What is Neuromarketing?

We’ve seen the term “neuromarketing” term defined with confidence by a variety of sources, and they don’t all agree. Wikipedia states,

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing which uses medical technologies such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli. Researchers use the fMRI to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain and to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it…

Marketing analysts will use neuromarketing to better measure a consumer’s preference, as the verbal response given to the question “Do you like this product?” may not always be the true answer. This knowledge will help marketers create products and services designed more effectively and marketing campaigns focused more on the brain’s response.

Neuromarketing will tell the marketer what the consumer reacts to, whether it was the color of the packaging, the sound the box makes when shaken, or the idea that they will have something their co-consumers do not.

We think the current Wikipedia definition is on the right track, but is perhaps a bit limiting. Here’s our definition:

Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing. Neuromarketing includes the direct use of brain imaging, scanning, or other brain activity measurement technology to measure a subject’s response to specific products, packaging, advertising, or other marketing elements. In some cases, the brain responses measured by these techniques may not be consciously perceived by the subject; hence, this data may be more revealing than self-reporting on surveys, in focus groups, etc.

More generally, neuromarketing also includes the use of neuroscience research in marketing. For example, using fMRI or other techniques, researchers may find that a particular stimulus causes a consistent response in the brain of test subjects, and that this response is correlated with a desired behavior (e.g., trying something new). A marketing campaign that specifically incorporates that stimulus hoping to create that behavior can be said to incorporate neuromarketing, even though no physical testing of subjects was done for that campaign.

One of the challenges is that in some respects, ALL marketing is neuromarketing, since marketing campaigns are almost always trying to produce some kind of brain activity that will lead to a desired behavior (e.g., buying a product). That’s not a partularly useful way to look at neuromarketing, though, in the same way that saying “everything is chemistry” (since all living and nonliving things are made up of molecules) is true but not helpful. Hence, we exclude marketing efforts that don’t specifically incorporate neuroscience research – either through new tests or by using the data from past work.

What do you think? What would you add to or subtract from that definition?


This post was written by:

— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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3 responses to "What is Neuromarketing?" — Your Turn


Daria Radota Rasmussen 28. June 2006 at 8:27 am

Very good definition. It is broad and covers different aspects of neuromarketing. It is important people understand that neuromarketing isn’t about “messin’ around with people heads” and “abusing people” or “finding buy button”. Neuromarketing is about curiosity. It is about understanding human’s brain and using that knowledge in advertising and marketing. We did it before with psychology and sociology. Good initiative!


Arjan Haring 24. January 2007 at 12:56 am

I would consider expanding the definition to: “Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing AND MARKETEERS.” Or as Gerald Zaltman puts it: “the mind of the market”.


Traoré fatoumata 4. February 2012 at 11:14 am

c’est quoi le Neuromarketing a quoi il consiste je veux en savoir plus.


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7 responses to "What is Neuromarketing?" — Your Turn