • Utilized test subjects recruited on-site
    • Measured eye-fixations with Tobii Glasses.

    Experiment 1 investigated how store-familiar and storeunfamiliar customers use in-store signs to navigate and make decisions. One hundred and one volunteer test subjects were recruited while shopping in a market that functioned as the experiment’s setting. Unbeknownst to test subjects, thirty in-store signs were installed for the experiment. Half provided navigational clues, such as advertisements or information regarding nearby goods (Figure 1).

    The other half provided decision-making information, such as discounts or product details (Figure 2).

    Test subjects were told that the study they were participating in would investigate visual attention and how

    it relates to shopping. Those undertaking the 15-minute experiment were fitted with a pair of Tobii Glasses and given a list of six items to retrieve. Test subjects were told that they would not have to pay for the items they selected 3] and were encouraged to act just as they would on any other shopping trip. Test subjects were free to choose whatever products they wanted, as long as they were on their shopping list. Shopping commenced at the entrance to the store. After retrieving their six items, test subjects had their eye-tracking devices removed. Then they filled out a questionnaire asking about their demographic information, store familiarity and navigational ability.

    Experiment 1 revealed that:

    • Store-unfamiliar shoppers rely on navigational signs more than store-familiar shoppers do
    • Store–familiar shoppers read decision-making signs more than store-unfamiliar customers do

    Researchers believe that, even with the assistance of in-store navigational signs, store-unfamiliar shoppers

    expend most of their energy searching for products. By the time they find what they are looking for, they are too tired to read more signs. On the other hand, by knowing where their intended purchases are located, store- familiar customers save energy, which they can use to read signs at the store shelf. It follows that store managers, who desire to influence store-unfamiliar customers during the decision-making process, are fighting an uphill battle. Any signage they produce with this objective in mind should be simple, bold and “to-the-point.” Ideally, their signs should also offer a tempting value proposition.

    Priming is a technique which exposes a subject to a stimulus that is intended to influence future behavior.

    For example, imagine that it is hot out; you walk in a store and the first thing you see is a giant sign advertising ice-cream. Experiment 2 investigated how exposure to instore signage priming influences subsequent purchase decisions. Test subjects were recruited on-site and told that they would be participating in an experiment designed to explore visual attention, customer behavior and choice. The prime in experiment 2 was a sign displaying a photo of a muesli product. The sign was positioned next to the actual product and similar, closely priced substitutes.

    Test subjects were exposed to the prime from afar. They were then instructed to walk over to the muesli shelf, select a box and deliver it to a researcher. After completing this task, test subjects returned their eyetracking glasses and filled out a questionnaire concerning shopping habits, product usage and demographics.

    The results of Experiment 2 suggest that:

    • After customers view in-store signage primes, they will look at visually similar products quicker and more frequently than non-similar products
    • Priming by in-store signage may stimulate remembrance, but this in and of itself, won’t motivate a customer to buy.

    The researchers believe that in-store signage primes may be more likely to motivate customers if they offer a value proposition. As this was not explored in the experiment, it warrants further investigation.

    In closing, I share a personal communication which I had with Tobias Otterbring, one of the researchers involved in the studies above. In this passage, he discusses future research possibilities…

    “The structured shopping-list procedure in experiment 1 only asked participants to collect the items on the

    shopping list, which, by implication, precluded us from studying phenomena such as unplanned purchases.

    Therefore, one interesting suggestion for future research would be to investigate whether the specificity of the task at hand influences customers’ subsequent visual attention and choice behavior. Will an initial shopping task with a high (vs. low) level of detail lead to more or less visual attention being directed toward various instore cues at a subsequent shopping task?” These are the issues to investigate next.

    By Michael St. Germain

    Read more:

    This article was published in Neuromarketing Theory & Practice #11. Want to enjoy more excellent neuromarketing reading? Subscribe to this quarterly at

  • December 07, 2015 13:49 | Anonymous

    Author: Oxytocin Increases the Influence of Public Service Advertisements, Lin P-Y, Grewal NS, Morin C, Johnson WD, Zak PJ (2013) PLoS ONE 8(2): e56934. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056934

    Research Description

    This paper presents a neurophysiologic model (PMEP) of effective public service advertisements  (PSAs) and reports two experiments that test the model. In Experiment 1, we show that after watching 16 PSAs participants who received oxytocin, compared to those given a placebo, donated to 57% more causes, donated 56% more money, and reported 17% greater concern for those in the ads. In Experiment 2, we measured adrenocorticotropin hormone  (ACTH) and oxytocin levels in blood before and after participants watched a PSA. As predicted by the model, donations occurred when participants had increases in both ACTH and oxytocin. Our results indicate that PSAs with social content that cause OT release will be more effective than those that do not. Our results also explain why some individuals do not respond to PSAs.


    Tradition research methods based on self-reports fail to deliver objective measurements of attention and emotional responses. By measuring the presence of specific hormones in the blood such as ACTH (corticotropin) and OT (oxytocin), we were able to collect information from the brain’s autonomic nervous systems.

    Research setup

    We designed two experiments to test the PMEP. We used PSAs in our experiments because we could measure actual behaviors in response to these ads, donations to the featured charities, rather than simply attitudes. The novel part of the model is the role of OT, so Experiment 1 tested whether OT would affect actions in response to PSAs. In Experiment 1, we manipulated OT pharmacologically to establish a causal relationship between OT and donation decisions in response to PSAs. In Experiment 2, we sought to confirm the interactive physiologic mechanisms for attention and action in the PMEP. To do this, we measured endogenous changes in OT and ACTH levels in blood before and after participants watched a PSA from Experiment 1.

    Research hypotheses

    We expected that the PSA would cause an increase in both ACTH and OT release in most participants. Further, we expected that participants who had increases in both ACTH and OT would be the ones most likely to donate to the charity in the ad.


    Participants who received OT made donations to 33% of ads, significantly more than those on a placebo (= 10.835,

    p = .001). Those who received OT donated, on average, 56% more money than those given the placebo (OT: $0.84;

    Placebo: $0.54). Watching the anti-smoking PSA produced a significant increase in ACTH (M1 = 52.5 pg/ml, M2 = 59.1 pg/ml; two-tailed t-test, p = .01), indicating that the ad attracted most viewers’ attention. As predicted by the PMEP, the change in ACTH was positively correlated to attention to the ad (r = .38 p = .02). Overall, the change in OT was, in isolation, unrelated to the donation amount (p>.05). Both attention and engagement with the ad’s characters appear necessary to result in a donation


    Advertisers obviously cannot spray OT during viewings of their PSAs, but the findings here, coupled with studies identifying the variety of stimuli that induce OT release, suggest several ways that PSAs and perhaps other marketing efforts that include social content can be made more effective. Indeed, our findings indicate that the brain may not distinguish triggers for OT release that occur in-person compared to those that are viewed through visual media. Activities that induce the brain to release OT include watching an emotional video clip, being trusted, being touched, attending a wedding, petting one’s dog, moderate stress, holding one’s infant, breastfeeding, sexual activity, and perhaps even Tweeting.

    Final thoughts

    This approach indicates that effective marketing campaigns should be seen as ways to build relationships and solve customers’ problems rather than focusing on a one-time sale. Marketing that causes OT release is a step toward building an emotional relationship with a product or brand.


    Christophe Morin /

    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing yearbook of last year. Click here to order the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. (The yearbook is included in diverse NMSBA membership plans, review here)

  • November 23, 2015 12:33 | Anonymous

    Author: Hayk Khachatryan, Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin Campbell, Charles Hall and Jennifer H. Dennis. No 150333, 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. from Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

    Research Description

    This research focuses on the relationship between impulsive  buying behavior and product attributes, evaluated with the use of neuromarketing techniques. Specifically, this research examines a consumer’s likelihood to purchase horticultural transplant based on the signage and characteristics of plants displayed. The Green Industry market is mature, and it is clear that innovation and marketing will drive growth. This study expands on previous research conducted, which examined the relationship between product specific characteristics and choice behavior. It expanded on previous work by collecting gaze duration on product signs, and tested the relationship between impulsive purchase behavior and likelihood to purchase.


    Eye-tracking technologies were used to evaluate the relat

    ionship between likelihood to purchase and impulsive purchase behavior. These technologies allowed us to indirectly assess intention.  We hypothesized that impulsive buying behaviors are influenced by eye gaze patterns, which occur at the subconscious level. Finally it also examines how plant signs are viewed, and which characteristics are most important to consumers. We set out to determine if buying impulsiveness influences intentions to purchase, and if the effects of impulsiveness will be impacted by gaze duration. A display was created that contained three types of plants with three blank signs spaced equally throughout. Using Photoshop, text was added to the signs describing the environmentally friendly production methods, price, and plant type. Sixteen scenarios were designed and presented to participants at six North American universities. Verbal, behavioral and eye tracking data were collected.


    Research showed that there was a moderate and positive relationship between a consumer’s likelihood to buy and eco-friendly production methods, which were preferred over conventional methods. Less impulsive people and women were more likely to buy plants, while education and income were inversely related to the purchase of plants.  

    Data revealed that energy saving was the most important indicator of a purchase, and that the time spent looking at prices increased as prices rose. Those with a higher impulse score were not concerned about environmentally friendly features of the plants.  Likelihood to purchase increased along with the number of individuals in a family, but as education and income rose, likelihood to purchase declined. There is a positive relationship between likelihood to purchase and production method. While it was not surprising to find a positive relationship between likelihood to purchase and production method, new insights were gathered in the role of impulsiveness on plant choice and production method. Lower impulse levels are correlated with a greater probability to purchase, while more thoughtful consumers are more likely to purchase plants grown using eco-friendly practices. Gaze duration results suggest that more impulsive consumers may disregard production practices and related product descriptors displayed at the point-of-sale.


    Marketers can use the research data to better understand the role of product attributes and consumer characteristics when making purchase decisions. With more than half of the decision making process occurring subconsciously, it is important to understand the role that product attributes play when decisions are made. The research reveals that in order to achieve higher sales growth, businesses need to understand their target clientele and develop labeling strategies that cater to their target audiences. 

    Contact Person:

    Hayk Khachatryan /

    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing yearbook of last year. Click here to order the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. (The yearbook is included in diverse NMSBA membership plans, review here)

  • November 09, 2015 16:36 | Anonymous

    Author: Vecchiato et al. “Neuroelectrical Brain Imaging Tools for the Study of the Efficacy of TV Advertising Stimuli and their Application to Neuromarketing”. Springer. Series: Biosystems & Biorobotics, Vol. 3. 2013, XVIII, 136 p. 55 illus.

    Research Description

    Nowadays, neuroscientific methodologies include powerful brain imaging tools to gather the hemodynamic or electromagnetic signals related  to the human brain activity during the performance of a relevant marketing task. Each year, a huge amount of money is used to promote commercial communications. It is really important for marketing research to provide benchmarks and evaluations of how the commercials impacted on people. The reason why marketing researchers are interested in the use of brain imaging tools, instead of simply asking people to indicate their preferences in front of marketing stimuli, arises from the assumption that people cannot –or do not want to- fully explain their preferences when explicitly asked. Hence, marketers are investigating the use of neuroimaging tools to quantitatively assess the outcome of a produced advertisement. In this study, the focus was to measure and analyze the brain activity and the emotional engagement that occurred during the “naturalistic” observation of commercial ads. The final goal was to link significant variations of electroencephalographic and autonomic variables with the cognitive and emotional reactions to the TV advertisements presented. In order to do that, different indexes were employed to summarize the performed measurements and to be used in the statistical analysis.


    Since temporal resolution of milliseconds is necessary to track the shifts of brain activity related to the processing of visual and acoustic stimuli of TV commercials, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) devices cannot return information on which scenes of an advertisement are of interest for people and which ones are not. On the other hand, high resolution electroencephalography (hrEEG) is able to detect rapid changes of the cortical activity on a temporal scale of milliseconds. Moreover, EEG devices are relatively inexpensive, robust and even wearable by people, making such technology suitable for the evaluation of marketing stimuli. Also, indirect signs of the emotional processing can also be collected by picking variations of the anatomical structures activity linked to the limbic system, such as one of the sweat glands of the hands and the variability of the heart rate. The particular procedure of the experimental task consisted of observing a documentary in which a series of TV commercials were inserted. The experimental subjects were told to pay attention to the movie they would be watching, and were unaware that an interview would be held within a couple of hours after the end of the recording. In the interview, the subjects were asked to recall commercial clips they remembered and to score them according to the degree of pleasantness they perceived. The dataset was then divided into several subgroups in order to highlight differences between the cerebral activity related to the observation of the remembered and forgotten ads, and those between the liked against the disliked commercials. Finally, the experimental questions of the present study were the following: are there particular EEG activities correlating with the memorization and the perceived interest related to the observed TV commercial? Are there particular cerebral and autonomic indexes describing the emotional state experienced while watching the TV commercial?


    The hrEEG technologies allowed to track the temporal trend of the cortical activities to be analyzed thanks to a high temporal and spatial resolution, distinguishing changes of activation of cortical areas by means of a graphical representation on an average brain model. The reconstruction of the cortical activity Led to highlight the cerebral regions that were significantly activated when compared to the observation of the documentary, frame by frame. Statistical cortical spectral maps returned that the theta band activity during the observation of the TV commercials that were remembered is higher and localized in the left frontal brain areas when compared to the activity elicited by forgotten advertisements. A similar increase of the alpha rhythms occurred during the observation of advertisements that were judged pleasant when compared with the others. Both cognitive and emotional processing have been described by the Memorization (MI), Attention (AI) and Pleasantness Index (PI). The percentage of spontaneous recall is linearly correlated with the MI values (R2=0.68, p<0.01). In particular, when both MI and AI are below their average values the percentage of spontaneous recall (18%) is below average as well. This percentage is slightly increased (20%) when the AI exceeds the average threshold. The highest values of spontaneous recall correspond to MI values above average. In fact, in this case the percentage reaches the value of 33% when the AI is below average and the value of 41% when both MI and AI are above average. As to the PI, the de-synchronization of left alpha frontal activity is positively correlated with judgments of high pleasantness. In addition, the heart rate activity elicited during the observation of the TV commercials that were remembered or judged pleasant is higher than the activity during the observation of commercials that will be forgotten or were judged unpleasant.


    The results underline that properties of the EEG rhythms, collected during the observation of TV advertisements, are linked with the overt preferences of the observers in terms of cognition and emotion. They can be used to generate metrics that automatically point to parts of the examined commercials that are congruent from the emotional and the cognitive point of view. This information could be used a posteriori to redraw the advertisement in order to highlight the pleasant frames while suppressing the unpleasant ones. Finally, these tools allow the cognitive and emotional processes dynamics tobe analyzed.

    Final Thoughts

    From the marketing researcher’s point of view, there is the hope that these brain-imaging techniques will provide an efficient trade-off between the costs and benefits of the research. Improving the quality of the marketing messages will enable industries to waste less money in the production of ineffective or inappropriate advertisements and help them to better match the demands of people related to the products being advertised. The use of neuroimaging tools in the evaluation of the commercial ads will help to reduce the amount of money that is wasted in the advertising industry.

    Contact information: Giovanni Vecchiato /

    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing yearbook of last year. Click hereto order the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. (The yearbook is included in diverse NMSBA membership plans, review here

  • October 20, 2015 13:25 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    Author: Life&Brain and Siegfried Voegele Institute

    An important and costly issue for marketers is the placement of TV ads. Longer commercials might have a stronger impact on consumers, but are also more costly. Methods that might help to decide whether a shorter version creates the same impact would be very helpful. In this study we investigated how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be applied to the analysis of TV commercials in addition to eye-tracking.

    Our study was performed on a 1.5 Tesla MRI (Siemens Avanto). The commercial was presented to the subjects via video goggles and soundproof headphones. Response Grips were used to record the behavior of the subjects. In order to gain a more complete picture of the performance and impact of the commercial we used eye-tracking in addition to the fMRI measurement. The subject of the investigation was a commercial for Deutsche Post - DHL . It ran nationwide to advertise the launch of the E-Postbrief . The E-Postbrief is a service of sending and receiving emails with high safety standards. Users can also have their e-mail delivered by a classic, postal mail service. 

    The examined commercial was aired in two different versions which differed in length. The short version corresponded exactly to the last 30 seconds of the long one, which had a length of 50 seconds. Since we wanted to investigate how the perception of the two versions differed, we divided the total of 38 subjects randomly into two equal groups: Group long vs. Group short. Both groups only watched one of the two versions. In the first 20 seconds of the long version a suggestive atmosphere was used to illustrate the dangers of the internet. In accordance with this intention, the atmosphere of this part can be characterized as dark, sleazy, cluttered, loud, hectic, confusing, dubious and futuristic. 

    In the subsequent 30 seconds the commercial showed how the E-Postbrief can help customers to address these problems. In contrast to the first part the atmosphere here was bright, idyllic, clear, calm, tranquil, friendly and familiar. 

    Subjective Ratings
    During the presentation of the commercial, subjects were asked about different attitudes towards the ad. 18.75 % of Group long subjects described the commercial as “threatening”, whereas in Group short no one agreed with this statement, as intended by the creators of this commercial.

    Using an eye-tracker, we investigated the perception of the two versions. We defined areas of interest (AOI) and compared the average dwell times between the two groups.

    We found that subjects of Group long looked (significantly) longer at all marketing-related AOIs (e.g.:

    slogan, logo, product features, etc.) than subjects of the other group. Subsequent analyses showed that the longer dwell time had no positive effect on the impact though, i.e. neither on recall of the information nor on the rating of the commercial.

    In order to compare the two groups with each other, we focused on the last 30 seconds of the long version. As already stated, those exactly match the short version. The only difference between the two groups therefore was that subjects of Group long had additionally seen the threatening atmosphere in the first part of the commercial. 

    Contrasting the activation patterns of both groups revealed stronger activity in the insula for subjects of Group long as compared with Group short. This brain region, among others, is associated with aversive emotional arousal. As this part of the commercial was completely identical for both groups only the first part of the commercial could be responsible for this activity.

    The threatening atmosphere in the first part of the commercial seems to affect the neural processing and perception of the second part, i.e. there seems to be a hangover effect of the threatening atmosphere, which cannot be completely resolved by the positive atmosphere of the second part. Subjects of Group long were still dealing with the negative emotions that had been triggered by the first part while watching the second. Without the use of fMRI these effects would have remained hidden from us. According to the available data the idea to arouse potential customers in the first part and then offer a solution in the second does not seem suitable to present the product in the desired manner. The positive atmosphere of the second part - which should rather be linked to the product and the brand - is instead dominated by the negative emotions evoked in the first part. 

    Final Thoughts
    In many commercials companies attempt to fan fear in order to motivate potential customers to purchase certain products and services. This strategy still enjoys great popularity among banks and insurance companies. Many marketers disregard the fact that our brain gives more weight to negative information than to positive. The reason for this difference in treatment is evolutionarily grounded and an important part of human survival strategy. 

    How the aversive emotions affect the perception of the product and brand on the long run was not the subject of this study and requires further investigation. 

    Contact Information
    Joined work between “Life&Brain” and “Siegfried Voegele Institute – International company for dialog marketing”

    Contact Persons:
    Professor Dr. Bernd Weber /
    Dr. Chrisian Holst: Holst /

    This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing yearbook of last year. Click here to order the Neuromarketing Yearbook 2015. (The yearbook is included in diverse NMSBA membership plans, review here)

  • September 22, 2015 13:06 | Simone Oude Luttikhuis

    Author: EigenWijze Marketing

    Testing Estelle online campaign for Courlux

    We were asked to optimize the conversions by applying neuromarketing techniques and psychological insights. The case in question was an online campaign for women’s razors. The conversion in this case was the request to test a women’s razor by filling in an order form. Our customer was curious about the effect of persuasion techniques.


    In this campaign we wanted to be more responsive to emotions. Triggering emotion is crucial if a subject is to be prompted to take action. When women shave, they prefer to do this in a clean and fresh environment. The bathroom used in the original design looked dull and grimy, and did not give a particularly hygienic impression. In addition, the bold colors of the letters used in the ad had a cheap appearance. We gave the design a more friendly and feminine appeal and added a greater sense of experience. We also provided the “What’s in it for me” aspect by asking the question “Are your legs ready for summer?” We always see things from our own perspective, so it’s important to formulate a proposition from their advantage. This has the greatest effect of triggering the customer.

    Priming elements were also added such as droplets of water in the header, beach sand at the bottom, flip-flops and a map to conjure up a true holiday feeling. When a woman walks along a beach or wears flip-flops, she usually has bare legs or bare feet, so it is vital that her legs are perfectly smooth. The USP buttons were also changed into droplets of water and the text was made more specific. The colors applied in the design were fresher looking, more feminine and less blatant. The online neuromarketer reported all this advice, which the art director then translated into a visual design.


    The proposed neurovariant achieved a 36.6% higher conversion than the original version. This was an extremely positive result, and our work on this project was highly appreciated by the customer. We are currently optimizing more campaigns for the same customer, and are performing projects for many other enthusiastic companies.


    Provoking the right emotion in the target group is essential. It is therefore crucial to know who your target group is and what kind of experience you want to create. An essential factor in this respect is elements that are not consciously perceived.

    Final Thoughts

    Dare to go beyond traditional marketing tools and never underestimate the power of the unconscious brain!

    Contact Information
    Eigen&Wijze Internetmarketing
    The Netherlands
    Contact Person: Linda Oosterveld,

    Want to learn more about online persuasion? Visit the Shopper Brain Conference on October 15-16 in Amsterdam!

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