33 Lessons in NeuroMarketing

33 Lessons in Neuromarketing from Jeph Maystruck

Data from the books:

1. What happens neurologically when you buy a “fake” product?

You don’t actually get the full value from it. Buying a knock-off sounds like a good idea but you’re sacrificing more than a few bucks.

“Baba Shiv, a Neuroeconomist at Stanford, supplied a group of people with Sobe Adrenaline Rush, an ‘energy’ drink that was supposed to make them feel more alert and energetic. Shiv found that people who’d paid discounted prices consistently solved about 30 percent fewer puzzles than the people who’d paid full price for the drinks. The subjects were convinced that the stuff on sale was much less potent, even though all the drinks were identical. ‘We ran the study again and again, not sure if what we got had happened by chance or fluke,’ Shiv says. ‘But every time we ran it, we got the same results.'” – How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

2. Can being in a “good mood” make you a better problem solver?

You better believe it!

“Mark Jung-Beeman, the scientist who studies the neuroscience of insight, has shown that people in good moods are significantly better at solving hard problems that require insight than people who are cranky and depressed. (Happy people solve nearly 20 percent more word puzzles than unhappy people.)”  – How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

3. Does Word-of-Mouth marketing work? How do you know?

The final chapter in Lindstrom’s BrandWashed is called “Meet The Morgenson’s” – A story about how you measure “word-of-mouth” marketing. A brilliant study craft by the marketing super-guru Martin Lindstrom.

A multi-million dollar study had Lindstrom setting up 17 microphones, 35 hidden cameras, 15 hidden crew members all to document one family and the influence of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s a fascinating outcome I don’t want to ruin for you, but basically they find that word-of-mouth marketing influences so much more than we realize every day.

“Whether it’s shoes, jewelry, barbecue tools, or sports equipment, there’s nothing quite as persuasive as observing someone we respect or admire using a brand or product.  – BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

The results proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that marketers, advertisers, and big business have nothing at all compared to the influence we consumers have on one another.” – BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

4. At what age can virtually all American kids identify the Joe Camel Camel?

Six. Sad isn’t it.

“Nearly all America’s six-year-olds could identify Joe Camel, who was just as familiar to them as Mickey Mouse.”  – BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

5. How old are American children when they can recognize 100 logos?

36 months old.

“Recent studies have shown that by the time they are 36 months old, American children recognize an average of 100 brand logos.”  – Dr. Allen Kanner, Child Psychologist at the Wright Institute in Berkley, California.

6. What’s one of the most powerful advertising tactics used?

Fear. It’s sad how often it’s used in advertising.

How is fear used in advertising?

  1. Pinpoint a problem consumers don’t know they have
  2. Create anxiety around the problem
  3. Sell the cure

7. Does fear work in increasing sales for specific industries?

Remember the alarm company commercials? Mom and her kids at home, scary man in the window about to break in. Breaks in and Brinks saves the day!!

“Thanks to fear-mongering, alarm sales rose by an unprecedented 10% in a single year, a year during which crime rates actually decreased.”   – BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

What have marketers done to the supermarket?

8. Ever go to the grocery store and see the produce being misted from above?

Why the heck would you do that?

For years now supermarkets have been sprinkling select vegetables with regular dew drops of water – a trend that came out of Denmark. Why? Like ice displays, those sprinkler-like drops serve as a symbolic, albeit a bogus one, of freshness and purity. (Ironically, that same dewy mist makes the vegetables rot more quickly than they would otherwise.) -BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

9. Yup, they’ve tested to see what colour of bananas we tend to buy more of.


10. How old is the average apple in the Supermarket?

14 months old!

“Believe it or not, my research found that while it may look fresh, the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually fourteen months old.” – BrandWashed by Martin Lindstrom

11. Does Music effect your shopping patterns?

Absolutely! Next time you’re shopping take note of the music being played, it’s probably on purpose.

In department stores:

“In department stores ―Muzak with a slow tempo makes shoppers shop for 18% longer and make 17% more purchases.” – Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say by Douglas Rushkoff

12. Does Music effect your shopping patterns in the grocery store?

In grocery stores:

“In grocery stores, shoppers make 38% more purchases while listening to slow tempo ―Muzak. On the contrary, fast food restaurants play faster ―Muzak to encourage a faster rate of chewing.” – Coercion: Why We Listen to What They Say by Douglas Rushkoff

13. Does the multi coloured toothpaste work better than single coloured toothpaste?

No, multicoloured toothpaste doesn’t “work” any better but you’ll think you get better results with a multicoloured toothpaste.

“In one experiment, I asked two groups of consumers to try two different versions of the toothpaste (Aquafresh)-one regular version and one that had been dyed just one color. Sure enough, the group using the paste with three colors not only reported that the toothpaste worked 73 percent better, they even claimed they believed that their teeth looked whiter.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

14. What’s the best way to display a dollar amount on a menu? With or without a dollar sign, with or without decimal places?

Simple number without a dollar sign or decimal places attracted the high spend per person.

“One Cornell study looked at several common restaurant price display techniques: $12.00 or 12 or twelve dollars. The researchers expected that the written/scripted prices would perform best, but they found that the guests with the simple numeral prices (those without dollar signs or decimals) spent significantly more than the other two groups did.”  – Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

15. Does smell affect our behaviour?

It sure does!

“Scents can affect behaviour and consumer perceptions. One experiment showed that nightclub patrons danced longer when the venue was scented with orange, peppermint, and seawater. When surveyed, the patrons of the scented clubs reported they had a better time and liked the music more.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

16. Can you use smell to keep people in your establishment longer?

Yes and it happens all the time.

“A test in a casino found that people gambled 45 percent more money in a slot machine when a pleasant scent was introduced into the area”. -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

17. Can a scent make you like a product more?

Again, yes!

“Another test found that changing a shampoo’s fragrance but no other performance characteristics caused testers to find that it foamed better, rinsed out more easily, and left their hair glossier.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

18. Can you process a scent without being consciously aware of it?

Yup, subliminal smells.

“Sometimes, we process scents without conscious awareness. In one unique experiment, researchers asked female subjects to smell shirts worn by men who watched either an erotic movie or a neutral one. Virtually all of the women said they didn’t smell anything, but the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the brains of the women who smelled the shirts worn by the aroused guys lit up in a different way. (This is just one example of why surveys, questionnaires, and similar market research tools can yield unreliable results.)” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

19. Can music influence the type of wine you purchase?

It sure can!

“They chose a wineshop for this experiment, since wines have identifiable origins, and proceeded to play French and German background music on alternating days. The results were startling: the French and German wines each outsold the other by several multiples on the days the matching music was playing.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

20. Does the “illusion of progress” actually work?

Yes surprisingly well! Whenever you create a loyalty card where you stamp or punch it, it’s always better to “pre-stamp” the card to show a little bit of progress immediately.

“One of the most interesting findings was that the mere illusion of progress caused people to buy coffee more frequently. The experimenters issued two different cards: empty cards with 10 spots to stamp and cards with 12 blanks of which two were pre-stamped. In both cases, 10 stamps were required to earn the free coffee. Despite the identical number of stamps needed, the group that started with apparent progress on their card bought coffee more frequently than the empty-card group.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

21. Are we biologically driven to always help babies?

Yes, there’s something about our biological systems that force us to care about small kids, it’s fascinating really. It makes sense though, without our young, we don’t survive the next generation.

“An experiment in Edinburgh began by planting hundreds of wallets on city streets. Almost half were mailed back to the owner. Most wallets contained one of four possible photos: a smiling baby, a cute puppy, a happy family, or an elderly couple. Other wallets had no photo at all, and some had charity papers inside. 3 The results were quite startling. Fully 88 percent of the wallets with the baby photo were returned. The next best rate was the puppy photo, at 53 percent. A family photo netted a 48 percent return rate, while an elderly couple picture scored only 28 percent. Just one out of seven of the no-photo wallets was returned. According to the principal researcher, Dr. Richard Wiseman, the high rate of return for the wallets that included a baby photo reflects an evolution-driven instinct to help vulnerable infants. Humans, in order to protect future generations, are wired to help babies, even the progeny of others.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

22. How do you increase charitable donations? Using reciprocity of course!

“An interesting study by German researcher Armin Falk showed that a bigger gift amplifies the reciprocity effect. Falk’s study involved mailing 10,000 requests for charitable donations, divided into three groups. One group received only the letter requesting the donation, one group received the letter plus a free postcard and envelope (the small gift), and the last group received a package containing four postcards and envelopes (the large gift). The idea that sending a gift along with a charitable donation request boosts response is well established, and the experiment bore this out: the small gift boosted donation totals by 17 percent. The recipients of the large gift, though, were even more generous: they donated 75 percent more than the no-gift group. This experiment is significant in a couple of ways. First, it tested reciprocity in the real world, not in an academic setting with undergrads used as inexpensive lab rats. Second, it demonstrated that the reciprocity effect is proportional to the perceived size of the gift or favour, even when the variations are relatively minor.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

23. Is it better to use percentages or numbers in your advertising materials?

“If you want to convey a positive message, use real numbers, not percentages. If you are describing a benefit of your product or service, expressing it in terms of absolute numbers will maximize its impact. Good: 90 percent of our customers rate our service as excellent. Better: 9 out of 10 customers rate our service as excellent.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

24. What percentage of people who post a negative review online later become a loyal customer?


“A Harris survey showed that 18 percent of those who posted a negative review of the merchant and received a reply ultimately became loyal customers and bought more.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

25. After leaving a negative review and getting a response, what percentage of people changed their review or posted a second positive review?

Just under 70% of people. It pays to be kind and listen to people when they complain.

“…nearly 70 percent of those consumers receiving replies reversed the negative content either by deleting the bad review or posting a second positive one. Considering the power of word of mouth—in particular, negative word of mouth—that’s a stunning accomplishment.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

26. How long does it take for people to judge your website as appealing or not?

One-twentieth of a second. Better get rid of that pop-up!!

“Researchers at Carleton University were stunned to find that showing users an image of a website for a mere 50 milliseconds—that’s just a twentieth of a second—was sufficient for them to decide how appealing a website was.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

27. Does the temperature of the drink in your hand affect the way you judge a stranger?


“John Bargh of Yale University, found that the temperature of a beverage makes a difference in how one person judges another person. An experiment gave subjects cups of either iced or hot coffee and then told them to rate someone else’s personality solely from a file of information about that person. Which group do you think scored the person higher for warmth? The hot coffee group, of course!” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

28. Does simply using the word “trust” in your marketing material increase how much people trust you?

In this one study yes it would appear so!

“Researchers found that placing the following statement at the end of an ad for an auto service firm caused their trust scores to jump as much as 33 percent;―You can trust us to do the job for you.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

29. Does smell affect your purchasing patterns in a bar?


One small but interesting study measured sales of a liquor product in a bar. Patrons who had the aroma of that beverage pumped into the surrounding air while a visual ad could be seen purchased nearly twice as much of the product as those who saw the ad alone.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

30. Do the grotesque images on cigarette packs work at deterring smokers?

No, they do just the opposite. Whenever people see grotesque images they now are triggered to want a smoke.

“Tobacco warning labels were found to stimulate craving for tobacco when smokers were observed using fMRI brain scans. The very labels intended to frighten smokers became, after repeated exposure, a cue to smoke. By their presence on every pack of cigarettes, the warning labels became associated with the pleasurable aspect of satisfying a tobacco craving.” -Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom

31. It is better to present using a simple font or a complex font?

Studies show that a complex font will make your brain work harder to understand what it is said. Counterintuitive right?

“A Princeton study compared student retention of course material presented in both simple fonts and more complex fonts and found that retention was significantly better for the complex font.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

32. What do companies know about you based on your credit card spending?

In 2002 a Canadian Tire executive analyzed credit card data from the previous year and found out that;―people who bought carbon monoxide monitors practically never missed payments, and neither did people who bought those little soft pads that keep furniture legs from scratching up your floor. But….―if a person bought a chrome-skull car accessory, he was pretty likely to miss his bill eventually.” -Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom

33. Why do companies prices things at $499 instead of $500?

We aren’t fooled by the penny cheaper price but we attribute more value to a non-rounded price. Stay away from the round price points.

“According to these findings, it seems, I might have done just as well selling a $499 product at $502.50; the key thing is to avoid the dreaded round number of $500, which implies a lack of precision and makes customers wonder if $400 is a more appropriate price.

In the past, I recall frequent admonitions that “Nobody is fooled by a price that’s a penny cheaper—let’s keep it simple and just charge an even number.” People may not be fooled by the more precise price, but they may attribute a higher value to the product itself.” -Brainfluence by Roger Dooley

33 lessons in neuromarketing