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Web Design + Development

Applied neuromarketing: the science of marketing

Now, this isn’t about mind control as such, but there is a science to marketing. Marketing essentially manipulates the brains of the user to persuade them to convert.

Published on:

Gemma Walton

Creative Assistant

Controlling your audience’s attention

People aren’t immediately in control of their attention. What you place in front of their eyes can be purposefully designed to get them to look exactly where you want them to without them even realising. However, there is a fine art to this, as studies have shown that you have just 50 milliseconds to show that your website is relevant.
It’s well known as a rule within design to not overload the user with too much information. Although it may seem like it is being helpful and informative, it actually creates too much visual noise and even less of your message can get across. Often only 20% of your message is really said, only 5% of this is even perceived by the customers and only 1% of that is their interpretation of it.
There have been eye-tracking tests to try and see what users perceive when initially landing on a website or advert. Using this information, seven design techniques were identified that were useful in controlling user attention:

  • Contrast – this can be in colour or shape, but the contrast immediately identifies where the user is supposed to look
  • People/faces – humans are social creatures, the presence of a face in for example the hero unit of your website creates a sense of connection and friendliness, it has also been found that people first look at either faces or where the faces are looking
  • Movement – animation can help the user flow through the content, sometimes even to literally point them in the direction you want them to go
  • Breaking the rules – if you have a uniform row and make one thing slightly different e.g. a change in colour, size or shape, people will automatically look at the one that’s different
  • Directional cues – this can directly or more in an abstract sense, using shapes that taper to a focal point you place more importance on
  • Space – leave breathing space in the design, don’t make it too busy and give the eye an obvious place to rest
  • Own name – this may be more challenging now in the new era of data-privacy, however being able to personalise your marketing using the user’s name is a good way of capturing their attention

If you can control the attention of the user, then you can change their behaviour and ultimately the result of their actions (hopefully, a conversion!).

Cognitive load

You want to be able to sell your product on an emotional level. To do this you need to reduce clutter and therefore the cognitive load. Using the brain’s fight or flight response is crucial, which is why you have such a short amount of time to make the right first impression.
Greater cognitive ease means the user has higher processual fluency and therefore more trust of your product. If you make it clear where they need to look then it makes it easier for them to understand what the emotional message is you are trying to give to them.

The brain

There are many parts that make up the human brain. One of these parts is known as the limbic system, also known as the midbrain which is a collection of sections including the hypothalamus and amygdala.
The limbic system controls:

  • Emotion
  • Motivation
  • Addiction
  • Behaviour

These are things that marketing plays upon to ultimately create conversions. Places such as Facebook are the perfect example of how the brain is used to keep people coming back from more. In this instance, it works on a reward system, providing instant gratification to users through likes which then causes the nucleus accumbens (located in the limbic system) to secrete dopamine which makes us feel good.
It may seem a robotic way of describing the process but your advert/site is the input for the brain and it ends in the limbic system. Most decisions that are made are actually unconscious decisions through the limbic system, and then some are ‘post rationalized’ through another section of the brain called the cerebral cortex.
There are a few things you can do to target a response in the limbic system so that users will unconsciously begin to show bias towards your product…


It’s more than just about making sure the users that land on your site are looking at something relevant, it’s about making the advertising of your product or service something that resonates with them. It should make them think “that was specifically made for me” as people will automatically bring their own experiences with them.
A lot of this comes from the language used. If you synchronise the language from the adverts you use with the landing page, it doubles the conversion rate because it provides a consistent customer experience. Think about making this language to make the user feel like your business really cares about them.

Implicit codes

Using implicit codes can be a very powerful yet subtle way of influencing your audience. For example, you could imply the success or status of your product through the imagery the way the BMW advert does by portraying their car on a higher road than the Dubai skyline. It’s not obvious, but it’s using the fact that the human brain works in a certain way to imply the value of your product.

Value propositions

An important part of marketing is to provide value to your customers. You want users to look at your product and let them see how their life would be improved if they got it. The value proposition is the belief of the customer that they will acquire this value when purchasing your product – it’s about making them look awesome

Final thoughts

As you can see, it’s not really mind control, however, it is using the science behind how the brain works to manipulate the user into thinking and feeling what you want them to about your product or service.
Make sure you don’t overload the user with information so that they can really understand what the emotional message is and you will make the key first impression that can ultimately make a user convert.
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us.

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