How Neuroscience Can Strengthen Marketing Campaigns In 2019

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How Neuroscience Can Strengthen Marketing Campaigns In 2019

By Jessica Hawthorne-Castro (YPO Los Angeles)

Original Publication: YPO.Org

Marketing has always relied on tapping into the consumer’s subconscious — how they think, what they do, and why they make certain decisions. The ways of answering these questions, however, have grown more sophisticated over time thanks to advancements in science and technology.

Where marketers used to rely on observation, focus groups and intuition, they now look to insights from data analytics and research to shape their strategies. This shift, combined with the overwhelming amount of content consumers are confronted with in their daily lives, is why neuroscience is becoming more important than ever.

Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.


People today are overexposed to content. They have an overwhelming amount of choices for where to spend their time in terms of media, apps, channels and services. The average American navigates between multiple screens and is active on social media, which means they are surrounded by noise. While all this digital engagement creates marketing opportunities, it also makes it much harder to break through.

Neuroscience, which is all about understanding human behavior and mental function, can help marketers overcome these challenges and create campaigns that stick. The Association of National Advertisers defines consumer neuroscience as the practice of integrating “nonconscious measures to capture responses moment by moment, offering a more complete view of the consumer.” Or in the words of Uma R. Karmarkar, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, “neuroscience can help us understand those hidden elements of the decision process,” such as why people assign value to certain things or what factors influence them and why.

Neuroscience aims to go beyond figuring out what people want or like and dives into the underlying forces that shape consumer decision-making. These deeper insights can lead to more effective campaigns.


Neuroscience has always had relevance for marketers, but its role has grown in importance in today’s saturated media environment. Estimates of how many brand messages the average consumer sees in a day vary wildly, from 4,000 to 10,000. On either side of the spectrum, that’s a lot of messages.

And brands aren’t only competing with each other, but also with all the content (branded or otherwise) people see on social media and share themselves. Add in circumstances, like election season or the holidays, and the competition is fierce. In 2019, marketers have to target consumers and deliver messages in a brief but compelling way that resonates deeply and can help them stand out.

One example of a simple yet powerful neuroscience technique is acoustic encoding. Human brains prefer to take the path of least resistance when processing information. The easier something is for us to grasp, the more readily we believe it and the more tenaciously we’ll hold onto it. Using sounds in ads that rhyme and repeat make them stickier.

Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.
A similar principle is true for images. The developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina has done research that found humans are likely to remember just 10 percent of a piece of written information three days later, whereas including a relevant image boosts that figure to about 65 percent. That’s a huge jump. Visuals can serve as a shortcut and eliminate a step from the recall process, while also reinforcing meaning.


Other neuroscience techniques draw on human behaviors. For instance, people have a “pessimism bias” thanks to evolution. Our ancestors had to be pessimistic because it helped them survive and vestiges of that instinct remain. Marketers can leverage this aspect of neuroscience to promote their brand by emphasizing how a certain product or service can help consumers avoid a bad outcome.

Social validation is another powerful motivator. Research into neuroscience shows that humans have an innate need to fit in with a group and seek the validation of our peers. When making decisions, we are comforted by knowing that others have made a similar decision and were satisfied with the results. This is why testimonials can have such a significant effect. Testimonials are hardly a new technique, but neuroscience reveals exactly how and why testimonials work; that knowledge can empower marketers to use them more strategically.

In 2019, the media landscape is only going to get more crowded and competitive. Brands are going to have to think out of the box and integrate cutting-edge techniques into their campaigns if they want their messages to break through. Neuromarketing has never been a more important tool in campaigns or branding to deeply resonate with customers and create a more personalized experience.

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