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Neuromarketing Applications

Bayle-Tourtoulou and Badoc explain the applications of neuro-marketing

In the second part of this 2-part series, Neuromarketing in Action authors discuss its applications.

The applications of neuro-marketing and sensory marketing are growing significantly in some areas such as improving communication, the search for new behavioural segmentations for consumers, the creation of sensory brands, sensory marketing in retail, sales force efficiency…

Neuro-marketing to improve communication.

Every year, firms spend huge amounts on advertising, with growing doubts among top management as to how effective and profitable these expenses might actually be. In the US, there has been a significant rise in MRI or EEG (Electroencephalography) based studies to check the actual impact of high-budget communication campaigns on customers. Professor A.K. Pradeep (1), founder and CEO of NeuroFocus Inc, one of the leading companies worldwide offering the use of neuroscience in marketing studies, claims that based on his company’s research, he is able to predict whether or not an advertising campaign will be successful. He carries out a number of observations on the brain and studies the reactions to the presentation of a campaign. He pays particular attention to the stimulation, or absence thereof, of some specific areas of the brain: those dedicated to attention, emotional involvement, memorization, interest, novelty perception, intention to buy… According to the obtained results, experts offer advice aimed at improving the campaign’s content. A large number of leading companies have used neuro-marketing companies. In an interesting article on the subject published in the French newspaper Libération Economie, journalist Patrick Cappeli mentions the following brands: Microsoft, Intel, Google, McDonald’s, Facebook, Disney, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Hyundaï… As for NeuroFocus, they were taken over by Nielsen, one of the leading marketing study firms, which hints at genuinely high levels of interest in this new discipline. Following in the US’ footsteps, the number of experts or firms offering neuro-marketing studies is growing rapidly in Europe and Asia.

On top of advertising, neuro-marketing studies can also prove useful to improve e-communication and m-communication. They are frequently applied to improve the user-friendliness of Internet sites, blogs… The same is true for the creation of viral films aimed at social or community networks.

These firms do not systematically use costly procedures requiring MRI and electroencephalography.

Some less costly techniques such as ergonomic diagnostics, practiced by expert cogniticians, telemetry or eye tracking… have also proven very effective.

Knowledge of the brain to perfect customer behavioural segmentation.

Departments dedicated to marketing studies have been eying behavioural segmentation for quite some time. Every day we find out more about how the brain works, thanks to breakthroughs in neuroscience. This makes it possible to consider new forms of segmentation, taking into account how the brain is made up and reacts in time, space or according to the interlocutor’s gender… Neuromarketing experts are interested in “neuro-compatible” (2) segmentations. They take a variety of criteria into account: brain formation maturity (reptilian, limbic, neo-cortex...); the profound differences between the structure of the male and female brain; the age of the brain (between 45 and 55 years old, information treatment slows down by 15%); resistance to stress, depending on whether the subject is a “stress lover” or a “stress avoider”; the personality of the customer’s brain using information and studies contained in CRM (customer relationship management); the level of emotional intelligence of a population; the existence of sensorial communities linked for example to some types of music...

As with any other neuro-marketing related aspect, all of these studies must be surrounded by thorough legal, ethical and deontological precautions. This is all the more true if the company uses the considerable data bases about its customers stored in its CRM or "Big Data" system.

Creation of sensory brands.

One should not confuse brands and notoriety, although this does sometimes occur. Creating a truly attractive brand is no easy task. To do so, the brand should convey the impression that it does not merely offer something but that it aims to help you experience something. It should produce enough affection to make consumers come to its points of sale, buy its products, listen to its communication. Consumers do it not only because they like the product, but also because they feel an affective emotion for this brand, and wish to belong to a community of people who enjoy the brand. To develop loyalty among customers and become indispensible, brands are resorting to sensory marketing on an increasingly frequent basis.

It makes it possible to multiply the brain’s emotional connections with the brand and endow it with an affective personality.

It seeks to create an original and emotional story around it, which could be told within the community and create a bond between supporters of the brand. Its history - told in the form of genuine or invented sagas – invites believers to become part of the story and share the feelings and values that the brand wishes to convey as well as its secrets and mysteries. Coca-Cola promotes the story of its creator, Asa Candler and has kept its formula secret; Apple bases itself on the sense of innovation surrounding the myth of founder Steve Jobs; more simply, French bank Crédit Mutuel, “The bank that belongs to its customers”, includes itself in the generational relationships of a lovely family, even managing to get Tobie, the family dog, on its side.

Beyond sight, all the customer’s senses are called into play to encourage brand affection and memorization. The symbol of the brand, reflected in the visual logo, is also complemented with an auditory, an olfactory, a tactile “logo”…

Sound can create or transfer the affective and encourage memorization. In the field of insurance, the choice by French firm MAAF to use a famous song in their communication probably contributes to transfer to the brand some level of emotive affection and improve its memorization. Many companies have opted for a recognizable auditory logo: SFR, Starbucks, Nespresso, Yves Rocher, Orange, SNCF, Carglass…

As for smell, which is received by the brain in an area close to where memory is located, it offers brands greater resistance to the passing of time. This is why sensory marketing advises some hotel chains, clothes shops, cosmetics shops… to opt for an olfactory identity, sometimes associated with a tactile one. This seems true in some hotels of the Méridien or Accor groups, as well as at retailers Antoine & Lilli or in Decléor aromatherapy shops…

The sensory policy of a brand transforms the customer’s experience into emotional and affective dependency, as it creates harmony between the different senses that come into play, which experts call sense congruity. All sensory effects emanating from the five senses seek to correspond to the positioning chosen by the brand. To convey the image of a calm, rational, relaxing brand, the choice of pastel colours would be recommended: pink, blue, green, celadon… combined with slow music… and the diffusion of relaxing fragrances: vanilla, lavender, rose, orange, sandalwood… This sense congruity is also true – either coincidental or voluntary – in outlets such as Nature et Découvertes or Abercrombie & Fitch, which is one of the most popular brands with teenagers.

More and more international brands are turning to sensory marketing. It offers an effective tool to companies striving to develop a genuine, attractive brand for themselves, rather than mere awareness.

Sensory marketing in retail.

Faced with the development of the Internet and the increasing transfers of sales from the physical to the virtual and interactive world, points of sale are obliged to evolve if they do not wish to disappear. Therefore, they seek to create a soul for themselves which could justify visits from customers and encourage them to come to their shops. They use an asset that the Internet is not capable of offering, which is the ability to work on, and satisfy, the customer’s five senses. By increasing the pleasure felt by all the different senses, sensory marketing helps increase visit durations, stay attentive to any advice offered and thereby creates better conditions for additional purchases.

The brain’s lobes are the receptacles for the centres responsible for senses. With direct access to the brain, senses contribute through the emotions they convey - according to Antonio Damasio’s hypothesis (3) – to the decision-making process. This is the “somatic marker” theory. All our past sensory experiences are recorded in our brain and reactivated whenever our senses are confronted with similar stimuli. This was famously described by Proust in the madeleine episode (4), in which the character is transported back to a pleasant childhood moment thanks to a simple fragrance. This automatic process can happen unconsciously (this is referred to as intuition) or through the conscious activation of one’s senses. It is therefore possible at points of sale to offer the brain calculated impressions aimed at placing customers in a good disposition regarding listening or purchasing. Large retailers use the effects of sensory marketing on a relatively big scale. One can notice, for example, the fragrance of baby powder in the childcare section, of sun cream in the swimming suit section, the sound of seagulls, associated with the smell of the sea, to offer an impression of freshness at the fish stand of one large food retailer… These organized stimulations of our senses are by no means innocent. They can lead to a significant increase in purchases, in some cases by as much as 30%.

To regain their competitive edge against e-marketing and m-marketing competitors, points of sale are progressively turning into sensory spaces where consumers go not only to purchase, but because they enjoy it. This sensory appeal is organised around a new conception of the role of staff in services companies. Greater emphasis is laid on greeting and advice. The goal is for customers to experience genuine pleasure through them. Methods and techniques stemming from neuro-marketing and sensory marketing are also employed to satisfy the customers’ every senses, as is the case in the case of Nature et Découvertes mentioned above.

Sales force efficiency reinforced by neuro-marketing.

In many sectors of activity, successful companies use their knowledge of how the brain works – the salespeople’s and customers’ alike - to improve the sales process. Advice and training courses drawing directly from the principles, methods and techniques of neuro-marketing are offered by experts in “intelligence ergonomy”. Several concrete applications are becoming increasingly popular in the US and in Europe. As an example, we could mention the method created by neurosurgeon Patrick Georges and his partners at “Net –Research” in Europe, and that developed by Patrick Renvoisé and Chritophe Morin in the US.

After carrying out an ergonomic appraisal of the sales force’s work methods, professor Patrick Georges (2) presents a set of techniques making it possible to decode the way the customer’s brain as well as the salesperson’s work in a sales situation. After this assessment, he offers “neuro-compatible” tools aimed at improving sales. Interesting applications have been developed for “key account” salespeople in pharmaceutical, telecommunications, Internet, telephone companies… Professor George and his teams offer a complete “Top Ten Sales” programme aimed at perfecting the performance of the sales teams. During the programme, the following topics are addressed: What goes on in the brain of a customer in front of a salesperson? What goes on in the salesperson’s as he is selling? How to have an impact on the customer’s memory? How to dress and behave in the presence of the customer? What mental exercises should the salespeople do to prepare themselves? How to influence the decision to buy...?

Patrick Renvoisé and Christophe Morin, who were genuine precursors, invented a method (5) designed to respond to the way their customers’ « reptilian brain » worked. Salespeople undergoing training learn to follow a process linked to this method, which we will describe briefly below.

Step 1 - Egocentricity of the brain: The first step consists in diagnosing the frustrations of the interlocutor(s), be they of a financial, strategic, personal nature… Assess their origin, intensity, urgency…

Step 2 - Attraction of the brain for contrast and novelty: Here, the goal is to highlight the singularity, the originality and novelty of the offer.

Step 3 - Interest of the brain in tangibility: Talking about the value of an offer is not enough to convince the brain. It is essential to demonstrate its financial, qualitative, strategic or personal gains through concrete examples. Therefore, it is important to resort to customer accounts or concrete data proving its efficiency to win over the brain.

Step 4 - Emotiveness of the brain: In this last stage, salespeople learn to use brain attention sensory sensors (fear, stories, visuals, repetitions…) and involve the customers’ egocentrism, placing them at the centre of the debate, including them in the demonstration, using “you” rather than “we”.


In her book « L’Obscure Lumière des Sages », philosopher Sophie Perenne (6) writes “only those who expose themselves to the wind discover unknown places.” Following the wind of interactivity and social networks, companies are beginning to feel the breeze of neuro-marketing and sensory marketing. They should consider this light wind as a warning of the need to prepare for the inescapable emergence of these new approaches and techniques in their environment. Visionary management teams have already grasped this need and are taking steps to guarantee that their management is ready for the advent of these techniques in tomorrow’s marketing, while taking all the necessary legal, ethical and deontological steps.

Quoted Bibliography.

(1) Pradeep, A.K. (2010), The Buying Brain – Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Brain,

Wisley Ed.

(2) Georges, G, Bayle-Tourtoulou, A.S. and Badoc, M (2014), Neuromarketing In Action- How to

Talk and Sell to the Brain, Kogan Page.

(3) Damasio, A (2005), Descartes’ Error, Penguin, New York.

(4) Proust, M (2003), In Search of Lost Time, Proust Complete, Modern Library, New York.

(5) Renvoisé, P and Morin, C (2002), Selling to the Old Brain, SalesBrain, San Francisco, CA

(6) Perenne (2006), L’Obscure Lumière des Sages, Ed. Accarias/L’Originel.

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