Edited by: Tecnológico Superior
Corporativo Edwards Deming
July - December Vol. 6 - 2 - 2022
e-ISSN: 2576-0971
Received: November 18, 2021
Approved: January 11, 2022
Page 56-63
Neuromarketing or consumer behavior?
¿Neuromarketing o comportamiento del consumidor?
Mauricio Paredes Sandoval
Although neuromarketing has been applied in the world of
market research for a relatively short time, it already has a
very strong base of followers, but also an equal or greater
number of opponents. And this is because this branch of
marketing does not yet have a solid theoretical basis or a
general consensus in academia and business, since it lends
itself to some people and companies claiming to be able to
influence the behavior of potential customers from the
very basis of the functioning of the nervous system, when
in reality all they are doing is applying the traditional
techniques of persuasion and suggestion that have always
been used, but wrapped in a scientific language.
Keywords: Neuromarketing, consumer behavior,
neuroscience, pseudoscience, scientific method.
A pesar de que el neuromarketing está siendo aplicado en
el mundo de la investigación de mercados desde hace
relativamente poco tiempo, ya cuenta con una base muy
fuerte de adeptos, pero también de una igual o mayor
cantidad de contradictores. Y esto se debe a que esta rama
del marketing no cuenta todavía con una base teórica sólida
ni con un consenso general en la academia y la empresa, ya
que se presta para que algunas personas y empresas
afirmen poder influir en el comportamiento de los clientes
potenciales desde las bases mismas del funcionamiento del
sistema nervioso, cuando realmente lo único que hacen es
aplicar las tradicionales técnicas de persuasión y sugestión
que se han usado desde siempre, pero arropadas con un
lenguaje cientificista.
* Ingeniero Comercial, Coordinador de Marketing Instituto Tecnológico Superior
Corporativo Edwards Deming , Quito, Ecuador,
m.paredes@edwardsdeming.edu.ec, ORCID: -0001-6013-0032
Tecnológico Superior Corporativo Edwards Deming - Vol. 6 - 2 - 2021 https://revista-edwardsdeming.com/index.php/es
e-ISSN: 2576-0971
Palabras clave: Neuromarketing, comportamiento del
consumidor, neurociencia, pseudociencia, método
Since man began to have relationships with members of groups other than his own, he
sought to maximize the benefits of such relationships, whether in the incipient first form
of trade that was barter, which was perfected later with the appearance of currency.
This maximization of benefits has been developing in parallel with the development of
humanity and its consequent complexity of relationships. In this sense, the utility of the
exchange is not only in the usufruct of the good or service exchanged, but also in the
behavioral response of the parties involved in the exchange.
Already in the middle of the last century, Sigmund Freud, Abraham Maslow and Fredrick
Herzberg pointed out that a person's purchasing decisions are linked to different
psychological factors, namely: motivation, perception, learning, beliefs and attitudes.
In his theory of motivation, Freud spoke of the different elements that arouse the
consumer's emotions at an unconscious level.
Maslow reminded us that once individuals satisfy their most basic and pressing needs, as
we move forward they become desires, that is, the person's satisfaction no longer comes
from a physiological response to a satisfied need, but rather from a psychological reward
for a fulfilled desire.
Herzberg distinguished dissatisfaction and satisfaction factors within any offer of goods
or services, and recommended that the former should be identified in order to avoid or
limit them, and that the latter should be enhanced and provided in order to ensure a
positive response from the interested party.
In other words, psychological factors, response to stimuli, human behavior, customer
behavior, have been the subject of scientific analysis for a long time, to be consolidated
as part of the academic world, and subsequently of practical application in the business
world, and they are not a new concern, nor a topic that has only recently come to light
in the 21st century.
The behavioral reactions and responses in the primitive exchange processes originated
ordinary knowledge, i.e. beliefs, opinions or opinions of what we could expect as a
response from the counterpart to the stimuli we have generated in them.
The inconsistency of these responses of different individuals to the same stimuli gave
way to the need to know the reason for these differences.
Faced with this problem, the use of a method becomes evident, that is, a way of
converting ordinary knowledge (doxa) into scientific knowledge (episteme). The
scientific method must use instruments and measurements and, starting from a
hypothesis, it must be verified or refuted; and, if verified, it must result in a replicable
event under the same phenomenological variables.
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e-ISSN: 2576-0971
The problem lies in the fact that, when we talk about the world of hard sciences, there
is consensus regarding the method. When the object of study approaches social or
human behavior, it seems that dissent is most likely.
The human component, with its infinite number of individualities, due to age, origin, race,
beliefs, experiences, education, expectations, etc., complicates the establishment of a
single model of reactions to the same stimuli, since each human response will be
influenced by all these variables and tends to be subjective and anecdotal according to
each context.
In the scientific environment of the human sciences, there are still differences of opinion
on the different models that should be applied to avoid the cognitive biases that can
result from research in the fields of human behavior.
The neurosciences, scientific disciplines that study the brain, the nervous system and
how its parts interact to form cognitive and behavioral processes, are a broad and
multidisciplinary field of knowledge: they are based on physiology, anatomy,
biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, mathematical modeling and
computer systems engineering.
We can say that neuroscience helps psychology, or complements it, if you will, to better
understand mental functioning and to find the biological basis for understanding the
behavior of individuals, which would be cognitive neuroscience.
For the purpose of this paper, we are specifically interested in this area of neuroscience
since cognitive neuroscience focuses on the study of, among other aspects:
1. Learning,
2. Attention,
3. Decision-making,
4. Memory,
5. Excitement;
This is very useful for the area of neuromarketing studies that we are dealing with in this
The efforts of the marketing, advertising and sales areas are focused precisely on sending
messages, express and tacit, capable of reaching the market segments chosen as a source
of potential customers:
1. Learn about the characteristics, uses and attributes of the products, services and
brands offered for sale,
2. Maintain attention to the stimuli we emit through our communication tools and
3. Go through a decision process that culminates in the purchase of the good or
service we offer,
4. Keep the relevant aspects of our marketing mix in your memory for future
5. They identify emotionally with our offer and consolidate themselves as captive
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e-ISSN: 2576-0971
The idea of studying consumer behavior is to study the individual (or group) as a buyer.
Like neuroscience, the study of consumer behavior also has a multidisciplinary
perspective: psychology, sociology, ethnography, anthropology and economics are some
of the areas of expertise.
The objective of combining these disciplines is to get to know people's habits from a
mental, emotional and attitudinal approach, during the purchase process, that is, the
actions they go through before, during and after a purchase action.
Consumer behavior has been studied for almost a century, but not all companies have
been able to afford to hire psychologists, sociologists and other scholars of human
behavior to learn the 'whys' and 'wherefores' of their customers' purchasing decisions.
In more recent times, however, technology has come to the aid of small and medium-
sized companies with more limited budgets, which have been able to address the need
to know their customer through CRM (Consumer Relationship Management), which are
computer systems that use all the data collected during each of the company's
interactions with the customer and find patterns in the behavior of buyers.
Big data is the latest bet for companies, regardless of their size, to get closer to customer
knowledge and be able to design predictive behavioral models and advanced analytics
Big data consists of handling huge amounts of customer information received by
companies, especially from the Internet, social networks and cell phones, in order to
extract useful indicators for decision making.
Every activity of the subject is monitored: time spent on each page or application, record
of the number and frequency of visits, ratings given by the visitor on the services
provided, number of likes, number of shares, GPS positioning and routes, etc. This
information arrives in large volumes, at very high speed and from such a variety of
sources that traditional databases cannot handle it.
As we have seen, these behavioral studies do not even tangentially touch on the
biological process of behavior.
To conclude this section: if studies, research and analysis of consumer behavior do not
offer any explanation at the neural level, we cannot speak of neuroscience.
This paper is a theoretical analysis through the review, analysis and discussion of
information on the subject, specifically in the online environment, gathering
contributions from different perspectives. It is part of a qualitative approach from the
interpretative paradigm.
The information in the public domain on neuromarketing generally lacks the academic
solidity necessary to be considered a reliable source, with notable exceptions that we
have tried to highlight here.
There are still very few neuromarketing publications with a scientific-technical approach;
the vast majority are "sales manuals" containing "tips" or advice for the salesperson, and
therefore lack the critical rigor that the study of a discipline demands.
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e-ISSN: 2576-0971
The spirit of this work is to generate a document that constitutes a first basic step to
generate a discussion on this topic.
Neuromarketing is a further step in the study of consumer behavior. It shows us what
happens inside the brain once the behavior has been initiated. The aim is then to be able
to predict, and even influence and modify human behavior and decision-making
To simplify it as much as possible, neuromarketing is based on the theory of the three
brains, or triune brain:
The reptilian brain, or more instinctive and primitive part,
The limbic brain as an emotional part,
The cortex brain, which is the most evolved and rational part;
The idea, when we talk about neuromarketing or neuro-sales, is that we must appeal
more to the instinctive and emotional parts than to the rational ones in order to
persuade customers to make the purchase decision.
Neuromarketing aims to "sell to the mind and not to people," in the words of one of its
main proponents in the Spanish-speaking world, Jürgen Klarić.
To achieve this objective, tools are used to measure physiological and neuronal signals
such as the activity of certain brain areas, the heart rate or the galvanic response of the
skin, for which advanced medical technology devices and instruments are used, such as
electroencephalography, electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance, biometry, eye
tracking, electrodermal response, among others.
But these techniques have yet to win the favor of most companies, especially the smaller
ones, since their application is technically complicated and highly costly; impossible to
carry out on their own, forcing them to hire specialized companies for the purpose.
What is useful and applicable to a multinational mega company of massive consumption,
many times it is not for a small local company.
And, although the usefulness of neuromarketing is not disputed, questions remain:
Are your findings much more accurate compared to other more traditional
How can we apply neuromarketing in our company?
Are they worth the effort and investment?
Which tools are the most useful?
If the equipment and personnel necessary to apply neuromarketing are beyond
our reach, what consulting firm applies "real" neuromarketing?
In all areas of human endeavor there are "smoke peddlers". Many of them are linked, of
course, to the world of marketing and market research.
Neuromanagement is here to stay. Any word to which we add the prefix 'neuro'
automatically acquires for many a halo of veracity in its scientific foundation:
Tecnológico Superior Corporativo Edwards Deming - Vol. 6 - 2 - 2021 https://revista-edwardsdeming.com/index.php/es
e-ISSN: 2576-0971
neuromanagement, neurosales, neurosciences, neuroarchitecture, neurolinguistic
programming, neuroeconomics, neurocommunication...
We are not really facing new scientific areas related to neuroscience, we are simply
facing a process of using neuroscience findings for the behavioral analysis and behavior
of people and the decision-making process applied to different fields.
Sales coaches, self-help charlatans, success and abundance gurus, are on the crest of the
wave thanks to their scientific discourses based on everything "neuro".
The very definition of the triune brain: reptilian, limbic and neocortex, is an arbitrary
classification and an obsolete model of brain functioning, not accepted by the
contemporary scientific canon. It can be successfully used as a didactic allegory to explain
complex functions, but not to explain human behavior from biology: If you start from a
wrong premise, the conclusion will also be wrong.
We are, on many occasions, witnessing perfect examples of what pseudoscience is: they
do not use the scientific method, but present themselves as such. Unfortunately,
pseudoscience and many pseudoscientists enjoy a good reputation, catapulted mainly by
strong advertising strategies and anecdotal successes in their respective fields.
Normally, pseudosciences are accompanied by an apparent attachment to the scientific
method, but in reality they do not resist a serious methodological analysis; and, what is
even more worrying, is that they come to have relevance and prestige within the
scientific and academic world itself, which should rather unmask them and make their
errors and methodological defects evident.
When neuromarketing is offered as a true scientific study, it still has to circumvent
certain scruples and ethical boundaries that some people and companies are not willing
to cross, as they see it as an intrusion into people's minds. Let's remember that its aim
is not only to analyze, but even to manipulate behavior.
Apart from ethical issues, once a company has decided to hire a neuromarketing
consultant, they should manage the quality of the analysis service offered to them, in that
sense multiple questions and issues may come to the surface:
You would need to make sure that the studies are actually conducted by certified
An independent neuroscientist should be hired to supervise the work and the
results obtained by the contracted company.
The consultant should have marketing experience as well as scientific
It should ensure that the company has a track record of successful cases and can
prove that its results can go beyond what can be achieved with traditional
research methods.
It would be appropriate that the results of the contracted company's research
have been peer-reviewed and published in reputable scientific journals.
Although neural manipulation may scare many, marketing has been using tactics to
influence the behavior of its customers since its inception. In fact, at least for the moment