How Neuroscience Can Reveal What a Consumer Really Wants

How neuroscience can show what a consumer really wants

Neuroscience in marketing has gained popularity over the last decade. This approach is based on understanding how consumers think. Studies show that 95% of thinking occurs in our subconscious minds and people use conscious thought to rationalize behavior.

liquid in the form of a brain


Neuroscience is a very complex and advanced study of the nervous system. It denotes the study of brain disorders and their effect on cognition, emotion, and behavior. It has many branches. But, for the study of consumer behavior, we deal with “cognitive neuroscience” and   “affective neuroscience.”  Cognitive neuroscience describes the scientific research of biological aspects of cognition like attention, thinking, memory, and problem-solving and affective neuroscience is the study of the brain based on emotions and feelings. 

Cognitive neuroscience and affective neuroscience together imply “consumer neuroscience.” When neuroscience meets marketing for consumers, we call it neuromarketing. Neuromarketing connects neuroscience and marketing strategy to unlock the psychology behind consumer behavior.

Neuromarketing aims to measure marketing and advertising’s impact on customers and capture customers’ responses to marketing materials. Neuroscience techniques like eye-tracking, facial coding, skin conductance,  Magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI), and electroencephalography (EEG) are used to measure people’s indirect responses to marketing strategies and brands.

Sign reading "use your brain"

Why do we Need Neuroscience?

Neuroscience offers new possibilities for market research and leads to real-world marketing success. With neuroscience, we can predict real-time customer needs. These needs cannot be predicted using methodologies like surveys, questionnaires, interviews, group discussions, or focus groups.

The main reasons why neuroscience is successful are:

  • There is a gap between what customers say and what they do. 
  • Customers might not be aware of their subconscious drivers.
  • Sometimes hiding the truth and not wanting to show our genuine emotions can also hinder getting accurate results.
  • We don’t always give real answers in surveys and questionnaires, which can lead to corrupted data. 

Quote about neuroscience

Where is Neuroscience Used?

There are six major areas where we use neuroscience to understand consumers’ brains in marketing.


Branding has the power to connect companies to their audiences. Neuroscience helps measure brand associations and growth. Evaluating how consumers feel about a brand must be understood at the subconscious level using neuromarketing.

Product Design and Innovation

It is tough to articulate what consumers want from products and services. Neuroscientific methods can help measure consumers’ automatic, emotional, and subconscious responses to various products. Neural research has led to many innovative ideas for some of the world’s most popular product designs.


Many advertising campaigns impact the human brain through nonconscious means. TV advertisements or online ads significantly impact the human mind and create an image of the product. 


Companies focus on packaging more and more these days and packaging also impacts us subconsciously. How a product looks and feels is very important during the buying process. 

Shopper Decision Making

Neuroscience can help calculate how a store’s environment directly influences the shopper’s decision to buy a product or not. This setting refers to the store’s colors, the products’ packaging, and even their arrangement on the shelves. All of this can subconsciously impact a consumer’s thought process. 

Online Experiences

The online world provides new challenges for our brains. There are so many online shopping strategies to weed through and neuroscience can help make this process easier.

The three key metrics of neuroscience

Key Metrics of Neuroscience

The three key metrics of neuroscience include attention, emotion, and memory. 


Attention is one of the key metrics to measure consumer focus. It’s essential to understand which parts of an event capture attention, and when attention wanes. Humans are prone to lose attention in a fraction of a second.


Emotion is the most critical aspect of both human behavior and research. Emotions drive our decision-making and are notoriously difficult to measure. 


The memory metric measures both short-term and long-term memory storage. A consumer can recall a memory of a product from their childhood or build a new memory with a new brand right away. 

Graphic showing the two sides of the brain

How to Hack the Consumer’s Brain Using Neuroscience

With neuroscience, the face of marketing has changed. The companies that have embraced this new way of thinking about consumer behavior and branding push ahead of their competitors.

There are three keys to hacking the consumer’s brain:

Truly Understand the Human Mind

There are two parallel circuits in our mind. One is the ‘thinking mind,’ and the other is the ‘doing mind.’

A lot of processes run in the mind subconsciously without us being aware of them. The person’s non-conscious mind (or ‘doing’ mind) is driven by memories of past sensory stimuli (such as ads, purchase and consumption experiences, word-of-mouth, etc.), emotions, stereotypes, associations, visual images, spontaneous behavior (such as an impulse or habitual buying), intuition, non-verbal communications and more. The non-conscious ‘doing’ mind makes 95% of brain activity and purchase decisions. The doing mind is fast and can think of multiple things at one time.

In comparison, the ‘thinking’ mind is driven by working memory to process verbal messages, evaluate the cost-benefit of options, and plan ahead (e.g., preparing a supermarket shopping list). The thinking mind works when consumers respond to surveys, interviews, and group discussions and explain why they do the things they do. The thinking mind works slow and thinks about one task at a time.

Successful marketers target the ‘doing’ mind because it drives most of the purchase decisions. 

In comparison, consumers’ likelihood of buying your new product based on group discussions or interviews is much lower. Consumers simply don’t know what they will do. This is one reason why 85% of new products fail, despite having been researched in group discussions and surveys.

Create Great Neuro Content

Creating great Neuro Content means crafting your content with neuromarketing in mind. Neuro Content includes verbal cues, visuals, and information, as well as marketing research and strategy.

Marketers need to use Neuro Content to appeal to their consumers’ emotions, sense of humor, empathy, and memory. This kind of content creates a much more significant impact and can leave a lasting impression on the doing mind. 

Shape Consumer’s Memory

For marketing success, the marketer needs to develop an emotionally-strong product and brand memory and link it to their customers’ goals. We all see so much content every day and the content that sticks are the pieces that we associate with our memories. 

Memory refers to learning that has been stored and can be retrieved when required. The consumer relies on these memories for any product experience and keeps updating this information after making decisions in real-time.

A consumer’s decision-making process includes the following steps:

Consumer decision-making process

Applying neuroscience insights in marketing makes it possible to establish your brand image in the consumer’s mind. 


More and more brands are using neuroscience to improve their marketing efforts. Many companies, such as Hyundai, Google, eBay, Yahoo, Facebook, and Coca-Cola, are using this science in real-time to drive brand awareness and sales.

Neuroscience is here to stay and can also help consumers better understand their buying decision process. Companies and consumers are both getting smarter with the help of these advancing technologies. 

Skip to content