By Robin Gurney @ TIPTOP INSIGHTS, image credit/source is BitBrain

Having spent 20 years as a “digital marketer” (most of it as a content strategist), I confess I’m more “mar” than “tech” but I predict that the marketing department of tomorrow will basically be a (creative) technology hub.

Big data, AI machine learning and neuromarketing will make sure of that. Most companies “see” the AI and big data rise but neuromarketing? Huh?

This causes some of my marketing industry peers to snigger…”that’s a fad/hype/pseudoscience” they say or “there are other much more important areas.”

I’m sorry but no they are wrong, I’m right, well 99% sure anyway.

Neuromarketing will be a powerhouse, and sooner than you think. The pendulum has begun to swing.

Why? Because the ability to deliver emotionally rewarding customer content & experiences is king, and you can’t do that without truly understanding the unconscious, emotional processes that underpin human behaviour.

How did I arrive at this conclusion?

Complex big data analytics is steadily becoming one of the most important marketing skills and savvy Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will soon be leading their companies into a new disruptive age: The age of machine and data-first transformation.

Let’s remember why all this data (and boy, is there a lot of data around) is so important to success: it’s because marketers want to understand and influence consumer behaviour, especially purchasing decisions,  BUT most of these amazing ultra-fast data-gathering solutions tell us WHAT consumers are doing but not WHY.

CMOs need to understand WHY their ads get the desired responses, or not; WHY their products are selling, or not etc.


Read more about the “WHY” in my previous article Neuromarketing for Market Research.

As Lindsay Zaltman, CEO of Olson Zaltman says, “Right now, the marketing research world is enamored with data, data and more data. And it better be fast. This can be big data, real-time data, or anything else. What is missing is the human or emotional understanding of consumers. I’m already seeing the insights clients are working with lack truly deep truths to them.”

To truly understand the why of consumers’ behaviour, and how to influence them, different kinds of data are needed. Neuro data. Biometric data.

As part of my job I curate and distribute insights and recommendations from neuromarketers, neuroeconomists, behavioural scientists, psychologists and other “persuasion scientists” as I like to call them.

The main technologies powering these persuasion sciences are facial coding, galvanic skin response (GSR), electrocardiagrams/heart rate monitors, (ECG/HR), eye tracking, electroencephalograms (EEG), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), Implicit Reaction Time (IRT) Tools  plus other bespoke software and hardware.

What can these technologies tell us and how to they work?
What’s the big picture and what’s coming next?
Over a series of 4 articles all will be revealed.

To answer these questions I reached out to 20 experts including directors of the world’s leading neuromarketing hardware, software and service companies.


Dan Hill (author and President of Sensory Logic) is the leading authority on facial coding.

He states that facial coding can capture and quantify emotional response, from 7 specific emotions (happiness, surprise, anger, fear, sadness, disgust and contempt). It can also tell you the amount of emotional engagement – important to how memorable and motivating something is, like a TV spot or entire, integrated ad campaign.

As described in Dan’s book Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others: “There are 44 muscles in the face, and 23 expressions known as Action Units that utilize those muscles. The face offers the opportunity for real-time, unfiltered data because the face is the only place in the body where the muscles attach right to the skin. The key is to read the muscle activities accurately–especially when the angle is oblique, the lighting poor, the person’s skin color dark, and most of all if they’re talking or if several Action Units are occurring at the same time. To date the technology struggles given all of those factors, including also when the expression is super-quick (i.e. micro-expressions). But given the huge opportunity financially and the national security implications, advancement will be spurred on.”

Max Wiggins, a neuromarketing executive at LAB (an award winning UK digital agency) adds, “Facial coding gives insight into the emotional reactions someone may have when viewing a website, image, etc. For example, half a second of brow furrow may reflect particular confusion surrounding the checkout page.”

Nikki Westoby, Director of Neuroscience at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, reminds us to manage expectations, ““The technique can be a useful diagnostic tool to understand whether a stimulus has elicited a specific facial expression (e.g., a positive smile or a negative frown) and is increasingly used as an aid to evaluate ad effectiveness. It must be kept in mind, however, that facial expressions evolved to communicate our feeling states in a social context and therefore occur at relatively low levels in the context of the passive media upon which the vast majority of marketing communications occur (i.e., television, internet, out of home signage).”


“Detecting particular emotions (with facial coding) is crucial. However, by overlaying GSR, one can also understand the degree of emotional engagement. This can illuminate features that are creating strong emotional changes, both positive and negative. “ Max @ LAB

“GSR is probably the most commonly employed biometric technique in consumer neuroscience is the measurement of electrodermal changes, or “galvanic skin response” (GSR). Skin conductance is a measure of electrical conduction from the ANS – typically measured on the palms or fingertips due to high concentration of special perspiration cells. When experiencing a fight-or-flight response, stress, emotional engagement, or other factors, skin conductance increases from phasic changes in specialized glands and can be measured as an indication of arousal.” Nikki @ Nielsen

Shimmer Research is a leading wearable device manufacturer headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Its flagship product is the NeuroLynQ system which makes neuromarketing practical by allowing it to layer into standard research techniques. According to Geoffrey Gill, President of Shimmer U.S.,  “It monitors GSR and/or ECG on up to 45 people simultaneously and produces easy to understand, but scientifically valid, aggregate analysis in real time.”

Another device available on the market is BitBrain’s Ring. It’s an ultralight,  wearable, wireless device for monitoring GSR/HR.

Head of Neuromarketing Research at BrainSigns, a spin-off of Sapienza University explains ECG’s role: “ECG record electrical activity related to the cardiac contractions. An interesting measure is related to the Heart Rate (HR) and measured in beats per minute (bpm). Positive emotions are reflected by an increase of the HR; on the contrary, negative emotions are reflected by a decrease of the HR. ECG is very easy to record, and new devices are more wearable and fancier (bracelets, watches…) allowing to record also in no-laboratory setting.”

Nikki @ Nielsen also notes the trend toward wearable devices being used in in-store and in-home studies and also adds a note of caution about relying solely on HR to measure arousal levels, “Heart rate can provide a robust measure of variations in arousal due to exposure to a stimulus of interest, or engagement in some task of interest. Inasmuch as variations in heart rate (and respiration) can be strongly affected by physical exertion, relying on it as a measure of emotional arousal in isolation can be difficult.”

It’s worth noting that a significant number of neuromarketing companies use iMotions hardware-agnostic technology that works as a software which centralizes and synchronizes the entire experimental process – from study design, to stimulus presentation, to data collection and increasingly, data analysis. It synchronizes multiple datastreams, from eye tracking, facial expression analysis, galvanic skin response, EEG, and many more sensors. For more information about various neuromarketing tools & techniques, they publish an excellent range of pocket guides.

If you would like to reach out to the companies mentioned in this article you can find their contact details in this neuromarketing company directory.

Robin hand picks and shares neuromarketing related insights and recommendations at and in his Brainy Business Matters Newsletter.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This!

Share this post with your friends.