Emotions & Neuromarketing: Four Ways to Reach a Customer’s Brain Via the Heart


CONSUMERS MAKE decisions based largely on instinct and emotions, rather than rational logic and the careful weighing of pros and cons. What are some of the nuances of this decision-making process? Here is the science behind some of the triggers that elicit an emotional response, and a few ways that we, as marketers, can tap into those emotional triggers.

  1. Storytelling

As children, we understand the world through our senses and the stories we tell ourselves. Narratives can provide a vehicle for remembering objects, people, and places. It’s been found, in fact, that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts. It would follow, therefore, that items with stories attached to them are more attractive to potential customers — hence more likely to sell — than items unassociated with any kind of narrative.

How do you tell a good story? For one, by evoking as many of the senses as possible: provide visual details, yes, but also smells, sounds, and textures. The sense of smell is connected to memory more than any other bodily sense. It’s particularly powerful to tell stories that involve the olfactory sense since we’re more likely to retain memories tied to a particular scent than those tied to a particular image. There are a number of high-profile companies who practice this strategy, including Bloomingdale’s, Starbucks Corporation, and Aveda. Some examples of scent associations include lavender to encourage relaxation, leather and wood scents to evoke solid and traditional values, and vanilla fragrance to create a nurturing mood.

II.) Co-Creation

Another common marketing strategy that is becoming more common is the idea of co-creation. On sites like Instagram, YouTube, and Soundcloud, users provide the content by uploading photos, videos, and audio files. Video, especially, is very powerful in terms of getting consumers involved in the co-creation marketing process: Chris Trimble of The Guardian argues that a creative campaign strategy can prove enormously successful, such as with user-provided video contests.

Patrizia Bertini points out the following crucial link between customers and brands, when it comes to co-creation, concluding a recent article with the following: “By focusing on co-creation, value creation grows exponentially and delivers valuable experiences. Co-creation takes the industrial unidirectional process and changes the rules, generating cubed, holistic experiences and conversations that benefit from all three key actors: the brand, the customers, and the designer.”

III.) Mirror Neurons

Another smart approach to getting consumers to pay attention is to portray someone engaging in an action that mimics what you want customers to do: for example, if you sell self-rolling sushi kits, you might portray a scene of a group of friends laughing and making sushi rolls, all while using your product to assist them in the process. If viewers witness others enjoying themselves in the process of making sushi rolls, they are more likely to want to mirror the people in the ad or the video than if they merely saw a picture of the sushi-making kit sitting by itself on a table, sans happy sushi makers!

Why is this? It’s because of the presence of mirror neurons in our brains. They use physical experiences to make sense of the world, whether we are actually having the experience in real time or not. Apparently, there is a special cluster of cells in our brains that have been dubbed ‘mirror neurons’ because they mirror experiences we see, hear, or read in our brains, causing us to deeply empathize with the people enacting those experiences. Upon witnessing others enacting things, our brains simulate the action for us in our minds, making us feel as if we are also enacting the experience at the same time—hence the term ‘mirror’ neuron.

IV.) Viral Emotions

As marketers, if we employ mirroring, we depict someone interacting with a product that we anticipate viewers to want to experience in a similar way as the person in the ad. However, in addition to merely depicting someone interacting with the product we are trying to sell, we should also attempt to elicit one of the following emotions, as these four emotions have caused marketing campaigns involving Tweets to go viral: joy, trust, anticipation, or surprise. These emotions were singled out among a spectrum because they elicited the largest number of responses on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, the most popular emotions were positive, not negative. It makes sense, really. Doesn’t everyone want to be happy, after all? No one strives to be fearful, anxious, or full of rage. The reptilian brain is more influential than we might think — so appealing to consumer instinct makes a lot of sense. So next time you’re trying to reach customers, focus on emotional triggers you know will affect them on multiple levels. That way, you’ll know you’ve covered all your proverbial bases in order to elicit the strongest possible response.


Daphne Stanford
Daphne Stanford
DAPHNE grew up near the ocean, and she loves taking pictures of the mountains and rivers in Idaho, where she now lives. She believes in the power of writing, education, and community radio to change the world. She hosts “The Poetry Show!” Sundays on Radio Boise.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE