At The APG Canada we’re always keen to showcase new thinking, new approaches and new directions in the field of marketing. This guest post comes from Bonita Leung.  She has an Honours Bachelor of Science Degree specializing in neuromarketing at University of Toronto.

Neuromarketing is estimated to be a two billion dollar industry globally, yet few marketers in Canada are using it to its full advantage or at all.[i] Indeed with advancement in technology, neuroscience, when applied to marketing, is entering a very exciting era.

Neuroscientists now know that we process purchasing decisions and emotions in the same area of the brain.[ii] This means that the same area that evaluates numbers and specs before a car purchase, for example, is at the same time processing our need for social approval and status. In essence, it is in our biological makeup that our wants are intertwined and embedded in our rationality. Our choices, however informed and researched, are fuelled by subconscious emotional desires.

As a result of neuroscience we also now know that ultimately, our pleasure-centres take great control of us. In other words, we generally make decisions because we want to, more than because we should.[iii] So using the previous example, you are more likely to buy a car that you want even if it’s a little over your budget.

Techniques like fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) which looks at brain activity or activation in different areas or intensity; EEG (electroencephalography) which looks at engagement and whether it is positive or negative, and Eyetrackers which identify where attention is directed on screen reveal insights that other research techniques simply can’t like: Which area in the print ad catches most people’s attention; Where is the most valuable ad placement on a website; Which element in an ad is most surprising and captivating.

One of the first and most famous neuromarketing research case studies is the “Pepsi Challenge.”[iv] In this fMRI study, 50% of participants chose Pepsi as their preferred drink, reflected in a stronger activity in the area of the brain that processes pleasure. The researchers then told them that they were actually drinking Coke, and 75% of the half that had previously preferred Pepsi agreed that Coke is in fact, the better tasting drink. This makes sense, but what’s surprising is that their brain activity also changed: the lateral prefrontal cortex, where executive functioning occurs, and the hippocampus, memory region were activated. The participants reversed their opinion about Pepsi and Coke, and associated it with past memories and impressions. The study showed that based on taste alone, Pepsi should own half the market share, but Coke is more popular because of the experiences and associations people have with the brand.

More recently, some brands in Canada have leveraged neuromarketing techniques with the help of companies like True Impact Marketing and Brainsights. But by far, NeuroFocus in the US is the leader in this field.

Google has used NeuroFocus (a biometrics research minority-owned by Nielson Company) to score sensory responses on attention, emotional engagement and effectiveness for their InVideo ads (the overlay ads on Youtube videos).[v]

The Weather Channel also worked with NeuroFocus before re-launching its When Weather Changed History series. They used EEG, eye-tracking technology and galvanic skin responses to fine-tune their commercials and programming for maximum impact.[vi]

A study involving eye trackers investigated brand recall of the embedded products within Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” music video. Results revealed that frequency is more important than display size, and that frequency and dwell time predicts recall. [vii]












Neuromarketing can provide valuable insights to planners that cannot be achieved through other research techniques. We need to tap into the subconscious of our consumers to truly understand what they want and who they are. Neural research allows us to know exactly which specific segment of the commercial worked, which word sparked the most excitement and which tweet engaged. For these reasons, this tool is too important to be ignored for its role in measuring, directing and maximizing content effectiveness.




[i] Northwestern University, 2014. “Can your business benefit from neuromarketing.”

[ii] Duke University and Sciencedaily, 2013. “Brain sets prices with emotional value.”

[iii] Bitterly, T. Bradford and Mislavsky, Robert and Dai, Hengchen and Milkman, Katherine L., 2014. “Dueling with Desire: A Synthesis of Past Research on Want/Should Conflict.”


[iv] McClure SM, Li J, Tomlin D, Cypert KS, Montague LM, Montague PR., 2004. “Neural correlates of behavioral preference for culturally familiar drinks.” Neuron, 14;44 (2):379-87.




[vi] Ibid.


[vii] SMI and Keylime Interactive. (2011) “Case Study Eye Tracking: Measuring Brand Recall.”

[viii] Fast Company, 2011. “Neurofocus uses neuromarketing to hack your brain.”

About Hilton Barbour

Hilton Barbour has written 10 post in this blog.

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