by Joelle Steele

What does neuromarketing have to do with design? Actually, quite a lot. It's a relatively new field that uses cognitive science — neuroscience and psychology in particular — to assess the responses of consumers to various marketing stimuli. This is achieved by scientifically measuring human responses such as eye-tracking, galvanic skin response, heart rates, and even brain activity.

Sounds quite drastic, doesn't it? Hard to believe that an advertiser would have a person's brain scanned while that consumer is simultaneously viewing a Web site that showcases a brand new product. But, results are results, and experts in neuromarketing research believe that heart rates and skin responses, etc., can indicate what consumers are attracted to most, what captures their attention first, and what will ultimately stimulate them to make a purchase.

Does neuromarketing work? Maybe. It seemed to work in a now-famous 2004 neuromarketing research test for Pepsi. The results of that research revealed that image, not taste, was the issue whenever consumers consistently chose Coca-Cola over Pepsi. This allowed Pepsi to invest their dollars in marketing to improve their image rather than tinkering with the Pepsi recipe — some of us still remember how disastrous it was when Coca-Cola introduced "New Coke." Seen any New Coke around lately?

With any new form of research, there is always some room for skepticism, and many people feel that neuromarketing is far too invasive and ultimately unnecessary. So, this is one of those gray areas where we'll have to reserve judgment and make our own opinions after it has been around long enough to see what its impact will be.

This article last updated: 02/16/2013.