There is more to successful marketing than meets the eye, but engages the brain. Over ads, sponsorships, and web clicks is a whole dimension to marketing design and presentation that has subtle though significant effects on your sales and conversions. The feeling, image, and mood your business can evoke from a consumer is as vital to your business as anything else.

“Neuromarketing”, the study of the brain and its application in marketing, is a science that may be easily overlooked in small business practices, but when implemented, can leave more lasting impressions than a tweet or Facebook post can achieve.

There have been several studies and experiments to increase sales through the act of persuasion. Find out what neuromarketing studies your business can profit from.

Pricing Experiments

The biggest example of psychologic implementation in marketing is the 3-choice game. For a subscription or package based deal, consumers are often presented with three options: cheapest, mid-level, and more expensive. Studies indicate that having three options instead of two help people make better choices, and one can skew the choice by manipulating the costs.

Consider creating a decoy price point or plan package that is close to or identical to one of the other packages to influence people into purchasing the one you want. When you offer a choice that is not as beneficial as another option but at a similar price point, more people will take notice of the comparison and choose the better option.

The most famed example of this principle comes from an experiment in Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” and is summarized by ConversionXL:


When conductees in the study were presented with these choices, 16 chose option A , 0 chose option B, and 84 option C.


But when option B was removed, the percentage of people who chose option A increased exponentially and the percentage of people who chose option C dove drastically.

This shows the importance of having three options for a consumer, whose decision-making is driven by relative.

The article goes on to explore a similar version of this tactic referred to as the contrast principle. The idea that nothing is considered cheap or expensive by itself until it is contrasted with something else. Great white sharks, for example, are pretty big fish, but when put next to a whale, appear normal or smaller in size.

You can use this principle to your advantage if the product you sell is on the pricier side. On your webstore, present an item alongside an even more expensive product. A $600 pair of Gucci shoes seem reasonable when placed alongside a $2,000 pair of diamond-studded stilettos.

Another popular sales tactic is the magical number 9. As the book “Priceless: The Myth of Value (and How To Take Advantage Of It)” points out, people used to download music for free until Steve Jobs got them to pay for it, by charging 99 cents.

Various research shows that prices ending with 9 sell at a higher volume than any other number. Mark down prices at $29, $39, $1.99 etc. and you may see a boost in sales, an average of 24 percent relative to nearby prices according to several studies over two decades. There’s no telling exactly why the magic number works, but it works.

Presenting your message

Why does anyone buy anything anyway? The answer is fairly easy- we buy for some sort of gain (happiness, a full belly, leisure, excitement, utility) or loss (aches, pains, fears, problems). Your product has to provide some sort of gain or loss – otherwise there is no pull to buy.

HelpScout documents a study about how to present your gain/loss proposition. Whenever you write a product description, keep the focus on the gain or loss the product provides. The spin you put on a product’s gain or loss can be done in two ways, to either prevent or promote.


  • Promotion-oriented, gain-frame: Get Thin!
  • Promotion-oriented, loss-frame: Don’t Miss Out on Getting Thin!
  • Prevention-oriented, gain-frame: Prevent Holiday Weight Gain!
  • Prevention-oriented, loss-frame: Don’t Miss Out on How To Prevent Holiday Weight Gain!

In the HelpScout study, data shows that sales copy is most effective when the message matches the purpose – so promotional wording works best with a gain product and prevention wording works best with a loss product (statistically best options bolded above).

This enlightening article on “How to Write Taglines that Double Sales” states you “should maximize the match of your tagline to the nature of your product and the orientation of your customers”.

Though whatever you’re selling, be persuasive. It’s more memorable to be aggressive in copy than passive-aggressive.

A convenient store saw a significant jump in ice sales when they changed their sign from “Don’t forget the ice!” to “Remember the ice!”

Do you see the effectual difference?

In addition, when creating sales copy, note there are also power words that effectively trigger a consumer.

Power Words

  • “Free” – a ‘duh’ but still one of the most highly effective word when it comes to consumers. The power of providing free shipping for a limited time, or ‘free with purchase’ ups the value of a purchase.
  • “Instantly” – Words like ‘Instant’ and ‘Quick’ trigger activity in the midbrain which impulses us to buy. The relief of immediate gratification is more of a reward.
  • “New” – The appeal of novelty is part of human nature. Something ‘new’ is exciting. Novelty is more tricky though as maintaining a brand name trumps the appeal of novelty (think of the 80s Crystal Pepsi fail).

Think about how our culture’s headlines and trendy wording has changed in this year alone. We’re inundated with Buzzfeed articles and Facebook links claiming “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!” or “What You See Here Will Amaze You”. Tap into what your customers are looking for and how best to appeal to them.

Social Proof

Of all possible motivation to buy, perhaps social proof is the strongest. Its why user-driven websites like Yelp and Reddit are so popular. Us humans have tendencies toward a herd mentality, so it’s no surprise that majority rules.

On the National Geographic TV show “Brain Games”, producers set up a sneaky experiment where they created a line queue leading to nowhere. In the first iteration, there was a sign and an empty queue – nobody came.

In the second iteration, there was a queue, a sign, and someone standing in line. After a while, the queue grew incredibly long though no one had any idea where it was going. The line formed because they saw other people there.

In the buying cycle, you may best identify with the majority mentality when booking hotel rooms online on comparative price sites such as Expedia or Travelocity. Next to price, what is the number one deciding factor in booking? The reviews. You are much more likely to book a hotel that has consistent positive reviews than consistent negative reviews.

Note: This is not to say that you should fill your website with cookie-cutter positive testimonials. presents some really interesting findings from a study done on Amazon reviews. The study finds that the number of reviews a product had was a greater influence on sales than the star ratings.

Too many positive reviews created skepticism, even on Amazon, a well-known and trusted brand, so what do you think will happen when customers see only positive reviews on a lesser-known, smaller store?

Businesses like Groupon and LivingSocial operate and thrive on this very principle. Both sites offer exclusive deals that only kick in once a certain number of people buy – the idea is that the more people that buy, the more people will buy! See if your business can benefit from group pooling.


Color is an interesting debate in the world of buying psychology. Studies have shown that color can affect mood and perception. Moreover, sources have touted color to have a significant effect on the nuances of customer behavior, research claiming “90 percent of snap judgements made about products can be based on color alone (depending on the product)”. Others negate the fact that color has any influence on purchases.

Despite both shades to the story, it’s hard to argue that Harley Davidson could not best convey their masculinity without their trademark orange and black or Victoria’s Secret wouldn’t be the pinnacle of femininity without their shades of pink. When developing your brand, choose colors that best reflect the company or product’s aesthetic and demographic.

For a guideline, this post details colors and the emotions they evoke:

  • Red and yellow illicit feelings of hunger (and it’s no surprise the two colors are used by many major food corporations, such as Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., and McDonalds)
  • Orange is often associated with speed (Amazon’s logo is orange)
  • Blue is a color that inspires trust and strength (many bank logos such as Bank of America, Chase, and Capital One are all blue)
  • Grey brings about feelings of balance and calmness (Apple, Nike, Wikipedia)

Colors also have strong cultural connotations. For example, red in China is perceived as a lucky color, while in the U.S. red is often seen as an aggressive or passionate color. Your choice of color should depend entirely on the market you are targeting. Again, the best advice is to test, test, test.

Another effective way to use color in your webstore is to create stark contrasts. Contrasts help draw your customer’s eyes to a certain element on your page – so a bright ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Buy Now’ button that sticks out of the background color palette will usually convert better than a button that blends in with the text.

Application of many of these neuromarketing findings may appear subjective but in comparison to the changing times and tools of marketing, there’s one thing that remains the same- human nature.

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