Thomas Z. Ramsøy

Neuro-segmentation: Cracking the Consumer Code

We often like to think of ourselves as above the influence of advertisements, that we are rational beings with the power to resist the persuasive charm of commercials and billboards. Yet, within the boardrooms of the world’s top brands, a revolution is taking place It happens in areas such as the segmentation of customers.

It’s not about finding the catchiest taglines or creating the most visually stunning ads – it’s about something far deeper. Segmentation – the art and science of dividing a market into distinct groups – has long been a critical tool in a marketer’s arsenal.

But, it’s evolving, and the driving force behind this change is the fascinating field of neuroscience.

An Intricate Dance: Knowledge and Motivation Drives Segmentation

As it turns out, modern brands should be less interested in segments per se – age, gender, ethnicity, and other traditional classification parameters. Instead, they should increasingly focus on what these segments represent in terms of knowledge and motivation.

To truly grasp the potential of this approach, we must delve into two intriguing aspects of human cognition that have sparked the interest of neuroscientists and marketers alike: motivation and prior knowledge.

Neuroscience studies suggest that when we have knowledge about something and are motivated by it, our responses shift dramatically. The now classical neuromarketing study by Samuel McClure and colleagues showed that the reason that people prefer Coca-Cola to Pepsi-Cola is due to the engagement of the brain’s memory circuit.

For brands we know and have strong emotional connections with, we start recognizing the brand faster, forming stronger emotional relationships, and recalling related information more effectively.

Essentially, prior knowledge and preference (or motivation) act as twin gatekeepers, shaping our responses and influencing our actions.

The Four Powers: A Neuromarketing Perspective

This unique interplay between knowledge, motivation, and consumer response gives rise to what we might call the four ‘powers’ of neuromarketing: Attention, Emotion, Cognition, and Memory. Each power corresponds to a distinct dimension of consumer behavior.

  • Attention: This is all about how well a brand or an advertisement can captivate a consumer’s interest. It’s about grabbing the consumer’s attention, keeping it sustained, and motivating them to explore more.
  • Emotion: Emotional responses form the backbone of our preferences and motivations. Whether it’s strong arousal or a more subtle form of motivation, our emotions steer our consumer decisions, often more than we think.
  • Cognition: This revolves around our ability to comprehend and process information. It’s about how effectively consumers understand a brand or a product, their tolerance to information overload, and how clear the brand’s message is to them.
  • Memory: This refers to how well consumers remember a brand and its advertisements. It’s about creating lasting impressions and associations that remain in the consumer’s memory long after they’ve interacted with the brand.

These four powers are key to understanding consumer behavior, and with tools from Neurons, like Explore Online, Predict, and Explore Lab, companies can measure and analyze these dimensions in depth.

While neuromarketing companies have long made this possible, these solutions have typically been time-consuming, expensive, and complex. Recent advancements allow online testing and even predictive solutions in seconds.

What Interest Does to Four Consumer Responses

Understanding the impact of both prior knowledge and preference on consumer responses can significantly influence the effectiveness of marketing strategies. This focus on knowledge and preference is increasingly becoming a new standard of customer segmentation.

Here’s a table illustrating how each of the four response types – Attention, Emotion, Cognition, and Memory – can be influenced by varying levels of prior knowledge and preference:

Response TypePrior Knowledge: HighPrior Knowledge: LowPreference: HighPreference: Low
AttentionConsumers exhibit faster and longer attention to brands they know well, leading to increased exposure and higher likelihood of emotional and cognitive responses.Consumers may have shorter attention spans and overlook brands with low recognition.Consumers pay more attention to brands they prefer, resulting in prolonged exposure and higher chances of emotional and cognitive responses.Brands with lower preference are more likely to receive less attention from consumers.
EmotionHigher emotional responses to familiar brands lead to lower price sensitivity and stronger brand associations with positive actions.Emotions might be neutral or slightly negative due to lack of familiarity, potentially resulting in higher price sensitivity.High preference intensifies emotional engagement, fostering stronger brand associations and increasing likelihood of positive actions.Lower preference may result in weaker emotional engagement, potentially leading to higher price sensitivity and weaker brand associations.
CognitionConsumers with high prior knowledge comprehend and assimilate information about known brands more effectively, connecting the ad narrative to the brand’s identity.Comprehension may be lower due to lack of familiarity, making it harder for consumers to connect the ad narrative to the brand’s identity.High preference enhances learning of ad-brand associations, resulting in stronger overall brand memory and comprehension of the main message.Lower preference may lead to weaker learning of ad-brand associations and reduced comprehension of the main message.
MemoryConsumers with high prior knowledge exhibit stronger connections to novel brand associations, leading to enhanced memory retention.Brands with low familiarity may be easily forgotten due to limited memory associations.Higher preference fosters stronger learning of ad-brand associations and overall brand memory, improving brand recall.Brands with lower preference may have reduced brand recall due to weaker learning of ad-brand associations.

This nuanced understanding of how prior knowledge and preference influence consumer responses can empower businesses to design more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

By accounting for these factors, brands can enhance consumer engagement, stimulate stronger emotional responses, improve cognition, and foster better memory recall of their products or services.

The Proof is in the Pudding: Real-World Use Segmentation Cases

Use Case 1: Consider the case of a well-known car manufacturer. They had recently launched a new model targeting millennials, but initial sales were sluggish. Using neuromarketing tools, they discovered that while their advertisements were attention-grabbing, they failed in the cognition department. The ads were flashy and stylish, but they didn’t communicate the car’s unique features and benefits that appealed to their target demographic.

Based on this insight, the manufacturer redesigned their marketing strategy, focusing on clear and compelling communication about the car’s eco-friendly features, advanced technology, and affordability.

The results? Sales surged, and the car became one of the top sellers in its category.

The image is not related to the actual case

Use Case 2: A premium skincare brand was trying to break into the highly competitive anti-aging market. Their creams and serums were top-notch, but they struggled to stand out.

Using Neurons’ neuromarketing solutions, they found that their packaging and advertising weren’t triggering a strong emotional response in their target demographic – women aged 40 and above. The brand then worked on redefining its packaging and advertising, eliciting emotions related to luxury, exclusivity, and the promise of radiant, youthful skin.

They also engaged renowned skincare experts to endorse their products, leveraging their credibility to enhance consumer trust and emotional appeal.

The outcome? The brand not only successfully penetrated the market but also became a sought-after name in the anti-aging segment.


The realm of marketing is being transformed. Segmentation and other types of marketing initiatives are no longer a game of guesswork or broad-stroke assumptions.

The combination of neuroscience and marketing – neuromarketing – allows us to peer directly into the motivations and experiences of consumers, providing powerful insights and tools for companies.

As we move towards a more data-driven world, it’s clear that the future of marketing lies within our minds and neurons.