Brain Sell — How psychology and neuroscience help marketers to influence consumers‘ purchasing behaviour

1.      Introduction

Everything changes: Production has changed, markets have changed, but there has not been a significant overall change in the way how we conduct marketing within the last few decades. According to the renowned American marketing expert Philip Kotler there are still too many companies relying on ‘old’ marketing.

Kotler stresses the importance of undergoing a ‘revolution’ for the marketing industry and calls the current state ‘embarrassing’.[1]

Zaltman, a pioneer and well-respected expert in the field of neuromarketing advocates that the reason why almost 80 per cent of all newly introduced products still fail (even though they had passed intensive testing and research) within six months after being introduced into the market lies in the fact that most of the methods applied in marketing research and testing are ineffective and do not take into account state-of-the-art knowledge.[2]

Zaltman concludes: ‘Believe it or not, the reasons for failure boil down to a common, deceptively simple truth: Too many marketers don’t understand how their own and their consumers’ minds interact.’[3]

This paper presents and discusses some of the latest findings in the fields of consumer behaviour and neuromarketing—about how consumers think and about how marketing needs to be carried out in order to be successful.

Antonio Damasio, a leading scholar in neuroscience states that ‘more may have been learned about the brain and the mind in the 1990s—the so-called decade of the brain—than during the entire previous history of psychology and neuroscience.’[4]

In the following, the fields of neuromarketing and consumer behaviour will be introduced and subsequently some important findings are presented, which shall help us better understand consumers and optimise the way we market our products.

2.      Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is a relatively new discipline in the academic spectrum of fields. Towards the end of the 1990s, Gerald Zaltman, Professor of Business Administration (now Emeritus) at Harvard Business School, was the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to conduct marketing research.[5]

The term neuromarketing was only coined in 2002 by Ale Smidts, Professor of Marketing Research at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, and the first neuromarketing conference was held in 2004 at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.[6]

Neuromarketing is a branch of neuroeconomics, an interdisciplinary field of study integrating disciplines like molecular biology, evolutionary biology, cell biology, neurophysiology, cognitive neuropsychology, as well as traditional psychology.[7] This interdisciplinary approach enables researchers to dig deeper into our minds, localise the origins of our thoughts and feelings, and, in the end, to better understand them.[8]

Common methods in relevant neuroscientific research are the usage of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), both colloquially referred to as brain scanners since both methods are employed to obtain three-dimensional images of the brain showing which of its parts are active at any given time.[9]

The main purpose of neuromarketing is to find out how decisions are made and what really is the driving force behind our behaviour in different situations.[10]

Ultimately, the purpose of neuromarketing is, besides others, to turn consumers into buyers and to manifest brands in their brains.[11]


3.      Consumer Behaviour

Consumer behaviour is dedicated to explaining the behaviour of individuals acting as consumers. The field of consumer behaviour has its origin in the 1950s, when shrewd marketers realised that they could better sell their products knowing what the customers really want. This thinking was first introduced through the new concept of market pull instead of the former concept of technology push.

The following graph illustrates the two concepts: The staring point for the concept of technology push is research and development (i.e. one concentrates on what is technically feasible), and not whether there is a genuine need for a specific product whereas the concept of market pull first endeavours to find out what the target market wants and develops the product accordingly.[12]

According to Sandhusen, consumer behaviour is especially concerned with finding out ‘when, why, how, and where people do or do not buy products.’[13]

Like neuromarketing, consumer behaviour is an interdisciplinary field of study. It combines knowledge and methods from psychology, sociology, social psychology, and economics.[14] A thorough understanding of how decisions are made in the consumers’ minds enables marketers to better address consumers based on their needs and to more successfully market their products.ibd

Consumer behaviour relies on quantitative as well as qualitative research methods.

In quantitative research, consumer behaviour e.g. relies on statistical data about the target market (like demographic data, spending behaviour, and size of the market).

In qualitative research, consumer behaviour employs research methods like (in-depth) interviews, focus groups, and questionnaires.[15]


4.       Findings and Implications of Neuromarketing and Consumer Behaviour

As we can see from the previous definitions of consumer behaviour and neuromarketing, consumer behaviour could be seen as a part of neuromarketing, or neuromarketing could be seen as a further development of consumer behaviour employing new methods, techniques, and incorporating new fields of study. Nevertheless, consumer behaviour remains an independent field focusing more on psychology and conservative methods of research (like questionnaires and focus groups).[16]

The following chapters are designed to present major findings that may change the way of how we conduct marketing, marketing research, and especially of how we design marketing campaigns.

In the following chapters, findings will be presented that are capable of questioning present-day views and concepts as well as the way we look at things and even how we see ourselves.


4.1.      Homo oeconomicus†

A lot of marketing research as well as many theories in marketing base on the assumption that people are rational maximisers and that purchasing decisions are based on a rational or cognitive evaluation of alternatives.[17]

The reason for this lies in the fact that people assume of themselves that they are making their decisions on rational bases. This is why the model of the homo oeconomicus had been created and it is also why it has been well accepted.[18]

However, in reality things are rather different. We are not the conscious people we think we are. We are not consciously making most of our decisions. In fact, most of them are prepared and even made subconsciously, without our knowing it.[19]

Raab proves the concept of the homo oeconomicus to be wrong by, besides others, referring to an experiment carried out by Guth et al. in 1992. $10 were given to a test subject, let us call him A. A had to share the amount with test subject B. However, he could freely decide on how much out of those $10 (from 1 cent up to the whole amount of $10) to give to B. If B accepted the deal, A and B would get the money. If B refused, both would come away empty-handed.

Now, if A and B decided in the way the model of the homo oeconomicus suggests, A would only give 1 cent to B, and B would accept. By that, both would maximise their utility in the best way possible.

However, one can easily imagine what happened in reality: If B felt he was treated unfairly, he did not accept and both did not receive any money. And in the same way, the different test subjects A tended to base their decisions on principles like fairness and morality anticipating test subjects B declining the offer if it was perceived to be unfair. Guth concludes referring to a quotation of Franzen and Bouwman: ‘When thinking conflicts with emotion, emotion wins.’[20]

Another example provides us with one more argument against the theory of the homo oeconomicus. Even people who really try to be wise in their purchasing decisions and try to live according to the principle of utility maximisation sometimes fall prey to (economically) irrational behaviour and even do not recognise it: Amos Tversky and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman proved that none of us is able to make decisions according to the utility maximisation principle at all times.[21]

Just imagine you are about to buy two things today, a new pen as well as a new suit. Now you are in the shop and have found the pen you want. Its price is $25. But suddenly you remember that the same pen is on offer in another shop, which is just 15 minutes away. Would you take the walk and buy the pen at the other shop?

Now imagine a second situation: You are about to buy the new suit. You have found a pinstripe suit for $455 and want to proceed to the pay desk when suddenly someone whispers into your ear that you could buy the same pinstripe suit for $448 in a shop that is just 15 minutes away.

Would you take the walk?

In the study of Tversky and Kahneman, most of the people interviewed would take the walk in the first situation, but not in the second situation. And why is that? In both cases one could save $7.

What most people do is that they try to see the money they save in relation to the price of the item they want to purchase. So in the first case, they could save 28% of the money, in the second case they could only safe some 1.5%.ibd, [22]

Even though this probably sounds reasonable to most of the people, we have to realise that in both cases we could save $7 and that in both cases there is a decision between a walk of 15 minutes and $7. Creating a relation between the amount we could save and the price we are about to spend is contradictory to the principles of the homo oeconomicus and not rational.[23]

And there is even more contradicting the belief that people decide rationally. Elger and Weber conducted a marketing research study with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In the experiment, people were shown products as well as the price for the product. Some of the products were cheap, others were overpriced. In addition, some of the products—regardless whether they were cheap or overpriced—had been marked with a discount tag.[24]

The researchers established that every time a discount tag was shown, the nucleus accumbens, i.e. the brain’s reward system, was activated whereas the gyrus cinguli, a part of the brain that shall prevent us from making irrational (purchasing) decisions, was deactivated.ibd

Similarly, Traindl states that pictures of babies and smilies (sometimes used at the point of sale) cause the brain to set free happiness hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are all capable of influencing our behaviour.[25]

So one major insight we have already gained from neuroscience is that there is no such thing as strictly rational decisions. Even if most of the people feel convinced that they are able to make decisions without emotions: In fact, no one can![26]

In line with this opinion, Heath expressly stated that humans are unable to make decisions on the basis of pure logic.[27]

Roth concludes that rationality is embedded in our affective and emotional framework of behaviour. The limbic system decides to what extend rationality and reason are used or activated.[28]

In 1994, Damasio could, underscoring the previous statement, prove that without emotions one even cannot make rational decisions by referring to the spectacular case of Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman in the 19th century. [29]

Gage’s emotional centre in the brain had been irreversibly destroyed due to an accident at which a crowbar penetrated his skull. After this incident, Gage was no longer able to make decisions according to the utility maximisation principle (this means, for instance, that he would not care continuing to invest in a company that is constantly making losses since he does not see a reason for changing his behaviour).ibd

So today, the prevailing opinion amongst neuroscientists is that not the prefrontal cortex, which hosts our working memory as well as our (higher) consciousness, is making the decisions for our purchases but especially the limbic system, which controls our emotions and which is as well, presumably, the origin of all our wishes.[30],[31]


4.2.      Thresholds in Perception

With effect from April 2009, a directive of the European Union has liberalised the rules for packaging in retailing. Manufacturers are now allowed to almost freely decide on the sizes of their packaging.[32]

This opens up new possibilities to marketers at the expenses of the consumers. The basis for maximising utility on the side of the manufacturers is often an exploitation of consumers’ lack of knowledge or lack of perception respectively.

Shrewd marketing experts know about perceptional thresholds.

The absolute threshold is the minimal requirement for people to consciously notice anything.[33] If during a film, for instance, an advertisement is shown for just a millisecond, nobody will consciously notice it since the stimulus falls below our absolute threshold.[34]

The differential threshold is the minimal difference between two sensations that can be noticed by a person. This is why it is also known as the just noticeable difference (j.n.d.).ibd People may, for instance, not be able to differentiate two different colours that are very similar to one another (e.g. if a shade of grey is slightly brighter than another one).

The concept of the differential threshold is closely linked to Weber’s law, named after German scientist Ernst Weber who discovered that ‘the stronger the initial stimulus, the greater the additional intensity needed for the second stimulus to be perceived as different.’[35]

In one of their studies, Goddard, an old-established manufacturer of fine polishes in the US, could establish that a polish giving a shine for 20 days now had to shine at least five days (i.e. one fourth) longer in order to be perceived by the majority of users as being improved.ibd,[36]

The same phenomenon applies for negative changes rendering consumers vulnerable to deceit: Reductions in product size / quantity may not be discernible to consumers. In the case of Langnese ice cream a reduction of the quantity sold could be carried out successfully without most of the consumers recognising it (more on that under chapter 5.1.4). The same is well conceivable for products like cereals or chocolate bars, as conducted e.g. by PepsiCo when they reduced the weight of a snack food bag from 14.5 ounces to 13.5 ounces leaving the price at $3.29).[37] By reducing the size, companies can reduce costs and (may) increase the frequency of buying. At any rate, they make consumers buy a now more expensive product (since the basic price of the product is higher).


4.3.      Brand Perception

The importance of emotions has already been stressed in this paper. Purely rational messages are not likely to greatly influence the target market. Simply speaking, without emotion, a campaign will fail.[38]

But what is the consequence and the goal of a successful marketing of a brand? How should the brand be perceived?


Brand Personality

Successful marketing of a brand should manage to create a brand with an own personality. Brands then are not just logos signalling their manufacturer, but they are saddled with emotions and are given characteristics or person-like traits.[39]


Brand Personification

Two outstanding examples for brands with a strong personality created through using a mascot are Bärenmarke and Charmin. Both brands use a bear to market their products. According to a survey conducted by the Nürnberg-based market research company Konzept & Analyse, the Bärenmarke bear is ranked number one amongst the most popular mascots in German TV advertising with the Charmin bear scoring second place.[40]                                                                                                                

And in fact, the bear is a good presenter and spokesperson since bears stand for many positive attributes like good nature, benevolence, reliability, dependability, and snugness.[41] And all these attributes shall be transferred to the brands. In the case of Bärenmarke and Charmin (as well as in the case of the Andrex whelp we will discuss in chapter 5.1.1) the success is apparent. But also the usage of fictional characters can be a success as the popularity of the M&M people (i.e. living M&M drops) proves.[42]

The deeper reason behind the personification of brands lies in the fact that people can only sympathise with brands that stand for something. And the more person-like a brand is the more people can associate the brands with themselves or with positive attributes.[43]


Colours and Brand Personality

Not only traits influence the way consumers perceive brands, but so do colours too. So Coca-Cola, for instance, is associated with the colour red, which connotes excitement. Premium and upscale products like the iPhone usually rely on black or metallic colours since it is known that they appeal to the dominance system.[44],[45]

The BahnCard in Germany is a good example for using different colours for differentiation. The standard BahnCard (for second-class travel) uses white and red whereas the BahnCard First (for fist-class travel) replaces red by grey. And if you belong to the very loyal customers and become a member of bahn.comfort, the BahnCard First is all grey (and partially slightly glittering).

The special thing about colours is that associations usually are subconscious ones. Colours demonstrably influence our perception of things without our being aware of it.[46]

The following chart illustrates the meanings / associations of the different colours with examples from the US:



When being responsible for international marketing campaigns, one has to be aware of the fact that associations and meanings of colours are culturally learnt and differ from culture to culture. So, for example, the meanings and associations of the colours black and white are partially the other way round in China.[47],[48]


4.3.2.   Country-of-Origin Effect and Foreign Branding

It is well known to marketing experts that with some products the country of origin plays an important role for the consumers since there are special associations for several countries. In the US, Volkswagen made use of the association of Germany with outstanding engineering in their Fahrvergnügen campaign (using this German word in the US), and Rover made use of this effect in order to convey the image of British sophistication in their ads.[49]

Knowing that a television set has been manufactured in Germany and another one in China, most consumers would buy the German one if both were sold at the same price—simply because Germany is associated with superior quality.ibd

Now, some companies exploit the positive associations of a country without coming from this country or being linked to it in any way. Häagen-Dazs is probably the best example. Where does the premium ice cream Häagen-Dazs come from? What do you think?

Most people are baffled like the author of this paper was himself when he learnt that Häagen-Dazs is not a Scandinavian but an American ice cream. Häagen-Dazs, in fact, was established in The Bronx, New York, in 1961 by two Polish immigrants. Its name is purely fictional, it does not have a meaning. But most of the people are unaware of this fact and still associate positive Scandinavian attributes with the brand, which has led to a great success for the brand—and Häagen-Dazs tries to make sure that this precious illusion is maintained.[50]

At this point, the author of this paper wants to admit that for quite a long time he had been buying Häagen-Dazs instead of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (whose taste he likes more) because he preferred the associations of a Scandinavian premium brand to the associations with a rural American brand (Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is marketed as an American product coming from a rural area [Burlington, Vermont]). After finding out the truth about Häagen-Dazs, the author’s purchasing behaviour has changed dramatically and he feels convinced that many more people are successfully deceived by Häagen-Dazs’s marketing strategy.

Besides, this effect may even be found if a place of origin is stated. When a German perfume brand was struggling, marketing expert Martin Lindstrom glanced at the bottle and recognised that Düsseldorf and Oberkochen were mentioned. After replacing those cities by cities many people dream of (in this case Paris, London, New York, and Rome), ‘sales shot up almost instantly.’[51],[52]

Lindstrom, by the way, advocates that most customers do not consciously recognise the cities indicated on the bottle but that only their subconscious notices them and automatically evokes related emotions making us crave for a product, or, if the emotions are negative, shun it.ibd


4.3.3.   Prices

Prices are also a great means and opportunity for differentiation. Contrary to the thinking based on the theory of the homo oeconomicus, people will often decide in favour of a more expensive product if they do not know which of the products is the better one (e.g. with regards to quality). In this case, people refer to the price as an indicator of quality.[53] Most of us are sometimes misled by the common thinking that a higher price signals superior quality. In many cases this may be true, but in other cases it is not more than a cool calculation of some crafty marketing expert.

A recently published test by the German consumer magazine Öko-Test has caused some outrage when they revealed that most of the expensive and well-known brands of toothpaste received the mark unsatisfactory and may even damage one’s health whereas cheap trade marks (like the ones of Lidl, Plus, or Schlecker) scored amongst the best.[54]

In order to gain more insight into how prices may influence our perception, researchers from Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology conducted an fMRI study. They asked volunteers to rank their enjoyment of wines. What the test persons did not know: Two of the wines were presented twice, one time normally priced and the other time with an expensive price tag.

When the wine was presented with an expensive price tag, one could observe an activation in the test persons’ medial orbitofrontal cortices, a part of the brain responsible for the perception of pleasure. This means that the test subjects perceived pleasure when seeing the supposedly expensive wine. Antonio Rangel, one of the researchers concludes: ‘We enjoy our purchases […] because we paid more.’[55]

For some products, an exceptionally high price is even a reason for people to buy the product. Thorstein Bunde Veblen discovered an effect that has later been named after him: the Veblen effect. In this case, the demand for a specific product rises when the price of the product is increased (i.e., in economic terms, consumers show an upward-sloping demand curve). Similarly, the demand for the product will fall if the prices were decreased.[56] The most common explanation for this interplay is conspicuous / ostentatious consumption, i.e. people buy things in order to demonstrate that they have enough money to buy it.[57]

The reason for this behaviour is likely to be based on the desire for recognition, acknowledgement, and status, and most commonly found in people with a strong dominance system[58]. Typical Veblen goods are diamonds, luxury cars, and luxury wristwatches.


4.4.      The Power of the Subconscious

Brain scans have shown that when drinking Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola and knowing which is which, memory-related areas in the brain are activated and the ‘choice’ which brand tastes better is subconsciously influenced. Conducting the well-known Pepsi Challenge, Pepsi-Cola and later researchers demonstrated that not knowing which one is Coca-Cola and which one is Pepsi-Cola, about two third of the people state that  Pepsi tastes better—but when knowing which brand they drink, suddenly the majority of the people states that they like Coca-Cola more.[59]

When knowing what they drank, besides others, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus were activated. Both of these areas possess the power of alternating behaviour ‘based on emotion and affect.’[60]

One important fact to know: Apparently, people actually think they like Coca-Cola more when they know what they are drinking. This, again, is clear evidence that, very often, we cannot explain our feelings and our resulting behaviour.ibd

Although this surely underpins the importance of the subconscious, in most of the research still conducted in marketing, the subconscious plays no or only a minor role.[61]

In the following we are going to further discuss the power of the subconscious.


4.4.1.   The Importance of Low Involvement Processing (LIP)

Still today, information overload is the often-heard and feared word. Some cite the Darwinian survival of the fittest and imply that advertising campaigns are the more effective the more attention they absorb from the target market.[62]

Many marketers still have the AIDA formula at the back of their mind thinking that advertising campaigns must gain people’s attention in order to be effective.ibd And so, many marketing campaigns are crying for attention—but they are crying for an exceptional state in the human mind: high involvement processing (HIP). High involvement processing means that an individual consciously processes and thinks of information.ibd

Whereas TV commercials are likely to be processed by our consciousness (i.e. through HIP) watched for the first time, they will only be processed by our subconscious (through LIP) when we see them for the second, third, etc. time. Whereas LIP is almost omnipresent, HIP accounts for only up to five per cent. ibd

In the end, our impression of the commercial will be rewritten over and over again by LIP, and the lasting image of the commercial will, in most cases, be shaped by our LIP.[63]

A very important discovery in this area by Zaltman was the so-called 95-5 split. According to the large majority of researchers, at least 95 per cent of our cognitive thinking processes are subconscious. Zaltman explains: ‘We process many inputs automatically, and we have no conscious idea of the vast amounts of data that are saved or discarded. But consciousness is supra automatic in that it is the mental attribute that allows us, occasionally at least, to transcend automatically.’[64]

Furthermore, if we refer to all sensory input, we have to realise that only a tiny amount of what is processed will become conscious (i.e. consciously perceptible), namely only 40 bit of 11,000,000 bit that pour into our heads thorough our five sense organs every single second.[65] This, however, does not mean that everything that is ‘only’ processed by LIP is lost. Quite the reverse: It affects us more than we think.

Before explaining this point further, the author highly recommends you to watch video 1 featuring Derren Brown enclosed in Appendix 1, which shows you very impressively how we are influenced by subconscious perception.[66]

As we can learn form the video, our brain constantly takes up information and learns new things without our being aware of it.[67] And in a similar manner, most of our purchasing decisions result from low involvement processing and are made subconsciously without our being aware of this fact.

One of the most important findings of neuromarketing is that the brain also processes advertisements even if we are not consciously aware of them; thus, as Scheier concludes, the fight for attention is mostly unnecessary. He advises advertisements should be unspectacular but geared to the target market’s motives[68],[69]

Stewart Shapiro conducted an experiment showing the power of subconscious processing for purchasing situations: Test subjects had to read a text on a computer screen and simultaneously follow the text with the cursor; this would ensure that their consciousness is totally focused on their task. During the experiment, advertisements were shown at the borders of the screen. The test subjects were unable to recall those advertisements (proving that they have not consciously been aware of them). Nevertheless, in a subsequent buying situation, products which had been advertised on the screen were bought significantly more often.[70]

At this point it is important to mention one fact that is unpleasant for most of us and may even cause psychological reactance: Even when we think that we want to buy something because it was our free volition and decision to do so, neuroscientists could prove that before a person perceives a volition, some parts in the brain have already been active before. Researchers have even discovered an area in the human brain that feigns us into thinking that it was our free decision to do something. By stimulating a certain area in the brain using electrical impulses, scientists can make a person extend his arm with the person later stating that it was his free will to do so, when in fact it was not.[71],[72]

Underpinning this finding, one experiment cited by Häusel states that toilet paper that omitted a special scent that is imperceptible to our consciousness was preferred over another one by 65 per cent of test subjects.

Asking those people why they have bought a certain brand instead of another, they are unable to give you the correct answer in almost all of the cases, but they will rationalise their purchasing decision afterwards.[73]

In his book The Illusion of Conscious Will, Daniel Wegner states: ‘It usually seems that we consciously will our voluntary actions, but this is an illusion.’[74]

To exemplify it for a last time, and this time a bit more plastic: Please look at the following graph. Which woman do you find most attractive?

About 70 per cent of men asked chose B. Why is that? Some of the test subjects stated it is because B is in the middle, others said, the contrast is different. In fact, all the pictures are the same, except for the waist to hip ratio, which is ‘optimised’ in picture B. This is recognised by our subconscious which lets us choose B without our consciousness knowing why.[75]


To come back to LIP and HIP and to sum it all up, the difference between high and low involvement processing is basically that with HIP, we are really thinking in a focused way and try to weigh the advantages and disadvantages or find a solution for a problem. Since this requires a lot of energy[76] and since our brain is trained to work in an efficient and economic way, HIP is very rare.[77]


LIP, on the other hand, occurs at almost all times, also during sleep. Imagine, for instance, you are walking through a crowded street. Whereas your subconscious recognises every face your eyes can see, your conscious will not. Most of the faces you will not be able to recall once they have vanished from your sight. If, however, you run into somebody you know, your subconscious will most probably activate your consciousness like it happens when you overhear your own name in a conversation between people you did not even listen to.


So in everyday life, LIP is omnipresent whereas HIP is mostly dormant. And if you are in a buying situation in which you do not perceive a risk (e.g. when buying everyday necessities like butter, sugar, or salt), the brains  of most people are simply reluctant to activate HIP and will choose the product as a result of LIP.


Knowing the key implication of this finding, marketers do not have to try hard to catch their target market’s attention and knowing that, as we have discussed in Chapter 4.1, the model of the homo oeconomicus is wrong, too, we will be able to later talk about the requirements of successful advertising campaigns.


There is, however, a final issue one should deal with in this chapter: One study is cited over and over again with regards to subliminal advertising. Probably most people who deal with marketing have heard of the so-called Vicary study named after James Vicary who allegedly conducted this study in the late 1950s. It is often stated that in a cinema, two commands, namely ‘eat popcorn’ and ‘drink Coca-Cola’ were shown only for a split second during the presentation of the film. It has been reported many times that this has led to an increase in sales for popcorn and Coca-Cola.[78]

Albeit according to what is stated in this chapter subliminal advertising can work under certain circumstances (for illustration, please refer to video 2 in Appendix 2[79]), the study, in fact, was just a hoax. In 1962, Vicary admitted that there had never been such a study and that he had just made it up in order to get publicity.[80]


4.4.2.   Cortical Relief


A lot of products seem to be interchangeable in terms of quality and are evaluated nearly the same in tests by institutions like the German Stiftung Warentest.[81] Thus, the brand itself becomes more and more important as an aid to orientation and is, in some cases, the only thing that makes a difference in the consumer’s mind.

If one’s favourite brand is available in the shelf of a supermarket, cortical relief takes place in the consumer’s brain.


Cortical relief manifests itself in shifting the activity of areas in the brain that are responsible for thinking to emotional areas. Thereby, the subconscious eases the decision which product to buy—in almost all the cases, the favourite brand will be bought with the person being deluded that he consciously decided to buy the product. The effect that only the favourite brand can trigger cortical relief has been coined the winner-takes-it-all effect.[82]


With this new finding one has to acknowledge that the concept of the so-called relevant set, also called evoked set has been falsified. In the brain, there is no ranking-like list of products. Instead, there is a first place for one brand, and all the other brands are way less significant.[83]


Knowing this, all marketing effort has to concentrate on positioning their brand as the top of the mind for a specific category of products.[84]


4.4.3.   Conditioning and Behavioural Learning


From psychology, researchers of consumer behaviour could learn about the importance of repetition and of combining several stimuli.


Classical Conditioning


Classical conditioning, first described by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, is the process of learning an association between two stimuli.

In his famous experiment, Pavlov always rang a  bell before serving food to his hungry dogs. After doing this for several times, the dogs began associating the sound of the bell (i.e. the conditioned stimulus) with food. As we know, dogs salivate when they are presented food they like. Now, the same happened when Pavlov rang the bell: The dogs began to salivate even when there was no food (salivation is the unconditioned stimulus, i.e. the reaction to the conditioned stimulus, which is called the conditioned response).[85]


One could now raise an objection to this by stating that humans are not comparable to dogs. However, as we know from psychology, classical conditioning is also possible with humans. This becomes apparent when we think of certain sounds that are able to evoke positive or negative feelings in us. For some of us (like the author), the jingle of German TV news Tagesschau may be able to evoke positive emotions. One reason for that may be that many people associate the jingle with being together with one’s family (this is, at least, the case for the author).


Another good example for conditioning is a police car approaching your car: Most experienced drivers do not begin to think what to do next but more or less automatically give way.[86]


Cognitive Associative Learning and Reinforcement


There is, however, one assumption of Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning that needs to be adjusted: Today, behavioural scientists advocate that the learning of the conditioned response is not learnt like a knee-jerk reaction (like some reflexes are), but that the learning takes place through cognitive associative learning. This, however, does not mean that the consciousness is involved in the learning. In the cases cited, the learning, for sure, takes place in the subconscious (without our being aware of it).[87]


The probably most important implication for marketing we can derive from the knowledge about conditioning is that consumers’ learning about a brand needs to be reinforced several times. The more often a person comes into contact with something he associates with a specific brand, the more often the neuronal network in his brain where the knowledge of the brand is stored, will be activated. Thereby, this network will become stronger, which means that the brand becomes more important to the consumer’s brain. Through that, brands may be able to become top of the mind (and may subsequently profit from the phenomenon of cortical relief).[88]


One company who is profiting a lot from this is Coca-Cola.
The company has managed to create a plethora of associations with its brand. Some of the most common associations with Coca-Cola are the colour red, Santa Claus, Christmas, Coca-Cola’s red trucks, and polar bears.[89]




The association of Santa Claus with Coca-Cola is even so strong that many people mistakenly believe that the modern image of Santa Claus has been created by Coca-Cola.[90]


4.5.      Motives


Some of the statements about influencing consumers previously made need to be limited by one very important point: Influencing through subconscious clues or codes will only work if marketers target existing motives in the target market’s mind, as will be explained in the following.

4.5.1.   Definition of Motives


Motive in the psychological sense of this paper can be defined as a purposeful desire to fulfil a need, or according to the definition of Schiffman and Kanuk, ‘Motivation is the driving force within individuals that impels them to action.’[91]


Motives spring from needs. Those can be categorised into innate needs (i.e. physiologic or biogenic needs like eating and drinking) and acquired needs (e.g. the need for status). The most well-known hierarchical categorisation of the different kinds of needs is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.



Basically Maslow arranged the needs in the form of a pyramid stating that it has to be read from the bottom to the top: First, the physiological needs need to be served, later the next level, afterwards the third level and so on.[92]


Now, in order to be successful, marketing campaigns need to address their target market’s motives and, hence, provide means to satisfy their needs. You will not be able to, for instance, successfully market a device whose sole purpose simply is to pollute the air since it does not address the consumers’ motives and does not serve any of their needs.[93]


One needs to recognise that every consumer has got his own mix of motives and needs. Nevertheless there are always homogenous groups that have similar needs in common.ibd


4.5.2.   Kinds of Motives


Basing on the Zürich Model of Social Motivation, Häusel differentiates three basic motivational systems that may serve as a starting point for segmentation:[94]


1. Balance


People with a strong balance system strive for safety, intimacy, closeness, and friendship. Their family is more important to them than to people with other dominating systems. Besides, they are more considerate, thoughtful, and supportive than the other two groups. In terms of neuroscience, anxiety and panic (hosted in the amygdala) are prevalent in their brain. Their typical car, according to Häusel, is a Volvo (standing for safety).

This system is most commonly the dominant one in women. ibd


2. Stimulation


People whose stimulation system is the dominant one are looking for the new, for change, and generally for stimulation. They enjoy going off in search of adventures and perceive less risk than the other two groups. They are outgoing, have a distinctive play instinct, like amusement parks, and their typical car is a BMW. The stimulation system also serves the figurative exumbilication.

This system is especially found to be the dominant one in teenagers and young people.ibd


3. Dominance


People whose dominance system also dominates their behaviour are striving for power, performance, and show a high need for recognition. They are the typical leaders. In terms of neuroscience, their rage system (also hosted in the amygdala) is highly activated.

In the Zürich model, the dominance system is called autonomy system with autonomy being the opposite of dependence, i.e. being controlled by other people. The feeling of being in control themselves is vital to them (this, by the way, is also the reason why many people are aviophobic—when flying, they are not in control; when driving themselves, they are in control[95]). Their typical car is an Audi.


At this point it is important to point out that there is not one system that dominates a specific person throughout his entire life, but those systems may change with time. So stimulation or dominance as the dominating system is largely found in teenagers whereas balance is most commonly found in elder people.


Now that we have discussed some basics about motives and needs, we shall proceed to the next important step and discuss how we can exploit this knowledge.

4.6.      Addressing Consumers / Segmentation


Segmentation is the process of finding and addressing the group of people called the target market, target group, or target audience.[96]


Thanks to neuroscience and psychology, today we have got a more sophisticated approach of doing so. It is largely agreed upon the fact that demographic segmentation taken alone is insufficient and should only be referred to as a second criterion.


The motivational systems discussed in the previous chapter can be used to identify one’s target market. An elaborated approach of doing so is the Limbic Types® described by Häusel in his book Brain Script.[97],[98]


There are, however, other things one has to take into account when thinking of how to address the right people the right way.


4.6.1.   Trait vs. State Products


Scheier and Held draw a distinction between trait and state products.




Trait Products


Trait products are subsequently defined as products that are suitable for underpinning the self-image of a consumer. By buying specific products, a consumer can reinforce the image he has got of himself. So according to Scheier and Held, a buyer with the autonomy / dominance system being the strongest would e.g. buy shoes from BOSS while a person buying a car might prefer a BMW if his stimulation system is the most dominant one.[99]


State Products


While a state product may also be able to underpin one’s self-image, its main purpose is, according to Scheier and Held, to equalise imbalances in the buyer’s mood system. So, for instance, listening to happy music might evoke positive feelings in a person and for some people, eating chocolate might be a means of coping with frustration.[100]



4.6.2.   Implications


Marketing now has to take into account these differences and base its strategy on them.


Coca-Cola, again, is a perfect example. They are perfectly exploiting people’s temporary state for their marketing purposes.

In their group hug campaign Coca-Cola utilises peoples activated motive for safety and belonging. Advertisements are found in places like underground stations (e.g. in the London Tube) where usually a lot of people are waiting without communicating with one another. This activates peoples need for communication as well as their safety and belonging motive. The advertisement now focuses on emotional components depicting people hugging each other, uses colours that appeal to the activated motive, and also uses—pretty explicitly—language by printing ‘group hug’ in large capital letters.[101]


There are two major reasons for the campaign’s great success: First, belonging is an important motive of a large part of Coke’s target market, and second, the motive addressed shows a strong imbalance at the moment the advertisement is seen.ibd





5.      How to successfully market brands and products


Research in the fields of neuromarketing has revealed that there are four kinds of codes that are important for marketers to understand. Instead of focusing on the 40 bits per second our brain grants us for cognitive evaluation of alternatives, marketers should focus on the remaining 10,999,960 bits per second to get across their message.[102]


5.1.      Advertising Campaigns


In advertising campaigns, one should primarily focus on the advertisements being suitable for the brain. This can be achieved by making good use of the four codes described in the following sections.


5.1.1.   Code 1: Language


One common mistake is the general thinking that when thinking of communication, most of us automatically think of language and words. This is one reason why many marketing campaigns focus on catch phrases and verbal persuasion. Even though language is the first of the codes we are going to talk about, the human brain is much more susceptible to the implicit rather than to explicit language.[103],[104]


In this context, an often-cited study illustrates the importance of nonverbal communication: According to Scheier and Held, British toilet paper brands Kleenex and Andrex do not significantly differ in terms of publicity expenses, price, quality, or other features; even the verbal messages of both the companies were nearly identical. The only major difference was that Andrex uses a puppy / whelp on their wrapping. According to several studies, people implicitly associate the Labrador whelp with positive attributes like smoothness, which helped market leader Andrex gain a market share twice as large as their closest competitor, Kleenex.[105] In the case of Andrex there is no doubt that it is the nonverbal codes that make the difference.


Another disadvantage of persuasive messages is that they usually require the potential customer’s attention. But as we now know, in 95 per cent of the time, people will not show great interest and are inattentive.[106]


However, language is not only the words we say or write, the first code also contains tonality, rhythm, pronunciation, and associations.

According to Häusel, the most important point is that language should be designed to suit the brain, i.e. it has to be emotional, illustrative, vivid, and simple.[107] Moreover, language can be used to evoke positive feelings through words like stroking, since it may lead to the activation of so-called mirror neurons[108] in the association cortex of the brain, which virtually makes you empathise with the feeling of being stroked—you may actually get a sensation of being stroked. And all this makes it more likely that your brain will store information from an advertisement in your long-term memory.[109],[110]


5.1.2.   Code 2: Episodes / Story Telling


‘We remember by telling stories. Story telling is not something we just happen to do. It is something we virtually have to do if we want to remember anything. […] The stories we create are the memories we have.’[111]


Indeed, story telling is an excellent means of remembering information. This is why the majority of mnemonic devices, i.e. special techniques used to remember information more easily, are based on story telling.[112] The reason why story telling is so efficient lies in the fact that our episodic memory (mainly hosted in the prefrontal cortex) is the most highly developed part of the human memory.[113]


Thanks to the aforementioned mirror neurons, humans are able to empathise with feelings and situations shown in an advertisement. They enable us to imagine or empathise with what somebody else is presumably feeling. Thereby, showing people consuming a specific product may give the viewer a feeling of the experience shown. Showing beautiful people eating Langnese ice being together with their friends at a sunny beach is very likely to evoke positive memories and feelings in the viewers and create positive attitudes towards the brand.[114] Lindstom states that by showing attractive and sexy people, the viewer also has the opportunity to imagine himself as being equally attractive and desirable.[115] In consumer behaviour, the phenomenon of learning by observation (e.g. watching a TV commercial) has been coined vicarious, modelling, or observational learning.[116]


Some advertising campaigns use so-called slice-of-life commercials. Those are short TV commercials usually showing people one can easily identify with in a day-to-day situation, e.g. a family using the product promoted to solve a problem.[117] The success of those commercials is surely also largely based on the activation of mirror neurons. — Similar to when we watch a sad movie and may cry if there is no happy ending, we also empathise with people in advertisements. So if the family depicted in the advertisement reaches a satisfactory solution for a problem or is having a wonderful time thanks to the product advertised, we may feel what they might be feeling—and our brains create positive associations with a brand.


Remembering what we know about low involvement processing, we have to take into account that memories are not static but that they constantly change. So the way you may remember your twentieth birthday when you are twenty-two will not be the same as when you remember it when you are twenty-four. You might even ‘remember’ things that have not occurred since your memory is, besides others, influenced by fantasy and by what other people tell you.[118] This also implies that messages conveyed by an advertisement are processed through low involvement processing and overwrite existing associations of the brand as stated before.ibd


5.1.3.   Code 3: Symbols


As early as in Stone Age, troglodytes used symbols to capture incidents and (historic) events.[119] Through symbols, implicit meanings can be transported under the premise that they have been learnt by the target market.[120] Symbols may be symbols in the narrow meaning of the word (e.g. a stop sign or a discount tag) but also metaphoric things like a fox that metaphorically stands for cleverness. Symbols can have the power of triggering automatic behaviour; in a restaurant, for instance, presenting a bill on a tray containing the logos of a major credit card issuers like Visa or MasterCard, people, on average, give bigger tips, and if the logos can be seen at the entrance of a restaurant, people are willing to spend more.[121]


In this context it is also important to mention that symbols very often have a cultural meaning and that the meaning differs from culture to culture (like the meaning of colours does, cf. 4.3.1.). Especially in international marketing campaigns, one has to be very cautious: Whereas Milka’s purple cow is very well known and popular with kids in Germany (and Milka has managed to create links in the peoples’ minds between their brand and the image of cows), using a purple cow in an advertising campaign in India would be inconceivable.[122]


There are also a lot of symbols in the world of brands that have become associated with a specific brand. Two examples:


The themes and symbols of both brands are very well known in Western Europe, even though today, public advertising for cigarettes is largely banned in the European Union. (On the left-hand side of graph you will find a typical theme of Marlboro, on the right-hand side one of Beck’s).[123]


And because public advertising for cigarettes has been banned in the EU, some large producers of cigarettes have come up with new ideas based on the findings of neuromarketing. Philip Morris, for instance, encourages bar owners to fill their rooms with colour schemes, ashtrays, and specially designed furniture that are, seen all together, are able to subtly weave the brand into our heads (like the two pictures above do).[124]


5.1.4.   Code 4: Sensory Input


A study of the Carleton University of Canada could prove that test subjects ‘decide’ within not more than half a second whether they like a Web site or not. In the study, one group could look at the Web site for only half a second, the other group could take as much time as they wanted.

The result: Both groups’ evaluations were almost identical, which led the researchers to the conclusion that it often is the first, subconscious impression that counts. Information streaming through our senses is processed by our subconscious like lightning.[125]  Supposedly, the reason for this is the brain’s desire to work efficiently (and consciousness requires a lot of energy), which is also an explanation for the prevalence of prejudices and stereotypes—they simplify our lives by reducing complexity and cognitive examination.[126]


This all should make clear the importance of sensory input. As we know from chapter 4.4.1, eleven million bits are processed every second, only forty of which are processed consciously. We are influenced at many occasions without knowing it: Special scents, selected music, colours, illumination, etc. have one thing in common—all can be used to influence our behaviour (also also seen in the video in Appendix 1).


Scheier and Held cite a study conducted in America: When there was French background music played at a wine merchant’s, three times as much French wine was bought. The same effect could be observed for German wine when German music was played. However, none of the participants in the study recognised the background music and so nobody stated that their purchasing behaviour could have been influenced by music.[127]


Sensory input may also come through our haptic sense (i.e. our fingers): An example for a successful exploitation of the haptic sense is the new packaging of Langnese ice cream: The ice cream now comes in a wave shape, serving two purposes at once: First, the waves signal freshness, and second, Langnese could reduce the contents of the ice by ten per cent (from one litre to 900 ml) without most of the people recognising it since it falls below the differential threshold.[128]



5.1.5.   Multisensory Enhancement


1 + 1 = 3 is an (in)equation sometimes used to exemplify the phenomenon of synergetic effects.[129]


In the case of codes, using more than just one code in order to convey an identical (or similar message) does not only add strength to the message, but serves like a multiplier multiplying the strength of the message.[130]


Multisensory enhancement is the effect when input coming through several senses causes the neurons in the brain to fire up to 10 times stronger than they usually would. Through this effect, shrewd marketing experts can convey their messages directly into the potential consumers’ minds.ibd

5.1.6.   Best Practice


An outstanding example for clever multisensory enhancement is the German TV commercial Maggi Kochstudio: It is the story of a motherly person (i.e. an archetype) who supports somebody at cooking a delicious meal. This is also what Maggi should do for its customers since Maggi’s products are easy to prepare. This, however, is not an explicit message, but an implicit one, and it is important that the message is not obvious since this may cause psychological reactance.[131] At the same time, Maggi symbols (e.g. the Maggi apron, symbolising and reinforcing tradition and motherliness at the same time) can be seen in the advertising and also Maggi’s characteristic colours red and yellow as well as the sound (especially the Maggi jingle) reinforce the brand and lead to multisensory enhancement.[132]


Another outstanding example for best practice according to Raab is the marketing of Rügenwalder in Germany. All the marketing is designed in a way that suits the way our brain works.[133]


Since 1995, the general theme of Rügenwalder’s TV commercials has been constant. One can see a perfect world with happy people and listen to a festive music that has been composed to again reinforce the brand. The products of Rügenwalder are always consumed in the commercial, which activates the mirror neurons giving the viewer a virtual—and, of course, positive—‘taste’ of the product.



Another very important code in the advertisements is the usage of the brand logo, which serves as a so-called key visual. In the shop, you will see the same logo on the Rügenwalder products reminding your brain of the experience delivered through the advertisement. Moreover, tradition and craftsmanship are personified by an elder person (i.e. an archetype) who is shown preparing the product.[134]


Rügenwalder’s recipe for success is that they utilise and implement all necessary state-of-the-art knowledge about how to compile a perfect TV commercial: They use language, story telling, keep a (consistent) central theme, use archetypes, convey the feeling of tasting the product, use a key visual, and avoid the sending out of contradictory signals and mixed messages.


In addition, they provide the viewers with rational reasons for why they should buy Rügenwalder (Rügenwalder is presented as tasty, hearty, good, and solid). This serves an important purpose: The viewer’s consciousness is prevented from making the decision and the subconscious is enabled to make the decision since the consciousness feels convinced that the purchase of the product is rational.[135]

Through all this effort, Rügenwalder successfully manages to reinforce their brand image and the neuronal brand network in our brains over and over again.


In order for you to get an impression of Rügenwalder’s commercials, please find some of them attached in Appendix 3.


5.2.      Marketing at the Point of Sale


It is well conceivable that most of the marketing would be useless if there was no marketing at the point of sale (POS).[136]

With everyday necessities more than half of the purchasing decisions are made at the point of sale. This means, most of the people buying e.g. handkerchiefs decide at the very last moment which brand to buy.

This is at least what a study of POPAI found out in 1999; and in the US, even 70 per cent of the purchasing decisions are made at the point of sale.[137]


However, we have to keep in mind that in most of the cases consumers do not know why they really have decided in favour of a specific product; thus, one should be wary with those figures.[138] Thinking of the concept of cortical relief it is well conceivable that in fact most of the decisions are based on our liking for our favourite brand. So we may not be aware of it, but in most of the cases we decide in favour of our favourite brand.[139]


According to Traindl, it is the way a product is presented at the point of sale that makes the difference.[140] This is also why meat is mostly presented in a special light which makes it look more delicious.


5.2.1.   Pictures


In one of their studies, ShopConsult by Umdasch, a company specialised in the field of neuromarketing, could observe the importance of emotion in purchasing situations.


In their study, they tested the impact of positive and negative emotions in contrast with ‘no emotion’ springing from a picture (or in the latter: no emotion from no picture). Their idea was to find out, how consumers’ behaviour and purchasing decisions are affected by them.[141]


In achieving this goal, test subjects were presented several goods, sometime presented together with a picture standing for either a positive emotion or a negative one. A third compilation of goods (serving as a ‘control picture’) comes without a photo (and, hence, without emotion).


The following picture shows the three compilations for underwear. The first picture shall evoke erotic emotions (positive), the second is intended to induce fear (negative). The third is presented in a neutral way without emotion.




One of the findings was that when the goods were presented with emotion added (positive or negative), stronger neuronal activity in the test persons’ brains was triggered.ibd


The conclusion of this finding is, however, more important: Since people show higher interest if the products are presented in an emotional way and since they might show little or even no interest in the products presented without emotion, the usage of pictures in shops can make a major difference since people will recognise and maybe think of buying a specific product they would not have recognised if it had not been presented this way.[142]


It may also be worthwhile to note that negative emotions are better capable of increasing brain activity. This can be explained by evolution: Survival is more important than pleasure.ibd


However, if we look at the impact of emotions on the purchasing decision itself, we can see that products presented in a positive framework were evaluated better, on average, by 16 per cent of the test subjects.[143]


Furthermore, emotions have a positive effect on the storage of information insofar as information is the more likely to be stored the more emotionally involved its recipient is. And on the other hand, information that does not have any emotional significance is not likely to be stored at all.[144]


And again we found a proof for the superiority of emotions in human decision making. Emotions come before cognition—also in time: Before we are able to evaluate a picture or another visual sensation through cognition, our emotional part in the brain (i.e. the limbic system) has already made a first decision about how to categorise what we have just seen.ibd


The first brain activity after exposure to a visual input can be spotted in the limbic system, the place where our emotions come from. Only about 200 milliseconds later, there is a major activation in the neocortex, also called isocortex, which is responsible for the processing of visual input.[145]



In another study, those assumptions were tested in a real-life situation: In an Abercrombie & Fitch store in the US, the impact of photo showing a happy couple was tested.

One could observe that when the clothes in this part of the shop were presented with the picture, twice as much customers went into this part of the shop than at times when the photo was not present. Sales for the products presented rose by 17 per cent when the photo was present.[146]


As a conclusion of those studies we have to keep in mind that emotions play a major role at any time. They are not only the most important factor in the creation of brand images, but they are also especially important at the time the consumer decides which product to buy—or even at the time our brain decides what information is perceived consciously and what information is merely processed by our subconscious.ibd



5.2.2.   Scent


Knoblich states that scent directly evokes and affects our emotions as the olfactory system is directly connected to the limbic system.[147]


It could be shown that pleasant olfactory stimulation led to an increase in time spent by customers in a shop and that it can also positively influence their readiness to buy. However, if there is a smell in the shop that is perceived as unpleasant, the balance system is activated and customers will feel the desire to leave the shop. The same applies if the scent is too strong; it may then be perceived as pungent and cause aversion.[148]


Lindstrom assigns different meanings to different smells. The following graph shows the assignment according to Lindstrom’s ‘Sense Language for Smell’.[149]




5.2.3.   Music


Zaltman states that the music played in a retail store possesses the potential of significantly increasing or decreasing the time spent by consumers in the shop, which also affects the quantities sold.[150]


At this point it is important to state that even though music is a matter of taste, rhythm insofar as it influences the consumers’ willingness to stay is not. Fast music makes people move faster and makes consumers leave a shop earlier. Slow music makes people move slower and customers are inclined to stay longer.[151]


Another study found that the music played at the point of sale is also capable of influencing the customers’ perception of the shop. If classical music is played, for instance, a shop is perceived as being five to ten per cent more expensive than it is perceived if no music is played.[152],[153]


According to Kirichuk it is advisable to play faster music (90 to 110 beats per second) in a shop relying on the quantity strategy since then, customers will do their shopping faster. In another case, if there are only few people in the shop, one may play slower music like lounge music. At any rate one has to avoid having too many changes in the kind of music played as this may disturb customers as well as personnel as well as one has to make sure that the music played fits the concept of the shop.ibd (It goes without saying that classical music in a trendy shop for teenagers is as misplaced as techno music is in a shop whose target group is pensioners.)



5.2.4.   Checkout


For supermarkets, the checkout may the most important part of the whole shop for making an impression since it is the last impression a customer gets from his shopping experience.[154]


Supermarket managers should ensure that people do not have to wait too long and that personnel working at the checkout are friendly. The main goal should be to avoid customers feeling distressed or getting angry.ibd


It has been observed that the introduction of an automated checkout (i.e. a checkout where people can scan their products using a machine and pay at the same machine without the help of a shop assistant) has met many peoples’ approval. This is partially due to the fact that their play instinct is addressed. In Germany, those checkouts can be found at some REAL stores.[155] In the UK, they are pretty common and much appreciated, also by the author of this paper.


6.      Ethical Concerns


This paper should have supplied the reader with some further insight into what is possible in marketing using psychological knowledge as well as findings from neuromarketing.


The paper has discussed means and methods that are intended to alter peoples’ behaviour. As discussed, they can, however, only work when people are susceptible (i.e. if the methods base and address activated motives of the consumer). This mean you would not buy e.g. a machine to pollute the air, even if it was marketed in the best way possible.


Moreover, neuroscientists are convinced that there is no such thing as a buy button in our brain and that it is not possible to manipulate consumers into buying products that really are of no value to the buyer.[156],[157]


Nonetheless, there are some possibilities for the marketers the author personally would call unethical. So one might call it misleading when Langnese, for example, reduces the quantity of ice cream sold without informing the consumers (cf. 5.1.4 and 4.2).


However, first, this is nothing new and has been practiced by many manufacturers in different countries, second, it is something that has to be regulated through laws or directives should there be the desire to do so. For Germany this can only be done by the German parliament and by the European Union. At any rate, buyers are advised to check the information on the packaging which has to state the quantity sold.


The author concludes similarly as Lindstrom stating that the fear of consumers with no secrets is not groundless but exaggerated. On the other hand, neuromarketing provides means to design products that suit our needs much better.ibd


And with regards to manipulative subliminal advertising it is relieving to know that it is banned at least in Germany and also in some other countries (however, it might be difficult to spot this kind of advertising).[158],[159]



7.      Conclusions and Outlook


This paper has presented a lot of new discoveries in the world of science within the last few years that can be useful to marketers. Besides others, the previous chapters have shown that (1) advertising need not be consciously recognised in order to be effective, (2) most purchasing are  made by our subconscious, (3) emotions play a major role in our decision making process and (4) without them economically rational decisions cannot be made, (5) at least 95 per cent of our cognitive thinking processes are subconscious, (6) only 40 bits out of 11 million bits that are received by our senses every second are conscious, (7)  people are not the rational maximisers as the model of the homo oeconomicus suggests.


On the other hand we also know that the majority of people engaged in marketing are still unaware of many of those discoveries. According to Zaltman this is why almost 80 per cent of new products fail within the first six months after their introduction into the market and after having passed conservative marketing research methods.[160]


In the course of this paper, the author presented and discussed related findings of which he thinks to be most interesting for marketing experts. The paper shows some point that should to be taken into account when designing advertising campaigns and it shows how advertising campaigns may be optimised. Moreover, examples of successful advertising campaigns should make it easier for the reader to successfully employ and apply this knowledge.


At any rate, further research in the areas of neuromarketing and consumer behaviour need to be carried out. There might also be a new approach replacing the AIDA formula. The author thinks of a formula like NADA, taking the people’s needs as a starting point, trying to address those people based on their needs (this might also be done by subliminal advertising), create desire for the product, and ultimately lead to action (i.e. the purchase of the product).[161]


There certainly is a lot of great knowledge out there; marketing managers simply have to grasp it and make use of it. This thinking is the reason why the author has highlighted several examples for excellent utilisation of this new way of marketing.[162]


The author is, however, convinced that it will still take some time until findings from neuromarketing become general knowledge in the area of marketing. Anyhow the author feels convinced that sooner or later we will witness a radical change in the way marketing and marketing research are conducted even though it will probably take a long time until we largely see an adaption of methods of neuroscience in the marketing area since this kind of research is very expensive and, hence, not economically viable for most of the companies.[163]


Moreover, neuroscience alone is unable to explain human behaviour since those so-called brain scanners can only show which parts in the brain are active at a given time.[164] Thus, neuroscience always needs to be supported by other disciplines like psychology and sociology if human behaviour shall be explained.[165]


Nonetheless, there have also been reports that already the presidential campaign of Barack Obama was backed by research in the fields of neuromarketing showing that there is already an acceptance of this new field of study beyond the business world.[166]

Albeit this may be true and some authors prophesy that neuromarketing will begin to dominate opinion research within the next few years, most of it remains speculation.


The author does not want to make a prediction about how long it will take until findings of neuromarketing become general knowledge and are largely taught at universities.


Only time will tell …


[1] Kirichuk, I. (2008), p. 12

[2] cf. Zaltman, G. (2004), p. x; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 14

[3] Zaltman, G. (2004), p. 3

[4] Damasio, A. (2003), p. 4

[5] cf. ACNR (2007), p. 1 ; Sutherland, M. (2007), p. 1;

[6] cf. Sutherland, M. (2007), p. 1; Erasmus Research Institute of Management (2009)

[7] cf. Kandel, E. R., Schwartz, J. H., and Jessel, T. M. (2000); Lexikon der Neurowissenschaft  (2005); Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 2

[8] cf. Loewenstein, G., Camerer, C., and Prelec, D. (2005), p. 9; Raab, G. et al. (2009), p.

[9] At this point the author does not want to explain the methods further since it would go beyond the scope of this paper. For further information, please refer to Raab, G. et al. (2009), Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), or Glimcher, P. W. et al. (2008)

[10] cf. Sanfey, A. G. et al. (2006), p. 108 f.

[11] cf. BBDO (2004), p. 5; Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 7

[12] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 4 ff.

[13] Sandhusen, R. L. (2000), p. 218

[14] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 15 f.

[15] cf. Schiffman, L. g. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 23 ff.

[16] cf. Peter, J. P. and Olson, J. C. (2008), pp. 10 ff.

[17] cf. Franz, S. (2004), pp. 3 ff.; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 54 f.

[18] cf. Roth, G. (2001), p. 206; Kirichuk, I. (2008), pp. 14 f.; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 54 f.

[19] cf. Roth, G. (2001), p. 206; Zaltman, G. (2004), pp. 8 ff.

[20] cf. Franzen, G. and Bouwman, M. (2001), cited after Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 205

[21] cf. Ariel, D. (2008), pp. 43 f.

[22] cf. (2009)

[23] cf. Ariel, D. (2008), pp. 43 f.

[24] cf. Sanfey et al. (2006); Eshel et al. (2006); Raab, G. et al. (2009), pp. 224 f.

[25] cf. Traindl, A. (2007), p. 75

[26] cf. Roth, G. (2001), p. 206

[27] cf. Heath, R. (2001), cited after Bechara/Damasio (2004)

[28]cf.  Roth, G. (2003), p. 164

[29] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), pp. 275 f.;

[30] cf. Lange (2002), p. 13

[31] It is worthwhile to mention that the author does not want to totally discard the concept of the homo oeconomicus; some of its implications prove to be reliable (like facts that e.g. an increase in price usually leads to lower demand), however, with regard to human decision making the basic assumption of the model has been proven wrong.

[32] cf. Financial Times Deutschland (2009)

[33] i.e. to differentiate whether there is nothing or anything, whether there is a sensation or not

[34] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 153 f.

[35] Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 153

[36] This also implies that if advertising campaigns stated the polish was improved and it only shined three days longer than before, most of the users would feel betrayed since they do not recognise that there actually has been an improvement.

[37] cf. Winter, G. (2001), p. 1

[38] cf. Marketing Week (2009)

[39] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 133 f.

[40] cf. b-wise (2009)

[41] cf. Wahnemühl, B. (2008), p. 1 f.

[42] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 134

[43] cf. (without date)

[44] More about the dominance system and other systems in chapter 4.5.2.

[45] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 99 f.; Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 135

[46] cf. Merikle, P. M. (1998), pp. 12 f.

[47] cf. (without date)

[48] The difference between the perception of colours in Europe and in the US is not a significant one; this is why the author has decided to include the graph depicted on the previous page. (cf. Solomon, M. et al. (2001), pp. 65 ff.)

[49] cf. Merrit, S. and Staubb, V. (1995), p. 380; Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 458

[50]cf. (2008); Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 179

[51] Lindstrom, M. (2008), pp. 76 f.

[52] Unfortunately, the author does not disclose the name of the brand.

[53] cf. Jobber, D. (2004), p. 393

[54] cf. Süddeutsche Zeitung (2009)

[55] Lindstrom, M. (2008), p. 197

[56] cf. Collins dictionary of Economics (2005), p. 535

[57] cf. Wood, John C. (1993). Thorstein Veblen: Critical Assessments, 352. London: Routledge.

[58] The dominance system as well as the two other major systems will be discussed in chapter 4.5.2.

[59] cf. Lindstrom, M. (2008), pp. 25 f.

[60] Rifon, N. J., Choi, S. M., Tripble, C. S., and Li, H. (2004); pp. 29 ff.; cf. (2004)

[61] cf. Zaltman, G. (2004), p. 3

[62] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), pp. 71 ff.

[63] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 52, 59

[64] Zaltman, G. (2004), pp. 47, 51

[65] Most of the input (about 10 million bit) come through our eyes into our brains; cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 47

[66] This video features two advertising experts who are asked to design an advertising campaign off the cuff. What they did not know is that, before, they had been subconsciously influences.

[67] cf. Brown, D. (2006), pp. 174 ff.; Zaltman, G. (2004), pp. 50 ff.

[68] Motives will be discussed in chapter 4.5

[69] cf. (without date), cited after Kirichuk, I. (2007), p. 72

[70] cf. Shapiro, S. et al. (1997)

[71] cf. Spektrum der Wissenschaft (2005), pp. 90 ff.

[72] The author wants to mention that there is some confusion about people having a ‘free will’ or not. Whereas there is no consensus on whether our ‘decisions’ are free, one can now say that leading scientists agree that the basic volition (i.e. our desire for something, the act of wanting something) is not a matter of conscious reflection but originates in our brains without our consciousness being involved in its creation. This manifests itself e.g. in the fact that sometimes we feel bored and do not want to work at all, but we simply do not know why.

[73] cf. Roth, G. (2001), p. 206; Zaltman, G. (2003), p. 9

[74] Wegner, D. (2003), cited after Zaltman, G. (2003), p. 50

[75] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 15 f.

[76] For reflection, our consciousness requires about 20% of the body’s whole energy.ibd

[77] HIP occurs if a decision is very important to us. If we want to buy a car, for instance, HIP is activated since there are several risks associated with the purchase (like financial issues and safety)

[78] cf. Packard, V. (1984)

[79] One has to note that Derren Brown is using different techniques in order to influence the person in the video. One may e.g. recognise the specially selected background, Brown touching the person at several times, as well as the language used as explained in the video itself.

[80] cf. Danzig, F. (1962), pp. 72 ff.

[81] In some tests by Stiftung Warentest, 80% of the products receive the rating of ‘good’. (cf. Scheier, D. and Held, D. (2006), p. 17)

[82] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 17, 24

[83] ibd; Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 228

[84] In chapter 5 methods serving this purpose are discussed.

[85] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 200 ff.

[86] cf. (without date)

[87] cf. Mackintosh, N. J. (1983), p. 10; Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 201

[88] cf. Campbell, M. C. and Keller, K. L. (2003), pp. 292 ff.

[89] cf. Lindstrom, M. (2008), pp. 27 f.; author’s own survey conducted amongst students at European Business School in London in 2007

[90] cf. (2008)

[91] Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), accompanying CD

[92] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 97 ff.

[93] This statement needs to be limited insofar as there might actually be a need even for such a product—people might buy such a product in order to annoy other people and in order to gain attention.

[94] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 99 f.

[95] cf. (2008)

[96] cf. Jobber, D. (2004), pp. 209 ff.

[97] cf. Häusel, H. G. (2005), pp. 92 ff.

[98] The concept of the Limbic Types® shall not be elaborated further in the course of this paper since it would go beyond the scope of this paper. For further information, please refer to the source stated in the previous footnote.

[99] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 108 f.

[100] cf. (without date)

[101] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 110 f.;  The Independent (2004)

[102] cf. chapter  4.4.1.

[103] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 305

[104] One also has to acknowledge that written language is a relatively new achievement of the human species which has begun to develop around 6,000 years ago. Thus, the part of the brain dealing with written language cannot be as elaborated as all the other parts the human species had to rely on for several hundred thousand years. (cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 69); There is a consensus among experts that verbal communication between humans accounts for only approximately 20 per cent (cf. Zaltman, G. (2003), p. 36).

[105] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 43 f.; Heath, R. (2001)

[106] cf. Zaltman, G. (2004), p. 51; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 47, 49

[107] cf. Häusel, H.G. (2006), p. 175

[108] An explanation for what mirror neurons are will be given in the following.

[109] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), pp. 39 f.

[110] The knowledge about the positive effect of emotion on the storage of information in the human brain is nothing new; cf. the Schwerin curve (Schwerin, H. S. (1981) and Zaltman, G. (2003), p. 40).

[111] Zaltman, G. (2004), pp. 189 f.

[112] cf. Brown, D. (2006), pp. 59 ff.

[113] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 241

[114] cf. Halstenberg, V. (2008)

[115] cf. Lindstrom, M. (2008), p. 190

[116] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 215

[117] cf. Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), p. 324

[118] cf. Zaltman, G. (2003), pp. 12 f.

[119] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 74

[120] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 242

[121] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 54

[122] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 57

[123] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 36 ff.

[124] cf. Lindstrom, M. (2008), pp. 79 f.

[125] cf. Zaltman, G. (2006)

[126] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 50

[127] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), p. 61; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 16; Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 224

[128] cf. Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (2005); p. 4; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 57; Schiffman, L. G. and Kanuk, L. L. (2007), pp. 153 f.

[129] cf. Häberle, S. G. (2008), p. 1221; (without date)

[130] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 82 ff.

[131] Porsche had to stop a marketing campaign in which they had explicitly addressed their customers’ dominance system by conveying the message that driving Porsche makes them feel superior and ameliorates their image. This has caused anger in many customers. Some of them wrote to Porsche stating that it might well be true but that they feel exposed or compromised. (cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 119)

[132] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), p. 244; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 71, 74

[133] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), pp. 313 f.

[134] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), pp. 313 f.

[135] cf. Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), pp. 59 ff.

[136] Marketing is, of course, also the brand logo on the packaging as well as the design of the packaging.

[137] cf. POPAI (1999)

[138] cf. Roth, G. (2001), p. 206

[139] cf. chapter 4.4.2.

[140] cf. Traindl, A. (2006), p. 17

[141] cf. Häusel, H.-G. (2007), p. 52

[142] cf. Häusel, H. G. (2007), p. 53 ff.

[143] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), p. 49

[144] cf. Zaltman, G. (2003), p. 40

[145] cf. Häusel, H. G. (2007), pp. 53 ff.

[146] cf. Traindl, A. (2006), pp. 83 f.

[147] cf. Knoblich, H (2003), p. 17

[148] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), pp. 50 ff.

[149] cf. Harvest Consulting Group (2001), p. 4

[150] cf. Zaltman, G. (2005), p. 64

[151] cf.  Milliman, R.E. (1982), p. 86 ff.; Häusel, H.-G. (2004), p. 204

[152] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), p. 53

[153] In chapter 5.1.4. we have already heard of a study stating that French music played in a store had a positive effect on the quantity sold of French wines.

[154] cf. Kirichuk, I. (2008), p. 54

[155] cf. (2004)

[156] cf. Lindstrom, M. (2008), pp. 154 ff.

[157] For more information, please refer to page 30 and footnote 92.

[158] cf. § 5 UWG; Agreiter, F. (2009), p. 8

[159] The issue of ethical concerns shall not be elaborated further since it goes beyond the scope of this paper.

[160] Zaltman, G. (2004), p. x; Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), p. 14

[161] NADA = needs, addressing, desire, action; like with AIDA (which also is a cruise ship) there is also a different meaning: in Spanish language, nada means nothing. (Author’s own idea)

[162] In this rather self-ironic footnote the author wants to acknowledge that, of course, it is only the reason he thinks to be the reason—in reality he might have been driven by something else, namely his own subconscious which acted upon other grounds.

[163] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009)

[164] cf. Raab, G. et al. (2009), Scheier, C. and Held, D. (2006), or Glimcher, P. W. et al. (2008)

[165] cf. Kandel, E. R., Schwartz, J. H., and Jessel, T. M. (2000); Lexikon der Neurowissenschaft (2005)

[166] (2008); (2009)


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