Neuromarketing and business: emotional and rational spheres for brand loyalty

In today’s knowledge economy, companies find themselves having to face two new realities: a market that is much more changeable and faster-moving than in the past, and consumers who are increasingly well-informed, demanding and attentive to the experiential dimension of their relationship with the brand.

In this scenario, in order to emerge and maintain an advantage over their competitors, brands have the primary need to investigate consumer behaviour and motivations, a need that gave rise to market research in the early 1960s. 

Today, in addition to traditional market research, neuromarketing methodology represents a new benchmark, more reliable and objective in analysing and understanding the deep decision-making mechanisms underlying purchases, preferences or attitudes.  


The term neuromarketing was first coined only in 2002 by Ale Smidts, Nobel Prize winner in Economics and professor at the Rotterdam School of Management. It became part of everyday language a few years ago and originates from two different fields: marketing and neuroscience, the scientific disciplines that study and analyse the possible behaviour and reactions of our brain. 

Neuromarketing uses visualisation techniques of celebratory activity, together with other technologies and biometric sensors to analyse the response to communication and marketing stimuli of brands, setting itself very ambitious goals. To scientifically determine the behavioural response of consumers, the deeper, emotional and unconscious ones, i.e. the real decision drivers.

To explore the links between experience and brand loyalty, we contacted Andrea Ciceri, lecturer of the  International MBA at the Rome Business School, who told us:

Neuromarketing is a methodology that aims to understand the experience and decision-making dynamics of a consumer. It originated in the United States and became famous with research that pitted two soft drink giants against each other: Pepsi and Coca Cola. This scientific research demonstrated the power held by communication, in that case advertising, in influencing buyers’ choices. In fact, despite a clear preference in taste for Pepsi, Coca Cola continued to dominate sales: it was not the taste that drove people to buy it but the evocative power of the brand capable of activating functional areas of the brain, linked to memory and feelings.

The role that emotions, memories and more generally the more unconscious and irrational dimensions play in our decisions has thus been scientifically demonstrated.

Together with this scientific research, behavioural choices remind us how decision-making is up to 95 per cent based on emotional and unconscious dimensions.

Neuroscience shows that in the choice process, the functional areas of the brain deputed to emotional processing are activated first, and only then the newer, external areas that process the stimulus from a rational point of view. Translated: first we process the stimulus emotionally, then rationally. Without us realising it, the purchase decision is made in this way’.

Companies are therefore becoming increasingly aware of these dimensions and are starting to make use of behavioural analysis through the neuromarketing methodology. The neuromarketing methodology has now proven that analysing behavioural data with its scientific techniques guarantees reliable results with which to assess the effectiveness of a marketing, communication or sales strategy.

Marketing and Neuromarketing

Traditional market research to understand consumer choices and meet their needs and expectations has always made use of tools such as questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. In recent decades, globalisation and advances in new technologies have profoundly changed society.

The success of a brand today no longer depends exclusively on the quality of the products or services it offers but on their symbolic dimension, their memorability and the experiences they guarantee the consumer.

Consumers, especially the younger ones, are attentive to the practical and tangible actions implemented by brands: a substantial change of pace that has forced marketing to adapt to the new market dynamics.

Since it has been discovered that it is emotion along with unconscious and irrational factors that drive consumers, traditional market research is no longer sufficient to explore the motivations behind choices. Questionnaires, interviews and focus groups based on asking a respondent to verbally express an opinion, are not always able to intercept the emotional sphere which, as mentioned, is the real drive towards purchases. Neuromarketing, on the other hand, uses tools, technologies that isolate the behavioural dimension in a scientific way. Another element that underlies the difference between marketing and neuromarketing is the sample taken into consideration. Neuromarketing research is based on a small market cluster in which 15-20 subjects already provide reliable research data. Of course for international or multi-target research a sample of 15 subjects is no longer meaningful or sufficient. However, I would like to emphasise that neuromarketing should not be seen as a substitute for traditional research, but rather as an integrative tool, precisely because the two approaches combine cognitive and behavioural/emotional decoding in order to obtain a global view of consumer perception. However, I would also like to point out that there is no definitive/standard methodology for doing research. There are many methodologies, it is up to the professional to identify the most suitable one.”

New trends

Neuromarketing research is of great use for corporate marketing because it can identify decisive elements for the establishment and distinction of a brand.

 “Neuromarketing is a discipline that, although recent, is constantly evolving. The new trends are basically those related to the development of technologies and analysis algorithms. In the near future, portable devices such as watches, wristbands and visors will be equipped with technology capable of monitoring physiological data useful for decoding the consumer experience. The deployment of these sensors, in commonly used technological devices will allow remote access to international markets with an interesting implication for simplified data collection. In addition, with the help of artificial intelligence, with a good margin of approximation, the aim is to predict consumer behaviour, naturally not disregarding the presence of the professional who will analyse the data because artificial intelligence will never replace the human experience.”

Areas of application

There are many companies, especially large multinationals, that have verified the potential of neuromarketing, which is considered one of the ten innovation models that will change the way of doing business in the coming years, precisely because it represents the ideal approach to analysing any condition in which there is a relationship between stimulus and behavioural response.

If used correctly and in an ethical manner, it can really lead to a profound understanding of consumers’ reactions to an advertisement, a product, a packaging, or a digital interface.

The sectors in which it can be applied are also many. Obviously some have more interest in neuromarketing. We are thinking for example of food and beverage or digital, and more generally in those sectors where it is strategic to study a person’s decision-making process.

Neuromarketing can therefore be applied in all areas of marketing and communication, but it can also be applied in sales techniques or in the area of human performance by applying it to the empowerment of soft skills, or stress management.

Profiles in demand

The professionals most in demand in the field of neuromarketing research are data scientists for the processing of behavioural data, also called small data, which are extracted and collected through new neuromarketing technologies.

The figure of the neuromarketing researcher is also in demand, i.e. the professional who is in charge of conducting research, as is that of the Behavioral Specialist, usually a psychologist with expertise in behavioural psychology.

My advice is to specialise in neuromarketing, even if you will not then apply the profession specifically. The reason is simple. As a business or marketing, communication or sales professional, understanding human and consumer behaviour is critical to. responding consistently and effectively to decision drivers. When observing and studying human behaviour, no business sector remains excluded: human resources, management, the exercise of leadership. Of course, since it is an evolving discipline, as is human behaviour after all, it will be necessary to develop diversified mindsets through lifelong learning, with differentiated training courses“.


After obtaining a PhD in Neuromarketing and Consumer Psychology, he founded SenseCatch, a company specialising in innovative market research and consultancy services. He is author of several scientific publications and contributor to books, journals and conferences on the topics of neuroscience applied to marketing, communication and sales. He was a visiting researcher at SenseLab, the first neuromarketing laboratory founded in Europe at the Mrketing department of the Copenhagen Business School. At SenseCatch, he combines classical research methodologies such as interviews or focus groups with neuroscientific ones with the aim of making available increasingly detailed, accurate and objective information with which to analyse the target market and obtain strategic insights. It collaborates with research centres and universities in Italy and abroad on innovative research and development projects on the application of neuroscience to marketing, psychology and organisational behaviour.

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