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Neuromarketing: How To Use Digital Psychology To Generate More Sales Online

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Steve Walton
Co-Founder & Managing Director, Rocket Conversions
  • In this post, you'll get an intro to neuromarketing, see whether it is total bullshit, if it's ethical to use, and get practical ways to apply neuromarketing should you decide to use its "controversial" power.
  • In part 2, we'll cover Robert Cialdini's 7 Principles Of Persuasion, how they can be used to get more conversions, & how to apply them to every step of your customer journey.

Neuromarketing: How To Use Digital Psychology To Generate More Sales Online (Pt. 1)


Think about this. To what extent are you aware of your neurological processes as a consumer? 

How do you make decisions as a consumer?

What do you pay attention to, and how does your initial emotional response predict your final choices? 

This 3 part series will answer these questions so you can understand them from the perspective of both a business builder and a consumer. 


  • You’ll get an introduction to some of the easiest to use methods in the emerging fields of consumer neuroscience, neuromarketing, and how to use digital psychology to generate more sales online.
  • You will learn about the basic brain mechanisms in consumer choice so you can recognize how consumers really think and make decisions.
  • You’ll get an overview of the current and future uses of neuroscience in business.


Most importantly, you’ll learn practical ways to apply neuromarketing to make it easier for your audience to buy from you.


Neuromarketing – Is It Just Typical Marketing Bullshit?

Brain Neuroscience GIF by University of California - Find & Share on GIPHY


When I first heard the term “Neuromarketing”, my immediate reaction was “this is classic marketing industry, flimsy, frivolous, fluff”.

So I went to Google Scholar, and found thousands of academic papers published about it. 

Google Scholar Neuromarketing Papers


Ok, I was wrong.

Neuroscientists, behavioral psychologists, and many academics at places like Stanford, Harvard, and other fancy places study this.

It’s the real deal.

After reading some of the studies, and going far down the rabbit hole, I began studying this stuff and testing it out in different marketing and sales scenarios. 


Here’s A Simplified Version Of How People Really See And Interpret The World


How we use our brains

This model helps us understand the roles played by conscious and unconscious brain processes, and how they interact.


Forming Impressions


Our perceptual systems produce impressions in a completely non-conscious way.

We have no conscious access to how our brains take in visual, auditory, or other sensory info and turn them into perceived sights, sounds, smells, etc.


Determining Meaning & Value


Similarly, how we determine meaning and value by connecting our impressions to other concepts and ideas in our long- term memory occurs outside our awareness.


Deliberating & Analyzing


These are conscious processes. They include a wide variety of thinking activities we’re directly aware of such as memorizing, calculating, and planning.


Taking Action


Speaking and acting are usually conscious. Expressions and movements are behaviors that are observable by others.


Why Is This Useful? 


Because it is possible to get from determining meaning & value to taking action, without intervening deliberation or analysis.

This is what people mean by “doing something without thinking about it”. For example, driving or riding a bike. 

This is where neuromarketing can help businesses make things as easy and frictionless as possible for their customers to take desired actions.

Every successful business (that sells stuff on the internet) uses digital psychology to generate more sales online. Even if they don’t know they’re doing it.


Bottom line. It’s about removing friction in the mind of the audience. This stuff works.


You Will Find This Info Useful If? 

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I wrote this series of posts on neuromarketing for people who work on building businesses online and who have an interest in using truth to help more of their customers.


It’s Useful For:


Digital entrepreneurs and business builders who want to understand how their customers think, and why they act the way they do, even when they don’t act rationally.

Service business and SaaS owners & managers who want to understand how to optimize their platforms for sign-ups and active users.

Designers and developers who want to understand consumer psychology’s role in their architecture and design.

Marketers of all disciplines (brand, paid ads, CRO, email marketing etc) who want to improve their understanding of attention, emotions, feelings, and how this can be used to help more of their audiences.


You don’t need a degree in psychology, behavioral science, or neuroscience. You just need to be willing to consider new ideas, many are obvious, some are counterintuitive. 


The Quick & Dirty Definition Of Neuromarketing

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“Neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience and cognitive science to marketing”


So says Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing.

He’s also the founder of NeuroscienceMarketing.com and has a podcast called Brainfluence where he has conversations with world-class experts in marketing, science, or related areas.

Recent guests include Robert Cialdini (aka “The Godfather of Influence” & creator of The 7 Principles Of Persuasion, which we’ll cover in part 2 of this series), Dan Pink, Guy Kawasaki, and Dan Ariely.


Here’s the Cambridge dictionary definition:

“the study of how people’s brains react to advertising”


Another way I have explained it to our clients is this:

“Neuromarketing is an emotional connection tool between businesses and audiences”


The way I see it is this:

“Neuromarketing is about solving the same problem as any other form of marketing, just using brain science. Its using brain science to figure out how a company should communicate value to its audiences, across its entire customer journey, in a way that they will best receive it”


To be fair, the concept of companies using advanced brain science to get people to buy stuff sounds pretty controversial at first.

We’ve all seen or heard about the ways social media platforms hack our brains and keep us hooked.


So you may be asking yourself, is this stuff ethical?


Is Neuromarketing Just Psychological Manipulation?

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Neuromarketing isn’t inherently manipulative.

It’s about understanding people’s real needs and wants.

With that knowledge, business builders and marketers can develop better products and less wasteful advertising campaigns.

Every ad that was ever created was trying to produce some kind of brain activity that would lead to some desired behavior (e.g., buying a product).


Is Advertising/Marketing Just Psychological Manipulation?


The truth that we all know is, it can be.

Marketing can sometimes seem to read our minds, invade our privacy, push our “buy” buttons, or try to make us buy things that aren’t good for us.

But that kind of marketing doesn’t work for long.

People aren’t stupid.

Most people know about those sketchy scarcity claims (prominently used in the travel industry to create urgency).

As consumers, we accept them, if the offer solves our problem.

No manipulative business that doesn’t provide value to their customers will last long. 

Neuromarketing, digital marketing, traditional marketing, and every other form of marketing – they all aim for the same thing.

To help businesses help more of their customers.

They provide a solution, and if the market doesn’t value the solution, then the business fails.

No amount of trickery is sustainable. The free market weeds this out. 

In marketing, as in life, the truth is the best weapon.


Neuromarketing helps businesses deliver their message to their audience in a way they will best receive it. 


11 Ways DogeCoin Used Neuromarketing To Grow & How You Can Apply It To Your Business

Shiba Inu Meme GIF by Shibetoshi Nakamoto - Find & Share on GIPHY


Dogecoin represents far more brilliance in neuromarketing than in investment.

Earlier on I mentioned some of this content would be counterintuitive. We’re about to deal with the inherent irrationality of humans. Time to switch off your logical mind.

Doge’s message goes right to the illogical, irrational human brain. That’s why it works so well.


1: Positioning


Doge is “The People’s Coin”. It’s positioned against Bitcoin. It’s something that an average person can quickly understand and participate in.


2: Offers Something Aspirational


The promise of a brighter future for everyone. They want to be the currency of the world, and even the moon & Mars. People believe they’ll get rich by owning Doge. Doge = Lambo.


3: Common Enemies


This invokes Robert Cialdini’s 7th Principle Of Persuasion. 

The Unity Principle. A shared identity.

A common enemy unites people. You can do it for any kind of brand.


4: Common Slang Or Inside Jokes


“HODL” ; “2 the moon” ; “where lambo”. This strenghtens the community by invoking Cialdini’s 3rd & 5th principles.

The Principle Of Liking, and The Principle Of Social Proof.


5: Social Proof


In many cases with Doge, it’s people sharing how much money they’ve lost. How high they bought, and how low they sold.

Even trying to outdo each other. 

Because humans. 

Shiba Inu Meme GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


6: Authority


Every movement has influencers. Elon Musk is their king. They take action when told to do so by a trustworthy figure.


7: Memes


Memes are better than storytelling. This community likes memes. They like each other because of their shared affinity for memes. This makes the community even more appealing to new people. 


8: Fun.


What they’re doing is ridiculous, and they seem to be having a lot of fun. The whole thing is just a joke to them all.


9: Dogs


Who doesn’t love cute dogs?

It’s illogical that this should matter, but it does.

Because humans.

Shiba Inu Moon GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


10: Scarcity


There’s a huge amount of scarcity and urgency built into the Dogecoin movement.

Timing the market, going “to the moon”, HODLing, along with many community announcements or news items that can dramatically affect the community.

People are emotionally glued to it every day.


11: Reciprocity


Dogecoin makes no apologies for what it is. 

It is a joke. It was started as a joke. The community joined it and grew it, as a joke.

They’re not trying to hide anything. 

They’re honest about what they are, and who they are for.

This attracts the right people to their community and makes it stronger.


Think about these 11 elements and use them as tools to create an emotional connection between your business and your audience. 


Neuromarketing In Action

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Now, let’s dive into it.

Here is the first of two of the most prominent neuromarketing models that we’ll be covering in this series.


1: Fogg Behaviour Model (FBM)


Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University.

He teaches business people how to use his models and methods in Behavior Design.


What Causes Behavior Change?


Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger

The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt/Trigger.

When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.

Fogg Behavior Model is a very useful framework to keep in mind.

It says that desired behavior happens when these things happen:

  • There’s high motivation, “I want to do it.”
  • There is the ability, it’s easy to take action, it’s easy to do it.
  • And there’s a trigger, something that compels us to take action.


Fogg Behaviour Model


To use this in your business, you want to aim at the top right (high motivation, easy to do, a trigger in place).

If you have high motivation and low ability (difficult to do), what you’ll get is frustration.

If it’s low motivation, but easy to do (e.g. take out the trash), you get annoyance.

Watch this 2 minute video explainer on how it all works.


Introducing the BJ Fogg Behavior Model:


How To Use Behavioral Design To Increase Conversions 


Everything starts with defining the specific desired behavior– in our case, it’s what we want the user to do, our conversion goal.

It might be getting people to buy our product, sign up for our software and so on.

Using this model as a guide, we can identify what stops people from taking the desired actions, or how to get more people to take action.

For example, if users are not requesting quotes on your website, this model helps us evaluate which psychological element is lacking.

Let’s look at the elements individually.


Happy Motivation GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Ideally, the visitor to your website is already motivated to do the behavior (which is why they came to your site to begin with), and your job is to help people do what they already want to do (see Ability).

The more motivated people are to do a behavior, the more likely they will do it.

You can increase motivation with effective sales copy and clear design, but if you’re trying to artificially *create* motivation to make a behavior happen, you’re fighting a losing battle. 


BJ Fogg created a framework for motivation that has three core motivators, each with two sides.


1: Pleasure / Pain


There are two sides to the first motivator: pleasure and pain.

How this motivator is different from others is that the result of this motivator is immediate.

There’s almost no thinking or anticipating.

People are responding to what’s happening in the moment.

Pleasure and pain are primitive responses related to self-preservation: hunger, sex, and other stuff related to keeping humankind going.


Pleasure and pain are powerful motivators. It’s the first thing you should consider when trying to boost levels of motivation.


2: Hope / Fear


Hope is the anticipation of something good happening.

Fear is the anticipation of something bad, often the anticipation of loss.

This motivator can be at times more powerful than pleasure/pain.

For example, in some situations, people will accept pain (getting your wisdom teeth pulled) in order to overcome fear (fear of experiencing much more pain).

Hope and fear have long been powerful motivators in persuasive technology.

For example, people are motivated by hope when joining a dating web site.

They are motivated by fear when they download anti-virus software.


BJ Fogg himself considers hope as the most ethical and empowering motivator.


3: Social Acceptance / Rejection


This motivator impacts everything from the clothes we wear, the brands we use, to the language we use.

People are especially motivated to avoid any negative consequences like being socially rejected.

We don’t need to look far to see evidence for this – simple things like posting pictures on Instagram are driven significantly by the desire to be socially accepted.


People are motivated to do things that win them social acceptance and status.


Easy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Ability is all about whether the task at hand is it easy to do and it is more important than motivation.

If you want people to buy your product, but it takes a lot of steps (friction) to do it, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

The more “work” people need to do to understand and/or buy what you offer, the higher motivation is needed.

Motivation alone is not enough.

Its easier to increase conversions by making things easier to do, not by increasing motivation.

If you have to choose what to optimize for, always choose ability over motivation.

Aim for simplification, not motivation.


In your marketing, make things as easy as possible for your audience to understand and take action. 


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The trigger is what prompts you to take action: green light at the traffic lights, McDonald’s worker asking “would you like fries with that?” or a one-click upsell on your e-commerce site.

You need to make sure that you focus on triggering people that have the ability or motivation:

  • When you trigger people at the right time, they will thank you.
  • If you trigger when they lack ability, they’ll get frustrated.
  • If you trigger people when they don’t have motivation (e.g. asking people to shop for a Valentine’s day gift in July), you’re annoying people.

Email marketing is one of the best tools you have for building trigger mechanisms.

Focus on growing your list, and build automated triggers for promotional periods, new product drops etc. 


Remember, almost no behavior happens without a trigger. 


Let’s Sum Up How To Use Behavioral & Digital Psychology To Generate More Sales Online

Internet Click GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Understand that conversions happen when motivation, ability and the trigger occur together.


Your Job Is To:


  • Make it as easy as possible for people to do what they already want to do
  • Understand the types of motivation
  • Use the right motivators, at the right time, in the right places
  • Focus on simplification (Ability)
  • Test different triggers at every step of your customer’s journey


Wrapping Up Neuromarketing: How To Use Digital Psychology To Generate More Sales Online (Part 1)


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To wrap up part 1 of how to use digital psychology to generate more sales online, here are the 7 key takeaways:


  1. Neuromarketing is proven to legitimately help you use digital psychology to generate more sales online 
  2. Neuromarketing is using brain science to decide how a company should communicate value to its audiences, across its entire customer journey, in a way that they will best receive it
  3. People understand the world by unconsciously forming impressions, determining meaning/value, then consciously analyzing & deciding to take action
  4. It is possible to skip the analysis stage and help people take action much faster and easier, using emotional motivators
  5. You can create an emotional connection between your business and your audience, use DogeCoin as an example
  6.  Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger
  7.  At every step of your customer journey, make things as easy as possible for your audience to understand and take action


What’s Next In The Neuromarketing Series?


Thanks for reading part 1.

In part 2, we’ll cover Robert Cialdini’s 7 Principles Of Persuasion, how they can be used to get more conversions, & how to apply them to every step of your customer journey.


If you want us to help with your marketing, feel free to get more info from us here:

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