Emotional Branding – How Neuromarketing affects the perception of the brand.

emotional branding

Find out how the brain reacts during the decision-making process to better position your brand in the minds of potential customers.

The neuroscience of emotion has been under study for decades. 

The first experiment ever reported on the subject it’s in 1950 conducted by Old y Miller. The two scientists placed some rats in a Skinner box, which after receiving the first intentional electrical stimulation, could self-stimulate themselves via a lever.

After some time, the scientists noticed that the rats died from inflicting up to 200 stimulations while stopping any other action, including eating. 

What was happening to the animals?

The scientists concluded that the animal felt such intense pleasure that it gave up its survival instinct.

Repeating the experiment, Old and Miller reached a point where the rats hid, feeling the electrical stimulus. They concluded that the animals felt psychological pain and named this part of the brain as the brain’s punishment centre.

Science then take its courses, and only in 1965, we did see a practical example where marketing applies concepts of the psychology of emotions. The Coca-Cola vs Pepsi experiment is probably one of the best-known marketing campaigns in history. The experiment showed that users of the two drinks (without knowing which one was each brand) chose Pepsi, and when faced with the evidence, they followed by saying that the one they preferred was Coca-Cola.

This phenomenon is explained by what is called Cognitive Dissonance, the mental distress that comes from the conflict between reason (mind) and emotion (body). 

In this case, the participants’ brains create emotions and memories related to the brand and the latter overcome product’s taste. So they consciously choose Coca-Cola, while first unconsciously and emotionally, their first bodily reaction was to choose Pepsi.

To better understand what happens during a decision-making process, we need to take a moment into the brain anatomy.

“90% of humans’ decisions are emotional.”

The brain is made up of the three “floors”; On the first, we find the Brain Stem. This is in charge of life markers such as breathing, homeostasis, and cycles of sleep among others. On the second floor, we see the Limbic System in charge of the emotional system. On the third is located the Cerebral Cortex which executes the decision process.

The cortex is also divided into 4 lobes.

1. Occipital lobe. It is in charge of visual processing.

2. Temporal Lobe. It is in charge of auditory processing.

3. Parietal Lobe. Responsible for somatosensory processing.

4. Frontal Lobe In charge of the decision-making process.

The Frontal Lobe is also divided into two areas. 

Firstly, the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, which is in charge of management and analysis. Secondly, the Orbitofrontal Cortex, which is responsible for regulating emotions in the decision-making process.

Our Limbic System is one of the oldest parts that compose our brain. So the nerve connections in this part of the brain are more concentrated than, for example, the cortex that has historically developed in humans in advanced times. 

The Limbic System is the centre of our behavioural and emotional responses. That’s why for us marketers it is fundamental.

Within it, we can define four areas of interest:

  • Nucleus Accumbens. It is also defined as the reward centre of the brain. It is activated when we feel pleasure and positive emotions.
  • The Insula. This part of the brain is activated when we feel a loss. It represents the centre of punishment of our brain.
  • The Amygdala. It is the vigilant centre of the brain. It helps us stay alert. This part is activated in situations of imminent danger.
  • The Hippocampus. It acts as an information booster. In this case, the emotional one, being next to the Nucleus Accumbens which is activated with positive emotional states, replicates the emotional information which is then stored by the Occipital Lobe.

Therefore, the marketer’s goal consists of activating the Nucleous Acumbens, within the client’s brain, trying to minimise the action of the insula. In fact, during the decision-making process, the consumer will make a cost-benefit balance between rationality and emotion; if the latter prevails, he will proceed with the purchase of our product.

Emotional Branding: “Create a brand that acts on the consumer’s emotions and satisfies their deepest needs and aspirations”.

How can we try to activate the Nucleous Acumbens within a branding campaign?

Our advertising campaigns will have to focus on arousing emotions in users, also through advertising messages that evoke the memory of significant moments in the customer’s head. Furthermore, our brand must try to position itself on the market by responding to one of the four human needs indicated by the Darwinian scale: survival, food, sex and social recognition.

We also need to pay close attention to the audience of our campaigns. There is, in fact, a profound distinction deriving from the evolutionary characteristics between man and woman. A campaign aimed at a male audience will have to have a natural and direct tone and go straight to the point, while a campaign for a female audience will have to go into detail by describing the qualities of the product/service with a meticulous 

Having said that, when launching our product or advertising campaign to the market, we should consider these fundamental aspects of the human mind. We are emotional beings and, as such, are often governed by emotions, even if every day we pretend to act only rationally. As marketing strategists, we need to notice these aspects of the human psyche and act accordingly. For example, the limitation of the center of punishment (action of the insula) within e-commerce. Yes, because the Insula, is activated every time there is a loss (for example of physical money), so we can avoid this negative input for example, with deferred or instalment payment systems, loyalty cards or discounts. In general, we must apply any strategy that avoids a decrease of physical money in the client’s pockets.

Read more about consumer behavior here
What other important aspects should we take into consideration when launching a landing page or a web marketing campaign?

Other fundamental aspects to take into consideration within our webshop and online marketing campaigns are:

– The use of colours.

– The reliability of the elements of the web page.

– The social proof of the product/service.

– Elements that generate scarcity or urgency.

In conclusion, we can say that a purchasing process is a complex act, which triggers multiple actions in the human mind. 

Whenever we have to decide also between just two pairs of shoes, as we have seen, the action of multiple areas of the brain is triggered. In this regard, it is necessary to be ready to correctly stimulate our consumers and win the war between benefits and costs that will be generated in their minds.


  • OBS Business School
  • Neuromind 

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