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Neuroscience applied to marketing & sales, what are we talking about?

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Among current marketing and sales innovations, neuroscience is holding a leadership. Why? Just two words: efficiency and performance. Efficiency, because neuroscience techniques exclusively rely on science. Performance, because they make marketing and sales strategies more powerful. In this post I describe various applied neuroscience techniques.

 

 

TECHNOLOGICAL TOOLS

 

Whenever neurosciences and neuromarketing are mentioned the same mental pictures often come to mind. Pictures of technological tools taken from sci-fi movies, of researchers in lab coats, and of nonsense brain scans. Recognize any of your own mental shortcuts? Indeed, neuromarketing sometimes consists of measuring consumers’ physiological responses when placed in various situations and under various stimuli.

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI), for instance, helps determine which brain areas fire when consumers are exposed to these stimuli. Eye-tracking consists of identifying what customers gaze at and pay attention to when watching adverts or looking at supermarket shelves. Skin conductance is considered as a measure of stress and focus.

 

 

 

TALKING ABOUT EFFICIENCY?

 

Technological tools are probably the most well-known neuromarketing techniques. Yet, their relevance should be toned down a little. Indeed, these tools are mainly descriptive, and only slightly functional. Concretely, it means that their main purpose is often to measure customers’ unconscious reactions, such as emotions, to various stimuli.

 

These measurements’ predictive value on intentions and behaviours is often weak. For instance, as dramatic and shocking as road safety or anti-tobacco ads can be, their impact on people’s behaviour is rather weak.

 

Eye-tracking techniques helps determine what elements of adverts or packaging consumers place their attention on. This is an interesting tool for branding. For instance to understand how to increase brand familiarity. From a strict functional point of view though, determining where customers gaze is of little interest to influence their judgments and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, technological tools are probably part of the most well-known neuromarketing techniques. Their use and efficiency are still restricted to a very limited array of situations and contexts.

 

 

MASTERING CUSTOMER PSYCHOLOGY

 

neurosciences marketing ventes

Customer psychology refers to the techniques, and our knowledge, of how people perceive information, memorize it and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Contrary to technological tools, customer psychology techniques are less familiar, but more functional and directly applicable.

 

For instance, at ANALYTICA, we have developed CogniMenu, a menu engineering service aimed at boosting restaurants’ sales. To this end, we anticipate how customers make decisions when facing several options. With that in mind, we work on the menu’s layout and pricing so as to encourage customers to pick the highest-margin meals. Thus increasing restaurants’ average benefits.

cognimenu logo menu engineering

 

This is possible because the way that people process information and make decisions is to some extent predictable. CogniMenu organizes information on a menu in a way that guides customers’ towards buying the meals restaurants want to promote.

 

 

IMPROVING CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

The benefit of neuroscience-based customer studies is to avoid ineffective, traditional methods that record people’s subjective verbal statements. Contrary to general belief, people do not say what they do, and do not do what they say. In contrast, neuromarketing enables us to understand customers’ perception, representations and judgments whilst avoiding the biases of traditional studies.

 

 

 

Neurosciences vs. traditional marketing: customers do not say what they do, and do not do what they say... Click To Tweet

 

 

It is an alternative method aimed at determining what customers really think about a product, beyond unreliable verbal statements. In a traditional customer study for instance, customers can be asked if they would buy UK-grown tomatoes (verbal answer). Instead, a neuroscience-based study would first assess consumers’ perception of vegetables’ origins from the packaging. Then be asked about their preference between two products. One in which the packaging mentions the tomatoes’ origin and one in which the packaging does not.

 

 

neurosciences marketing sales packaging

 

 

NEUROSCIENCE-BASED PACKAGING

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

“Vice product” corresponds to the biscuits, and “Virtue product” corresponds to the fruit juice

Scientific literature is full of neuroscience studies showing how small packaging details affect consumers’ unconscious perceptions and judgments. By understanding how these details influence buyers’ intentions and behaviours, you can set up a marketing and sales strategy that is more powerful and efficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEUROSCIENCE-BASED SEGMENTATION

 

neuroscience marketing sales packaging

Taking customers’ personality into account can help you communicate better and more efficiently. Do you think that you should communicate with a whole age category the same way? Then think again. Scientific studies show that whatever the segment you target (age, geographical location, socio-economic status), it is more efficient to adjust promotional messages to your target’s personality to generate sales.

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, neuroscience offers many innovative methods to improve your marketing and sales strategy. This enables you to reach your target more efficiently.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, and Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports.

 

 

tests consommateurs neurosciences

How to improve customer studies with behavioural sciences?

customer studies packaging neurosciences

Customer studies… Let’s face it: customers do not say what they do, and do not do what they say. So how can we really understand how customers perceive and evaluate your products and their packaging?

 

 

 

 

In his recent book Experimentation works, Stefan Thomke, a professor at Harvard Business School, quotes a manager from Booking (booking.com) speaking about customers’ behaviour:customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

“We see evidence every day that people are terrible at guessing. Our predictions of how customers behave are wrong nine out of ten times.”

 

 

TRADITIONAL VS NEUROSCIENCE-BASED CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

Traditional customer studies are beneficial to understand people’s preferences and habits. They are a strategic phase of the development of products and packaging. Once strategic decisions have been made, how can we be sure that creations and messages are perceived as expected by customers?

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

Are the colours and texture of a new mobile phone congruent with the claim that it is the lightest phone on the market? Is a Union Jack sufficient for a product to be perceived as made in the UK? Does the font type reflect a product of quality and authenticity? Should the teaspoon on the cereal packet be placed on the bowl’s left or right? Shall the advertisement’s background be the same colour as the displayed product? Should the triangular shape of the pasta packet’s transparent window be pointing downwards or upwards?

 

 

 

Customer studies based on psychology enable us to objectively assess people's perceptions and judgments Click To Tweet

 

 

Such questions about the impact and efficacy of products and packaging can hardly be answered with traditional customer studies. Conversely, all of them have been answered thanks to behavioural science. Customer studies based on psychology enable us to objectively assess people’s perceptions and judgments. They are also useful to understand your clients’ unconscious judgments; the very judgments that they cannot express because customers’ answers are usually biased and influenced by many factors! Eventually, you will obtain accurate information about the psychological impact of your product and its packaging on consumers (e.g. font, colours, claims, weight, size, texture, etc.).

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

EXAMPLES OF CUSTOMER STUDIES

 

For these products, the darker version was judged by consumers as heavier and more durable than the lighter version, but also less user-friendly.

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

In this example, biscuit and fruit juice manufacturers wondered whether person-like drawings could improve purchase intentions. Customer studies have shown that the impact of person-like drawings depends on the type of product sold. It improves purchase intentions for “hedonic” and calorific products (biscuits = vice product). However, it decreases purchase intentions for healthy products (fruit juice = virtue product).

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

“Vice product” corresponds to biscuits, and “Virtue product” corresponds to fruit juice

 

 

See these packaging infographics about Campbell’s soup. Each improvement has been tested and validated through studies about customers’ perceptions and judgments. Traditional customer studies could not have found that the logo placed on top attracted too much attention. Or that the spoon triggered a minimal emotional reaction.

 

 

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

The benefit of using neurosciences and psychology for customer studies is thus manifold:

 

 

AVOID INFLUENCING CUSTOMERS’ ANSWERS

 

It is easy to influence people’s answers to a survey. One just has to ask questions in a way that encourages a particular answer.

 

 

Often, the survey designer is not aware of that influence. As a consequence, collected data turn out to be useless and of poor quality. But these data will still be used to make strategic decisions. For instance, Steve Jobs, the iconic but this time misled Apple CEO, said in 2003:

Steve Jobs

 

“People have told us over and over and over again, they don’t want to rent their music… they don’t want subscriptions.”

 

 

Conversely, customer studies based on social psychology principles enable us to assess people’s perceptions and judgments objectively, including unconscious representations and judgments that customers do not verbally express.

 

 

DETERMINING CUSTOMERS’ PERCEPTIONS & JUDGMENTS BEYOND VERBAL STATEMENTS

 

If you think that customer studies are only about assessing your target’s preference for a given product or packaging, then neurosciences won’t help you. Ordinary surveys are sufficient to understand such preferences. Conversely, behavioural sciences allow for more innovative customer studies to be conducted. Collected data about the impact of a product or a packaging are virtually limitless!

 

 

Every detail of a product or its packaging can have a tremendous impact on consumer perception Click To Tweet

 

 

Customer studies based on neuroscience help to confirm whether new products and packaging trigger the expected perception. They enable us to understand customers’ unconscious judgments. Genuine judgments that your customers cannot properly express. Every detail of a product or its packaging can have a tremendous impact on consumer perception. This is why behavioural sciences have become essential for customer studies.

customer studies packaging neurosciences

 

 

In this example, the labels of Champagne bottles vary in complexity. Do you wish to communicate a ‘feminine’ feeling? The label on the right should rather be used. Do you wish to communicate a sensation of ‘modernity’ and ‘authenticity’? The label on the left is more likely to generate them. Would these conclusions have been reached following traditional customer studies and creators’ mere intuitions? No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN SUMMARY

 

Behavioural sciences enable us to access significantly more data that traditional customer studies. Perceptions, representations, judgments, intentions… Neurosciences, along with social psychology, possess technical tools to accurately assess the objective impact of a new product or its packaging on consumers. And these tools go beyond simple statements that often turn out to be biased and subjective. Your customers show unconscious judgments and representations that traditional customer studies cannot identify. Because each and every conception detail can have an unexpected but substantial influence on consumers’ perceptions and intentions, neurosciences provide more reliable and more objective methods than intuition or chance.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan David

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, and Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports.

 

 

 

billets ventes prix psychologiques

How to increase prices without decreasing sales: 1) Psychological prices

 

billets ventes prix psychologiques

Setting high prices without impeding sales is the neuromarketing aim of all retailers. Here I describe a simple technique to reach that goal via the use of “psychological” prices.

 

 

 

The linear relationship between sales volume and price is a basic selling principle. If customers act rationally, sales volume is expected to decrease as prices increase. Conversely, sales volume should increase when prices decrease. This idea is correct in theory. Indeed, this relationship is commonly found; especially as far as Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) are concerned. This is because their prices usually show little elasticity. That does not mean that the above-mentioned negative relationship is true in every context. There are situations where price drops do not cause an increase in sales volume. And others where a price increase does not genuinely lead to sales’ decrease. We could just as well conclude that businesses and retailers suffer from missed opportunities to raise their profits!

 

 

psychological prices

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL PRICES

 

Psychological prices are certainly the most popular and used neuromarketing technique. Scientific studies show that consumers’ brains tend to focus on the first digits of prices. For instance, a product priced at £7.99 will appear as less expensive as the same product priced at £8.00; despite the 1 pence difference being minimal. This is because our brain tends to focus on the “7” digit for the first price, and on the “8” digit for the second one.

Offering a product priced at £7.99 instead of £8.00 can potentially help you enjoy a higher sales volume. This will also substantially compensate for the 1-pence loss per product. Indeed, your customers will perceive the £7.99 product as less expensive, and thus more affordable.

Following this rationale, a product priced at £7.00 will be perceived as roughly as expensive as a £7.99 product. In both cases, the price’s first digit is the same (“7”). Pricing your product at £7.00 in this situation should not lead you to enjoy as many sales as you could expect. The price decrease from £7.99 to £7.00 will be perceived by your customers’ brain as less important than it really is. Consequently, you may rather suffer from a profit loss of 99 cents per product (12%). This loss may, eventually, be hard to compensate for with an increase of sales; hence, a missed opportunity to raise your profits.

 

 

Consumers' brains tend to focus on the first digits of prices Click To Tweet

 

 

A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

 

psychological prices sales

Please note, however, that psychological prices are a double-edged sword. Prices ending in 9 unconsciously refer to low-quality products. I would, thus, advise against using 9 as an ending for good-quality products. For instance, a high-end restaurant should use round numbers, such as £18, without decimals or options ending with 9. Conversely, a fast-food or casual restaurant would be advised to set its prices according to the psychological prices’ principle (£11.95 for a vegetarian pizza).

 

 

 

Prices ending in 9 unconsciously refer to low-quality products Click To Tweet

 

In a future blog article, I will emphasise the importance of customers’ psychology and the framing of prices for their potential to increase prices and profits.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr Morgan DAVID   

A former academic and behavioural sciences expert, Dr Morgan David is the founder and director of ANALYTICA, a consultancy agency based in the UK and in France. ANALYTICA uses the way our brain works to design better products and better services in the realm of neuromarketing, webmarketing, customer experience, sales strategy and pricing tactics. ANALYTICA created CogniSales, a neuromarketing sales service, CogniMenu, the first new-generation menu engineering service, and Predicta Sports, a science-based talent identification tool for predictive recruitment in sports.

 

 

Morgan DAVID psychologie marketing

Interview about neuromarketing with Morgan David

neuromarketing-Morgan-DAVID

 

I have recently been interviewed about neuromarketing by Salomé Ficarelli, a student of the master in Communication & Marketing of ISCOM in Lyon, France. Definition, techniques, examples, strengths, limits… everything you have ever wanted to know about neuromarketing without asking…! I leave you to discover the transcription of this interview and thank Salomé for soliciting me.

 

 

 

 

Salomé Ficarelli: Morgan David, who are you?

 

Morgan David: I am a behavioural sciences expert, with a PhD from the University of Burgundy (France) and the University of Quebec in Montreal (Canada). I have worked as an academic in several universities in France, Canada, the UK and Belgium. My research dealt with the factors influencing people’s behaviours and decisions in various contexts. I am the fonder and director of Analytica, a behavioural sciences-grounded consultancy company based in the UK and in France. I help my clients develop their services and products by taking into account how their customers’ brains work, how they make decisions and how they behave. My services rely on neuromarketing techniques, nudges, social psychology and other disciplines related to behavioural sciences.

 

 

“Taking customers’ psychology into account is an essential added value for companies to improve their margins and their benefits”

 

 

SF: Could you please, in a few sentences, tell us what neuromarketing is?

 

Morgan David: Not all professionals would give the same definition, depending on their expertise. As far as I am concerned, I consider neuromarketing as a technique used to promote a product or a service’s sales by taking advantage of scientific knowledge about how customers’ brains collect information, process it and take decisions. Neuromarketing sometimes uses advanced technology, like MRI or eye-tracking, mainly for marketing purposes and because clients fantasize quite a bit about those kinds of technique… But I would like to make two statements: 1) these techniques are rather descriptive and their efficiency quite limited. Is it sufficient to know where a customer places their attention to make a sale? The answer is no; and, 2) a vast array of knowledge from consumer psychology, cognitive and social psychology provides efficient techniques to profile customers, anticipate their decisions and their behaviour, so as to develop services and products that match their preferences and expectations. I personally tend to use these latter types of knowledge and techniques because they are based on evidence despite being neglected.

 

 

neuromarketing-morgan-david-faces

Click on the image to read our article ‘What is neuromarketing?’

SF: On which tools and technology does neuromarketing rely on?

 

Morgan DAVID: Neuromarketing relies on the direct recording of brain activity (like MRIs), on physiological measures (such as skin conductance or eye tracking), or on techniques based on consumer and cognitive psychology. In this latter case, we adjust the environment and the context in which customers make choices and take decisions to promote specific products or services. Therefore, information about how the brain collects and processes information, and how it takes decisions, is essential to create an efficient sales strategy. Without it, we are just fishing for solutions following uncertain customer stereotypes. This is why it is important, in my opinion, to rely on knowledge and techniques that have been scientifically proven. As far as I am concerned, I only use techniques whose efficiency has been assessed in peer-reviewed articles published in international scientific journals.

 

 

SF: What are the benefits and limits of neuromarketing?

 

Morgan David: The added value of neuromarketing is high for companies. Take the example of these big American chains, like McDonalds or Starbucks. Whatever we think of them, these ventures have succeded because they have for a long time tried to understand how to attract customers, sell them products and encourage brand loyalty. And they did not do it by flipping a coin. They have asked behavioural experts to carefully think about these issues. Adopting a customer-centric approach by taking customers’ psychology into account is an essential added value for companies to improve their margins, their benefits, customers’ loyalty and to expand their market. Neuromarketing allows them to more accurately target a relevant sales’ strategy, from its conception to its development. I argue in favour of a trial and error framework to determine what works and what does not. Also, knowing how customers think and behave enables to be one jump ahead within this process.

            Talking about limits now, a large portion of customers’ behaviour still remains unknown. It is sometimes hard to identify which of several techniques is likely to be the most efficient. Customers are not robots. It is unrealistic, and ethically questionable, to think that people’s decisions and behaviour can be predicted with perfect accuracy. That is simply impossible! Neuromarketers are more successful than the average marketer because they work with large samples of people. Statistically speaking then, the techniques that we use, when grounded in experimental evidence, are likely to be more efficient than others, which then translates into concrete benefits for companies. Neuromarketers are not magicians! They use scientific techniques; that is, the objectively most efficient techniques currently available, to reach precise goals. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

 

“Neuromarketing allows companies to more accurately target a relevant sales’ strategy, from its conception to its development”

 

 

SF: Could you please provide concrete examples of neuromarketing applications?

 

Morgan David: As far as I am concerned, I can tell you about some examples related to webmarketing. I work on company websites, and more precisely on their composition, their organisation, the formulation of their offers and on the general website environment (what we usually call ‘atmospherics’) to improve conversion rates. It is highly efficient. The reason is that websites are almost never optimised from a customer-experience point of view. When we know how people’s brains work, it is rather easy to anticipate customer reactions, behaviours and decisions within the “confined” website environment. The way information is laid out and organised is key. I also am experienced in contributing to the development of physical shops. In this case I work on customer experience: people’s buying journey inside the shop, pricing optimisation, lights, music, the layout of products and the whole shopping environment. In consumer psychology, these parameters are known for impacting customers’ satisfaction and loyalty to the brand. I have also created a new-generation menu engineering service called ‘CogniMenu’, which aims to increase restaurants’ benefits by improving their menus and display boards.

 

 

SF: To end with, should we fear neuromarketing?

 

Morgan David: As I said earlier, the media and the general public fantasize quite a lot about neuromarketing. All that neuromarketing can do is to increase a product’s sales by a few percent. This is done by modifying some of its features according to customers’ preferences and expectations. Neuromarketing helps to increase margins, benefits and market shares. That’s all! It translates into lots of benefit for companies that wish to boost sales, but remains virtually impactless for customers. When neuromarketing increases customers’ average spending, it is by a few percent too. Customers cannot be manipulated as one pleases. I am often asked about manpulation: is neuromarketing manipulation? That is a very good question. I have seen TV documentaries in which companies were trying to hide somehow their use of neuromarketing techniques… From a social psychology point of view, any interaction can be manipulative. Manipulation consists of influencing others’ decisions to make them adopt behaviours they would not have adopted otherwise. This interview is a good example. In a sense, you have manipulated me to convince me to answer your questions. Asking your kids to set the table? That is manipulation. Inviting your friends for dinner? That is manipulation. And here comes the link with selling. Selling is manipulation by definition. This is because salespeople try to convince clients to buy their products by emphasizing the benefits of those products. Have you ever found a shop that does not promote its products? It would not last very long on the market. Advertisement is manipulation because it tries to convince customers to purchase a product or to buy a service. In conclusion, manipulation is not a bad thing in itself, as long as it does not harm the person who is being manipulated. If you rip customers off, that is both illegal and morally condemnable. That said, malpractices and dishonest salespeople have always existed, long before neuromarketing showed up. Any attempts to persuade, like advertisement and marketing have always done, can be considered as manipulation. Using knowledge about customers’ behaviour to persuade them better is not, in my opinion, any more morally reprehensible.