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Consumer lessons from the realm of neuromarketing

Consumer lessons from the realm of neuromarketing Want to know why Baby Boomers prefer to go positive, why a product's smell is important to new moms, or why women respond to storytelling but not so much to sexy images? Neuromarketing can tell you.

It remains to be seen whether the natural products industry will embrace such high-tech neuromarketing gadgets as brain-wave sensors, eye-tracking devices and facial-recognition software to better understand—and market to—consumers. Some will, undoubtedly, find it Orwellian, and reject it. Others may be tempted by the promise of tapping into the black box of the subconscious where, by some estimates, 95 percent of purchasing decisions are made.

But one thing is for sure.

The field of brain science is already offering up a wealth of useful insights into how neurological differences impact the way consumers shop, and what retailers and marketers can do about it.

Here's a look at a few gems from Dr. A.K. Pradeep's fascinating new book, The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind (Wiley, 2010) and Roger Dooley's informative website,


  • Loathe distractions. The brain's ability to filter out distractions, and thus remember the important stuff, declines with age. So, says Pradeep, marketing messages should be to-the point, packaging should have lots of white space, and retail displays should be uncluttered. Online, skip the sound-effects and animations the teen brain loves. The 60-plus brain will have a harder time filtering them out.
  • Lack tip-of-tongue recall. It's the first to go in an aging brain, so mnemonic devices and tag lines like "You're in good hands with …" or "Just do It" can be helpful with this age range.
  • Ignore negativity. Studies show that while young people react strongly to both negative and positive messages, the amygdala (the brain center devoted to primal emotions) in older people tends to be activated much more when they see positive images. In short: They ignore the ad that says "Buy Now or You will Miss Out!" and gravitate to the one that says "Take advantage of this great opportunity!"


  • Care about character. Women react more strongly than men to the character of a product spokesperson, while men react more to the price.
  • Respond to storytelling. With 11 percent more neurons in the language centers of the brain, women are more likely to respond to the spoken word than are men. So go with a story about a great athlete, rather than a terse slogan.
  • Are not men. Women have a smaller amygdala (controls sex and aggression) so are less likely to respond to sexy marketing. Respond to emotions. Women have superior recall of emotional events (be it the run-in with the rude checker at the retail store, or the touching commercial).

New moms

  • Are sensitive. Women undergo neurogenesis, or the birth of new brain cells, during pregnancy. This leads to a heightened sense of smell and sound. Evolution-wise, this enables them to distinguish their own baby's scent or cry from others. But it also means retailers need to be particularly careful when choosing scents, or music for the new mom or baby section.


  • Know what they like when they see it. People prefer to see images on the left and text on the right.
  • Get emotional with print. Men and women react more emotionally to paper messages than digital ones.
  • Want direction. Consumers tend to buy less, not more, when offered too many choices.
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