How to Use Neuroscience to Boost Sales

Scientists have recently uncovered information about the brain that provides a keen advantage to communicators. In 2011, the Advertising Research Foundation used insights from neuroscience research to create a major shift in how we think about advertising. By measuring brain waves, sweat and heart rates, and eye movements, they were able to determine the type of messages that activate the part of the brain that is responsible for deciding to buy something.


The primary decision center of the brain is  sometimes called the “reptilian,” “old,” or “first,” brain because it’s one of the oldest parts of the human brain. It’s a savvy gatekeeper that determines what information will be accepted and sent to the rest of the brain for processing.


Here are four ways you can improve your messaging to boost sales by activating that decision center of the brain.


1) Simplicity is key


When the brain perceives something as too complicated, it gets skipped. It’s just a natural cost vs. benefit analysis that happens deep inside the subconscious. If the brain thinks it won’t be worth the effort to look at your message, it will simply avoid it.


2) Make messages selfish


The decision center of the brain is selfish.  It developed over time with a single purpose — to survive. That’s it.


Use “you” in your message as a quick way to activate the this part of the brain.  In the rest of your messaging, be sure to show how your product benefits the audience in way that is meaningful to them.


3) Become a pain reliever


The decision center of the brain looks for ways to avoid pain. For marketers, this usually translates into saving time, saving money, creating envy among others, and eliminating hassle.


If you can make something easier, you’ve got it made!


That’s one reason it’s important to do extensive audience research. When we know what our customers are trying to avoid, we can show them how we help.


4) Appeal to emotion (not logic)


Humans make decisions emotionally.


Have you ever been around someone who was explaining a long laundry list of logical reasons for a recent purchase that seemed super pricey? Maybe it sounded something like this:


“But the new Tesla is so environmentally responsible.”


“My new Kate Spade bag is so well made! I’m sure it will become an heirloom that I can pass it down to my grand-daughter.”


“The new Bose sound system brings out all nuances of Justin Timberlake’s voice. It’s just like having him right next to me in the living room. It’s worth every penny.”


Although some those reasons probably made you want to roll your eyes, they represent a very natural response we have after a large purchase.  Whether we realize it or not, we make our initial decision to purchase something based on emotion. After the purchase, we rationalize our decision using logic. That’s how we can protect ourselves from feeling like we made a bad decision.


5) A picture may be worth a lot more than 1,000 words


The decision center of the brain processes images up to 60,000 times faster than text. Imagine how powerful your message could be with the proper combination of clear, concise wording coupled with an image that underscores the essence of your message.


Images can boost your customers’ understanding of concepts too, so look for images that connect your audience with something they know.


Targeting new moms? Search Pinterest for birth announcements and you’ll find that the majority of them have a similar theme. If you use those elements in your message, those new moms will instantly connect your product with the their new status as the mom of a newborn.


Fun side note: My team did this in 2012 to promote the maternity department at one of our hospitals. Back then, the common themes were scrapbook-looking. There were lots of chalkboards, mixed print backgrounds, and Victorian calligraphy elements. The campaign was a huge success. In 2016, I did the same search and I don’t see much of the scrapbook look at all. It’s more shadowbox, mixed media, and infographics. That’s why it’s so important to use audience research to understand the customer. My “baby” starts driving soon, so I wouldn’t come in contact with any of this stuff on my own. Walking a mile in the shoes of your target audience makes all the difference.


Bonus tip.  It’s from me. It’s not necessarily rooted in Neuroscience — just my own experience.


Make it fun.


Everybody is looking to have a little more fun in life.  Bring a little joy and you’re message will be a hit.



Amen, Daniel (2015). Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. Book.

American Marketing Association (2011). “Marketing and Neuroscience: What drives customer decisions?” Whitepaper.

Asacker, Tom (2013). The Business of Belief: How the world’s best marketers, designers, salespeople, coaches, etc. get us to believe. Book.

Beyond Philosophy (date unknown). “Emotional Signature: The role of emotions in customer experience”. Whitepaper.

Dooley, Roger. et al (2015). “Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper”. Article.

Neff, Jack (2016). “Neuromarketing Exits ‘Hype Cycle,’ Starts Shaping TV Commercials”. Advertising Age. Magazine article.

OIG Study (2015). “Enhancing the Value of Mail: The Human Response”. Report.

Renvoise, Patrick & Morin, Christophe (2007). Neuromarketing: Understanding the “Buy Buttons” in Your Customer’s Brain. Book.

Zaltman, Gerald (2003). How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market. Book.


© 2016 Jessica Walter, MS, APR

All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, there may additional helpful information provided by other sources. Whenever researching your own situation or devising a strategy, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.

About the Author

Jessica Walter is a Communications Strategist with a passion for inspiring companies to live into their full potential.  She’s found that the essential equation for long-term success includes Marketing, Culture, and Leader Development.

Jessica has been a marketing executive for a regional bank, a communications director for a health system, a public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.

She holds a master’s degree in Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She is also a Certified Lean Systems Leader.

You can reach her at

Published by Jessica Walter, MS, APR

Speaker, Consultant, and Certified Leadership Coach

One thought on “How to Use Neuroscience to Boost Sales

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: