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Neuromarketing: everything you need to know in 1 overview


Neuromarketing: everything you need to know in 1 overview

What is neuromarketing exactly? Is it always research? Or is it also the application of insights from psychology?

It can be quite a job to get a good overview of this beautiful field. But don't worry, that's why we wrote this 'fundamental blog' for you. From here you get a concise overview of everything around 'neuro', with links to pages that go into more depth.

From research, to training, and our favorite insights. You have come to the right place! 

 Since this has become quite a long article, I added a table of contents. This way you can quickly go to the part that is important to you.

This article is, of course, a good starting point. But do you want to know what the complete Fundamentals of neuromarketing are? And do you want to call yourself a true neuromarketeer? Then take a look at our online Complete Neuromarketing Essentials course!

Watch The Online Neuromarketing Training

I. What is Neuromarketing?

Neu-ro-mar-ke-ting. A newspaper article here and a radio item there. You can hardly ignore neuromarketing anymore. Shortly stated, with neuromarketing you dive into the brain of your consumer. And this is certainly not an unnecessary luxury, since human decision-making largely happens subconscious.
Let's start with the definition we use at Unravel:


I.I. A definition

'Making good marketing and communication even more effective, through psychology and neuroscience'.

That’s a mouthful. 

Strangely enough, these are two worlds that have come together, especially recently. Originally, the term 'neuromarketing' only meant doing research into brain responses on marketing actions. The word "marketing" also implies an active role of a neuromarketeer. Not just research, but also improvement. In this blog we will elaborate on this: 'What is Neuromarketing and Consumer Neuroscience?'

Nowadays we see more and more that the term is also used for its application; making marketing even more effective through insights from psychology and brain sciences. is a good example of this. They apply many psychological principles from the social sciences, with the aim of increasing sales and conversion. Meaning that they do not research the brain, but they do apply the insights that come from this research.

Smart marketeers will of course test whether such a psychological insight actually leads to more sales. Another word for this is conversion optimization. And that's where Tom and I started almost 10 years ago. Neuromarketing as an application: more conversion and turnover through the application of behavioral sciences. This is what our sister company Unravel Behavior is still doing.

We soon delved into research into the brain. Unravel Research was born (although we then called ourselves 'ST&T Research'). Of course still with the same vision: 'Making good marketing even better'.

In addition to seeing how people react emotionally and subconsciously to websites, shops and advertisements, we also give advice on how to make this even better. Good marketing starts with your intuition, a gut feeling. Marketing that is even better then investigates whether something actually works.

It is not without reason that we have this text hanging in our office: 'Van Onderbuik, Naar Onderbouwd', meaning ‚ÄúFrom Gut Feeling, To Substantiated‚ÄĚ.

I.II. What applications are there?

Looking into the brain sounds fun, of course, but it must also serve a purpose. Most companies conduct research to know whether something will work or not in advance.

Imagine that you have an advertising budget of a few hundred thousand euros, but you are not sure whether after seeing your ad, people will actually buy your product. Previously, consumers were asked whether they would buy the product after seeing the advertisement. This only answers the rational reasons why someone buys something. Nowadays we know that the majority of our decisions (especially in the supermarket) are made in a reflex way. Unconsciously.

Thus you must also measure this unconsciousness. With EEG brain scanners you can take a look into this unconsciousness, in our true center of choice: the brain. Neuromarketing research is often used in the following areas:

Is Neuromarketing Ethical?

Investigate the unconscious. It may sound slightly scary. Many people therefore wonder whether Neuromarketing is ethical. We think so. Because it is not so much about the tool you use, it is more about what you use it for. As with everything else. My colleague Tom wrote a blog about this:

I.III. What research techniques are there?

EEG, fMRI, IAT. The terms and abbreviations are in abundance. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be complicated. 

You want to have the right tools and techniques at your disposal to predict behavior. Sometimes you want to look at behavior for that (behavior is of course the best predictor of future behavior). But sometimes you want to go a little deeper, into the unconscious level.

  • EEG. Measures brain waves and converts them into reliable metrics and emotions.
  • fMRI. An indirect method to measure brain activity (shows where oxygen-rich blood flows).
  • IAT. Measures how strong an association is between two concepts (e.g. a brand and their brand promise) by means of reaction speed.
  • Eye tracking. Measures where and how quickly someone looks at something.
  • Biometrics. Measure physiological responses.
  • Emotion recognition. Measure emotions based on facial expressions.¬†¬†

I.IV. Brainmetrics

What can you see when you look into the brain? With EEG you can measure direct brain activity via brain waves. Scientists from all over the world are conducting fundamental research into these brainwaves. Because one change in brain activity is not the other.

Each time again, the following validated metrics emerge from these studies:

  • Desire. If it is high, we see an approach motivation, if it is low, we see an aversion motivation. This metric is most closely related to purchasing behavior. The scientific term: prefrontal asymmetry.
  • Engagement. Active when something is personally relevant.
  • Workload. Measures whether something is too difficult or too easy for the brain.
  • Confusion. Measures whether something happens that is not expected.
  • Synchronicity. Measures whether several participants experience the same thing at the same time. The more synchronously the brain responds, the better.

Would you like to delve deeper into these metrics? Read our blog: Which EEG metrics do we use to analyze brain activity in neuromarketing research?

And are you curious how you subsequently analyze these metrics? Then check out: Data analysis of EEG in neuromarketing research

Here's a sneak peek of what such a metric looks like. In this example we have highlighted the emotion 'desire':

EEG low point TVC

II. Case Study

All this information obviously makes you even more intrigued. Because how exactly do you go from gut to substantiated ?? We have written quite a number of interesting cases about this. You can find an overview here:

 YouTube Video Testing - Nutricia Olvarit 

Happy Eyes Commercial - Pearle 

Predict box Office hits - Movie Trailers 

Back to the table of contents ‚ÜĎ

III. Neuromarketing Research

Many well-known brands such as Heineken, McDonalds and Albert Heijn are already conducting neuromarketing research. They know that you have to look into the brain to see if something is actually working or not.

Fortunately, we have seen a real advance in recent years. More and more marketeers experience that their current research methods are not bringing them the (complete) truth. People simply don't do what they say or say what they do.

The most important question is of course how to do good research. Fortunately, the Netherlands is ahead of its time in this field. For example, we have almost as many neuromarketing agencies as our neighbors across the sea. Because I don't like to pretend we are the only ones in this field, we have made an overview of all Neuromarketing agencies in the Netherlands here. Of course I hope to leave a good impression with this article.

It all starts with the right research question and the method that matches it. Lets start with the fact that neuromarketing should certainly not be seen as a replacement for traditional research. Each research question has its own most suitable method. Here we explain when neuromarketing is preferable to traditional research, but certainly also when this is not the case.

III.I. Fun neuromarketing examples

There are a lot of fun examples. And because we are so enthusiastic about it ourselves, we have written a few blogs about it. Lots of reading and viewing pleasure:

The Frog Effect. How to connect Stores and Advertising with Neuromarketing Research

What Happens in the Brain When You... Gamble? 

What Happens in the Brain When You... Unbox an iPhone?

IV. Applied Neuromarketing 

Do you already know the 'exam effect'? In one of our usability studies we saw something special. Invariably, if a user forgot to fill in a field in the check-out form, this user got a red error message. And invariably when she saw that red error message, we saw an emotional dip in the brain.

A hypothesis was soon born. Would people associate a red color in the error message with an unrecoverable error? Just like in an exam, where your mistake was marked with a red pen. 

We tested this hypothesis in an A / B test. In such a test you divide all website visitors 50/50 into group A and group B. Group A will see the website as it always was, with a red error message. Group B will see the website with a small adjustment: an orange error message:


Afterwards, you see which of the two groups places an order more often. In this case we saw that the group with the orange error message (group B) placed an order up to 15% more often.

In other words, the red error message in group A caused an emotional block, and 15% less turnover.

This is a typical example of applied neuromarketing.

Originally, the term 'neuromarketing' was only used for research. But this meaning has broadened somewhat in recent years. Not surprising, because like you already read above, many insights from this research are used in other areas.

In our review article of agencies, we've also created a special headline for agencies that focus on the application of neuro:

? Back to the table of contents

IV.I. Learn everything about Neuro

Every day new insights are added. It happens this often that we have started a blog: New Neuromarketing. In which we translate the latest insights from neuroscience into practical marketing implications.

The smartest thing is of course to start with the basics. Where can you learn neuromarketing?

This is a question we were asked very often. What is the best training? Do you absolutely have to go to university, or is an online training good enough?

If you are studying at the moment and want to choose another master? There are Dutch masters focussed on neuromarketing. However, there is a disadvantage to these educations. We only found out about this later. There is too much focus on unimportant matters and too little practical application.

That is why something new has emerged from within our company. Our own: Unravel Neuromarketing Academy.

Practical (online) training, to the point and directly from the source, based on scientific and own research.

IV.II. Online Neuromarketing training / courses

Which courses are there? We have made an overview especially for you:

The Complete Neuromarketing Essentials (ENG)

The Master of Retail Psychology & Shopper Neuroscience (Dutch)

Neuromarketing Reclame Training (Dutch)

IV.III. Neuromarketing Blogs

Some blogs publish brand new content. Others apply existing knowledge creatively in a new way. Both perspectives are - in our opinion - super valuable. > This blog comes from within our company. In it we publish the latest insights from neuroscience.

Our own Unravel Blog (ENG) > A mix between new insights and creative applications of existing knowledge.

Frankwatching (Dutch) > All blogs that have the 'tag' Neuromarketing.

NMSBA Blog (ENG) > The NMSBA is the 'business association' of neuromarketing companies.

Neuroscience Marketing (ENG) > a blog by Rodger Dooley, author of Brainfluence

iMotions (ENG) > The blog of one of the largest software suppliers in the (unconscious) research field

The Science of Persuasion > Not only about neuromarketing, but also about social psychology

IV.IV. We recommend these books:

Our bookcase is filled up with good, and unfortunately also less good, books. We have made a selection of the best. This way you immediately know which books you should read. Are you unsure about a book and it is not on this list? Then we probably read it, but we didn't like it very much. Our advice? Better leave it there.

Also read our blog with 9 books about Neuromarketing that you really must read.
Our applied psychology for marketing book list:

  • Decoded - Phil Barden
  • Persuasive Advertising - J. Scott Armstrong
  • Influence - Cialdini
  • How Brands Grow - Byron Sharp
  • The Psychology of Advertising - Fennis en Strobe
  • Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
  • Neuro Design - Darren Bridger
  • Hooked - Nir Eyal
  • Contagious - Jonah Berger
  • Evil by design - Chris Nodder
  • Hidden Persuasion

Our neuromarketing research book list:

  • Introduction to neuromarketing and consumer neuroscience - Dr Thomas Ramsoy
  • Neuromarketing for dummies - Peter Steidl (don't be put off by the title, it's a really nice overview)
  • Persuasive Advertising - J. Armstrong (nice overview of evidence-based persuasion techniques)
  • The ebooks on are also very valuable if you want to learn more about what you can acchieve from our research techniques.
  • And of course for the latest insights from psychology.

IV.V. Podcasts:

These podcasts often release new content:



IV.VI. Unravel previously appeared in: