Neuromarketing – Brain mechanisms of persuasive communication

This project studies the neurobiological processes underlying effective advertising.

G. R. Miller defined persuasive communication as any message that is intended to shape, reinforce, or change the responses of another, or others (Miller, 1980). People are exposed to hundreds of persuasive messages every day in one form or another, from TV commercials to scientific publications. Persuasion has been a focus of extensive psychological research but has largely been ignored by cognitive neuroscience.

In our study, we focus on the effects of a presenter's expertise, physical attractiveness and famousness on a viewer's memory of and attitude towards a product. We find that a credible link between the celebrity and the endorsed product (e.g., tennis player Djokovic endorsing a sports shoe) leads to a better memory recall of the product owing to stronger memory encoding at the level of the hippocampus. Moreover, a credible endorser also improves the viewer's attitude to the product by inducing a trust response at the level of the caudate nucleus (Klucharev et al., 2008).

Given a credible endorser, we find that a famous endorser (vs an equally attractive, non-famous presenter) activates positive associations and emotions in memory. This positive affect is automatically and unconsciously transferred to the product at the level of medial OFC (Stallen et al., 2009) indicating an increased valuation of the product which manifests itself in a greater buying intention.

Recent fMRI research by Couwenberg et al. (2017) focuses on the neural processes underlying differences in advertising execution styles (i.e., informational vs experiential advertising) and how these neural processes, in turn, are related to ad effectiveness. Evidence suggests that ads which engage brain processes related to both the processing of the value of the advertised product to the consumer as well as creative thought and emotional engagement are most persuasive.