The Case for Neuroscience in Marketing

Written By Melissa Slawsky  |  Uncategorized  |  0 Comments

There's a new term circulating around the marketing world with "neuroscience marketing."  Let us delve into the origins of this new trend and examine how they play out today in our daily lives.

Neuroscience Marketing Defined 

As defined by Roger Dooley, "Neuroscience is the application of neuroscience and cognitive science to marketing. This can include market research that tries to discover customer needs, motivations, and preferences that traditional methods like surveys and focus groups can’t reveal."

He further explains, "Neuromarketing can include the evaluation of specific advertising, marketing, packaging, content etc. to more accurately understand how customers react at the non-conscious level. And, it can include applying the knowledge obtained from neuroscience and cognitive science research to make marketing more effective without testing specific ads or other materials." 1

[This is the most brilliant example of positioning I've seen in a while to create intrigue and desire around an otherwise esoteric subject.]

The Origins of Neuroscience in Marketing

Neuroscience may be a relatively new term when it comes to marketing, but appeared in the scientific communities as early as the late 1800's when Santiago Ramón y Cajal began to show visual evidence of what scientists could only theorize at the time - when it came to structures in the brain. Officially coined in the 1960's, we now have advanced imaging techniques (e.g., fMRI, etc.) to show effects of experimental psychology and neurobiology in real-time. 2

Fast-forward to 2002, an article appears on the scene from German professor, Ale Smidt (originally, "Looking into the brain" and adapted to "Looking into neuromarketing") and a new discipline was formed. 3

The main goal:

To understand consumer behavior patterns in order to improve marketing strategies

How it can be measured:

Through advanced brain imaging techniques such as fMRI, EEG, EMG, and FACS (facial activation coding system)

In other words, thoughts and feelings could finally be "objectively measured."
[Beyond what you'd be able to obtain from market research interviews and focus groups.]

The Arguments For and Against Neuromarketing

While the power and potential of neuromarketing is generally agreed upon, "to uncover the secrets of consumers' subconscious" (Arthmann & Li as cited in 3)- there are some that argue against the practice.

A. It's expensive.

B. There could be ethical implications with the potential for manipulation and control over consumers to prefer one brand over another

The Reality 

The reality is brands have been using a system to appeal to the collective unconscious for at least half a century.  There's an algorithm already in place that doesn't require the expense of brain imaging and controlled experiments.

The O.G. of neuromarketing is Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology.  Inspired by the work of philosopher Imannuel Kant, he defined 12 core archetypes - or story-based patterns of human behavior that we see played out on a daily basis. 

Authors and screen writers use the archetypes to develop compelling characters in books and media.

Every ensemble cast is made up of the perfect combination of 4-5 contrasting archetypes, which make for hilarious antics and meaningful bonds. 

Applied to brands and marketing, the archetypes allow you to tap into desires, motivations, fears, and strategies that already exist in the minds of your clients and customers (instead of having to manufacture desire for your products and services.)

In other words, you can get into the heads of your clients and customers before you even talk to them (no brain imaging required.)

  • When you go to Starbucks, it's about "fuel for the journey" (Explorer)
  • Buying an Apple is about what you're going to create with it (Creator)
  • Buying a luxury car is about increasing your status (Ruler), and
  • Buying a Harley is about breaking free from your own status quo (Rebel)


As societal changes continue to cause changes in the marketing landscape, we're always going to be on the lookout for new ways to create better results.  Neuroscience marketing is worth looking into to provide physiological evidence to what psychology has already defined for us. (And getting a better understanding of your ideal client is always a worthwhile endeavor.)

I do think credit (to Carl Jung) should be given where credit is due... If the term "neuroscience" makes brand development more appealing to marketers, I'm all for it.  If you're short on time or funds for fMRI machines, there is an easier way...


1  R. Dooley. (2021, August 19). What is neuromarketing? Neuromarketing. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from 

2 Society for Neuroscience. (n.d.). HistoryofSfN.pdf - the creation of neuroscience the Society for Neuroscience and the quest for disciplinary unity 1969-1995 introduction. HistoryofSfN.pdf - The Creation of Neuroscience The Society for Neuroscience and the Quest for Disciplinary Unity 1969-1995 Introduction F rom the | Course Hero. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from file:///Users/admin/Downloads/HistoryofSfN.pdf 

3 Cenizo, C. (2022). Neuromarketing: Concept, historical evolution and challenges. Revista ICONO 14. Revista científica de Comunicación y Tecnologías emergentes. Retrieved December 11, 2022, from,the%20first%20time%20in%20the