Neuromarketing: Yes, you’ve been “fooled”

muzz robertson neuromarketing

Ever wondered why you bought something that you probably didn’t need, but for some reason had the urge to buy? Of course, you have.

So, what is neuromarketing? (in laymen terms)

If you don’t want laymen terms, or just think that this piece might be useless, you can read the Harvard Business Review article on neuromarketing – I even quoted them further below – or read the very in-depth Conversion XL that mentions the top 10 neuromarketing studies.

Neuromarketing is using neuroscience, basically, all forms of marketing have some sort of neuroscience behind them, as the marketer wants the consumer or potential consumer to click, read, buy, or show an interest in the service or product. Without having to say, “Buy this shit NOW” – they use methods that have been well tested, to make you buy that shit NOW.

Neuromarketing data will tell the marketer what the consumer reacts to, whether it was the colour of the packaging, the sound the box makes when shaken, or the idea that they will have something their co-consumers do not. This is done in the form of A/B testing colours, copy variations, videos, and even layout of certain digital assets. Some companies, depending on budget, can have multiple campaigns running, that have different colours, copy, and target different demographics – some may use this to test these variations, or they do this because they know that those colours and copy work for the specific targetted audience.

You’ve never been fooled by neuromarketing? Yes. You. Have.

You and everyone around you have been “tricked” into buying or clicking on an advert that uses neuroscience. Of course, they have!

People don’t buy or use products by mistake, do you really think that buying that blow-up flamingo for your pool which you have never used since 2016, was on purpose? It might have been on purpose, sure, but would have you ordered in online had you not seen that there were on 2 left and these 2 had a 30% discount for the next 24 hours? Probably not.

There is also a darker side to neuromarketing, it’s not all about getting people to buy beer-pong cups or 7-day luxury resorts.

A great way to look at neuromarketing is to, very lightly, touch on Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica, one small example, would use certain tactics during political campaigns to make people vote for a certain candidate. They did this with Trump, Brexit, Trinidad and Tobago, and others. This was touched in the Great Hack on Netflix. The goal that CA had, was targeting voters with messages designed to work on voters’ underlying psychology. They would create videos that would mock Clinton and show videos of her saying certain things that the public would not like – this is one example. They also had a huge impact on Brexit and the effects that lead up to voting leave.

“Neuromarketing” loosely refers to the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions, which can help inform creative advertising, product development, pricing, and other marketing areas.

Harvard Business Review

Examples! The easiest way to show how this works

Without mentioning Cambridge Analytica, let’s try to get some examples out the way.

Firstly, whatever advert that goes live, needs to be ON. BRAND.

It’s important to mention that neuromarketing also uses eye-tracking, by a means of cursor or testing, and a lot of clever brands place certain elements of an ad in spaces of the screen that will generate more user focus than other areas of the page. Also, elements in the assets, so it’s been proven that if you have people in your ad, they should be making “direct eye contact” with the user who is looking at the screen or they should be “looking” at the content that the marketer wants the user to be looking at.

Example of direct eye-contact on the content

We also have loss-aversion, which is the predominately copy based, and this is basically FOMO – people don’t want to miss out on a deal. By putting a cut-off date, or a limited amount of buys at a certain price, can entice people to buy, or at least, view the product. Business Insider refers to this as “the illusion of scarcity”, which is also similar to the above.

Anchoring in advertising is also a clever way to get someone to choose your product or service – this is having one or two items that a competitor doesn’t have. Hotels do this a lot, they have free services such as free coffee, free taxis, or discounts at certain restaurants.

Colours also play an important role, you might notice that you are suddenly seeing a lot of green, pink or blue in the adverts that are showing up in banner ads or on your social media – this isn’t a mistake.

And of course, the headline. It needs to be eye-catching, clickbaity, and give the user some sort of need to click on the link.

All that said, we do see A LOT of ads that we never click on, get annoyed by, and have far too many buy buttons.

So, what’s the point of all this?

I love the science behind digital marketing. What makes somebody click on an ad, what makes someone skip an ad or not even see the ad at all.

It’s interesting, everyone is different, but everyone also has a soft spot or lean towards certain colours or wording. A lot of people don’t understand why they see or get certain content fed to them.

So hopefully this clears it up – a bit. If you have any questions or opinions, comment below, and I’ll try my best to answer them!



Millennial marketing

We still want content, but we want eye-catching and impactful content. Content creates the feeling of empowerment, knowledge and when it is tailored, that’s even better. Content that isn’t forced, if we want to read it, we read it, it’s not forced onto us by interrupting our television series or our radio stations. We choose to read content blogs or listen to podcasts. Brands need to utilise this and market in a manner that is informative and content-based. So, what makes this type of content really resonate with us? 

Most campaigns are impersonal and company-focused. They portray the millennial generation as a niche market or a bubble.

We trust authenticity

We trust authenticity, not an advert that could resonate with anyone or any group. Today, young shoppers’ attitudes and behaviour are largely inspired by people they know in person or online or even strangers who share their interests on social networks – such as influencers. We carry these advisors with us everywhere we go – on our phones. We don’t need to see or hear an advert, we know exactly what we want because our influencers are wearing them. 

Brands need to utilise this, by marketing their products to us without us even noticing. Influencer marketing is a way of getting people to notice your brand, but times are changing quickly. Influencers who constantly post paid-ads are getting more and more negative feedback. People want to start seeing the holistic influence, not just product placement. We are becoming far more aware of the environment, mental health, self-awareness, and we want people who are making a difference to start impacting us more. Patagonia does a wonderful job by using people who aspire to make the world a better place, in terms of the environment, and who are relevant to their target market. If Kylie Jenner suddenly posted a photo of a hiking bag (which a lot of similar type influencers do), it would scream product placement. We want authenticity.

Authenticity doesn’t just come from a marketing perspective, but also the brand as a whole. We want transparency from the start, we saw this from the Cambridge Analytica saga, and we have also seen how influencers can damage a brand by negatively posting about it if they don’t enjoy the product.

Sport is becoming more influential

A great example is how adidas is utilising the way that football has now become a casual or streetwear fashion. We used to see people wearing NFL or NBA outfits with their day-to-day casual wear – now, football has become that. We see American Footballers wearing a Neymar jersey, and we see thousands of posts online about how football jerseys are being worn more and more as casual fashion and not just at games. We saw the viral sensation of Alex from Glasto wearing a Thiago Silva shirt for the Dave rap, “Thiago Silva”, and that shows how mainstream football is becoming. We also saw how sport became a fashion statement with the Nigeria FIFA World Cup 2018 kit, it sold out within minutes of being launched. Adidas has always been a forefront from casual wear, and they also have been very vocal around eco-sustainability, we saw this with their collaboration with Pharrell Williams and their adidas Parley range.

We want to create memories and have experiences: We are posting about our lives all the time. At festivals, at the beach, at home, walking the dog, eating food etc. We are online 24/7 and are never missing an opportunity to share share share – hence why we are also referred to as the “Sharing Generation”. This is why people like Alex from Glasto can go viral, and set a trend.

Brands need to create an experience or a memory that we can part take in and share and never forget. Small gorilla campaigns that may go viral, such as having a cool drink stand at a beach and for someone to get a cool drink they need to post about the brand – that photo or tweet will be online forever and the brand has subsequently created a memory for that person plus everyone who follows them will see it and may even also want a free cool drink. 

Corona launched a festival in Cape Town, and expanded it to Durban and Joburg. I think everyone who went has been put off the beer for life. Why? Because you could ONLY buy Corona. If you go watch cricket at Newlands, the South African team is sponsored by Castle but you can still buy every other type of drink in the stadium. 

We want to have fun with your brand. Let us, but don’t let it be the only option or at least actually make it unique and fun. Make us want to share it and make us want to tell people we’re using the brand or have experienced the brand.

murray robertson vr

Help us help you make a difference

We also buy and support brands who have strong CSR campaigns, that are making a difference to the environment or bettering the lives of humans or animals. Brands need to market this better or do more of it. Why don’t banks or asset management firms hold seminars that educate underprivileged youths on saving, investing and banking? Why don’t IT firms hold seminars on coding, basic computer skills and the importance of it in the future? 

We actually are loyal

Brands need to target millennials by focusing on the bigger picture and not just their own target market. No millennial is the same. We want different things and we are interested in different things. Target us in that way. 

We are very loyal, but it seems as though we aren’t because we have or buy from many different brands. The hard truth is, we have access to information that was never around years ago and we can look up and gather information on the brand or product that we want. There are more brands, more information and more options than there used to be – this does not mean we aren’t loyal, it means we are finding a brand that suits us and it might take a while. 

Content is king. It’s just evolving. We are becoming more creative, and more aware.

How do you think brands should market towards millennials?



Is it time for the right type of influencer?

influencer marketing

Instagram is changing, should influencers?

Instagram announced that they were going to be removing likes, huge. They first tested this update with a select group of users in Canada, and then the whole of Canada. Today, they announced that they are going to be testing this feature in 6 more countries – two of those, Australia and Brazil, rank among the top ten countries for Instagram users and influencers.

Likes are often, and have been for a while, a fundamental aspect to Instagram, their users, influencers, and of course for companies who use the platform for marketing. Now, without likes, there lies a deeper discussion that is focused more towards the users opposed to the brands. We have seen a huge decline in the engagement rate on influencer posts and on Instagram in general. Steven Bartlett, founder of The Social Chain, recently posted on LinkedIn about a number of factors that could be causing this decline.

He touches on one of the points that is similar to the theme of this post, and that is: People are becoming wary of spending too much time on their phones. 21% of people worldwide have used their phone to track their screen time or set times limits for certain apps.

So, what does no likes actually mean?

No more “like” addiction – Yay

Likes are not only a way to show user engagement, but they also give a lot of people a sense of instant gratification, a scary gratification that doesn’t last very long – one that let’s you feel good about yourself, until you see a post by someone who you think is better than you because they have more likes. It’s a scary addiction.

Instagram is fundamentally based on the aspect of being creative. The logo is even a camera. The removal of likes, in my opinion, is a massive leap in the right direction to A) get the creative juices flowing and B) to open the doors to actual influence. People can no longer be addicted too likes and brands and influencers will have to get far more creative, as well as doing proper influencing, to stay relevant.

murray robertson influencer

There have been numerous posts around the mental health aspect to Instagram and the Influencer Culture, giving people the false perception of how they should look, feel, what they should wear, where they should travel, and the false pretence of success. Time Magazine had a piece that struck the nail on the head, Why Instagram is the worst social media for mental health, and some of my views and opinions aligned with what it said:

Social media posts can also set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, the authors wrote. This may explain why Instagram, where personal photos take centre stage, received the worst scores for body image and anxiety. As one survey respondent wrote, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’.”

There was also an article that was posted on the Guardian in 2018 (not my fav news source) that covered why is Instagram making people feel so miserable? A lot of similar content that has been shared over the years around Instagram – it let’s people set unrealistic expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met, they feel depressed, self-loathing, and they are constantly seeing content that makes them feel this way.

Another article, posted by Vice in 2017, around the same topic – How Instagram makes you basic, boring, and completely deranged – which touches on how Instagram makes simple and daily tasks, seem absolutely incredible in some peoples lives compared to yours (ie, when someone gets 100k likes on a piece of burnt toast with a generous portion of avocado.)

After doing some research around the mental health of Instagram, I came across a short video that summed a lot of this up:

So, where do we go from here in terms of influencing? Because, in my opinion, influencers aren’t going anywhere – but to still be relevant, they need to evolve, and I don’t think a lot of them know how to evolve into the correct type of influencer for the way in which the world is going, as well as just being a good influence to people who follow them. People who post breakfast, unattainable goals, memes, and posts that don’t actually give you any sense of “good vibes” after you have viewed the photo – are going to crumble. If you like an image of someone standing on a Ferrari, in front of a private jet (likely all rented), and popping champagne – and then feel good afterwards, then great, but if you don’t, then you are part of the large majority who need this update.

I’m not saying unfollow all your meme pages, body goals, and food blogs. Because some of them are amazing, and do post incredible content, but there is a change happening.

But, never forget how a bunch of Influencers got it so wrong at Chernobyl….

This leads me to my next point.

Is it the end of influencer marketing, or the start of something new?

No, I don’t think it is the end of influencers, but I do think it’s the ending of a certain type of influencer. The way that young people are going, we are becoming more aware of mental health, the environment, and self awareness and acceptance. Influencers, or people and brands, with a large number of following – or ones who are “micro-influencers” – have a pivotal role to play in people and their everyday life, especially ones who have a large impact when it comes to influence.

Influencers need to start becoming influential in a positive aspect, and start to use their platforms for good, and not for narcism, or self gain. We are going to see a shift, and a needed shift, where people start being more creative, more positive, and more educated.

There are thousands of accounts out there that focus on this – and some of them are extremely powerful, and share brilliant opinions, ideas, and tips. Accounts that focus on mental health, food health, the environment, and of course design and creativity, are going thrive.

Accounts that have that “feel good” factor

Some of my favourite accounts for mental health, that I think are setting a trend for the future, are the following:

  1. @makedaisychains
  2. @thelatestkate
  3. @bymariandrew
  4. @gemmacorrell
  5. @howdoyouadult
  6. @positivelypresent
  7. @mimilashiry
  8. @trashisfortossers
  9. @elephantjournal
  10. @apartmenttherapy
  11. @lonleywhale
  12. @oceanramsey

And then literally ANY account that has @natgeo, that features animals, photography, creativity (Behance and Adobe have incredible pages) or food that you enjoy – cake, pizza, burgers, healthy food, vegan food, milkshakes etc.

Anyway, that’s me done. First blog. Let me know what you think about the changes happening in the influencer game.