Neuromarketing in Action: How to talk and sell to the brain by Profs Bayle-Tourtoulou and Badoc

20 April 2015

For a phenomenon that is less than 10 years old, neuromarketing is now recognized as an important trend in the development of marketing techniques and applications. In their latest essay “Neuromarketing in Action: how to talk and sell to the brain”, Anne-Sophie Bayle-Tourtoulou, HEC Paris Associate Professor and Michel Badoc, Emeritus Professor in collaboration with the neurosurgeon, Professor Patrick Georges, show both the scientific frameworks and the practical applications of this increasingly popular marketing approach. They showcase the latest thinking on brain function and intelligence, and the subconscious influences on consumer behavior, referencing global brands such as Chanel, Lacoste, Amazon and Nike. 

Couv livre Neuromarketing_bayle tourtoulou Badoc

Neuro-marketing is not a science in itself, but rather an evolution of marketing methods and tools. It does not aim to replace traditional marketing, but to complement it when its scope and techniques meet their limits. Its distinctive feature is that it deals with the human brain’s direct reactions, often subconscious, when stimulated by product presentations, sales, distribution channels, communication… As far as studies are concerned, neuro-marketing focuses on the observation of the brain’s reactions by doing away with any direct or indirect interviewers, from whom interviewees might hold back information for fear of being judged in particular on touchy issues. Interviewees might also simply have a hard time expressing in words or in writing what their senses are feeling. Addressing the brain directly is a relevant idea as it does not lie, and shows the depth of emotions felt by the subject more clearly than traditional studies do.

Through their study, Bayle-Tourtoulou and Badoc examine the ways in which marketing efficiency can be improved through the satisfaction of the customer's senses, emotions, memory and conscience - both in terms of current marketing activity (selling methods, sensory marketing, product modification) and potential future developments (value innovation, sensory brands, increased interaction with social networks and permission marketing).

In fact, neuro-marketing uses the range of knowledge on how the human brain works that has appeared in a large variety of publications. It uses techniques borrowed from neuroscience. They range from complex, costly studies, using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan), EEG (Electroencephalography), hormonal secretion… to more simple and less costly tools: telemetrics, eye tracking, micro-sensors, ethology, ergonomic diagnostics… 

One complementary application of neuro-marketing is sensory marketing. It consists in attracting customers, retaining them and placing them in the best possible disposition to buy, by trying to appeal directly to one or several of their senses. Here is an overview of the main applications of neuro-marketing and sensory marketing:

Neuro-marketing to improve communication. 

On top of advertising, neuro-marketing studies can also prove useful to improve e-communication and m-communication. They are frequently applied to improve the user-friendliness of Internet sites, blogs… The same is true for the creation of viral films aimed at social or community networks.

Creation of sensory brands.

Creating a truly attractive brand is no easy task. To do so, the brand should convey the impression that it does not merely offer something but that it aims to help you experience something. It should produce enough affection to make consumers come to its points of sale, buy its products, listen to its communication. To develop loyalty among customers and become indispensable, brands are resorting to sensory marketing on an increasingly frequent basis.

The sensory policy of a brand transforms the customer’s experience into emotional and affective dependency, as it creates harmony between the different senses, which experts call sense congruity. All sensory effects emanating from the five senses seek to correspond to the positioning chosen by the brand as is the case for Nature et Découvertes or Abercrombie & Fitch.

Sensory marketing in retail.

Large retailers use sensory marketing on a relatively big scale by diffusing the fragrance of baby powder in the childcare section, of sun cream in the swimming suit section, the sound of seagulls, associated with the smell of the sea, to offer an impression of freshness at the fish stand… These organized stimulations of our senses are by no means innocent. They can lead to a significant increase in purchases above 20%.       

Sales force efficiency reinforced by neuro-marketing.

In many sectors of activity, successful companies use their knowledge of how the brain works – the salespeople’s and customers’ alike - to improve the sales process. Advice and training courses drawing directly from the principles, methods and techniques of neuro-marketing are offered by experts in “intelligence ergonomy”. Concrete applications are becoming increasingly popular such as the method created by neurosurgeon Patrick Georges and his partners at “Net-Research” in Europe, and that developed by Renvoisé and Morin in the US.

At last, the authors highlight that Neuro-marketing, to avoid any danger of consumer’s manipulation, should be used once every precaution has been defined pertaining to law, ethics and deontology. These precautions must first come from the companies themselves in order not to damage their brand image. They must also be implemented by state agencies thanks to relevant laws to prevent abuse. They last fall to consumer’s protection agencies whose role is to conduct relevant studies and makes recommendations.

Companies need to prepare for the inescapable emergence of these new approaches and techniques in their environment. Visionary management teams have already grasped this need and are taking steps to guarantee that their management is ready for the advent of these techniques in tomorrow’s marketing, while taking all the necessary legal, ethical and deontological steps.

Georges, P, Bayle-Tourtoulou, A.S. and Badoc, M (2014), Neuromarketing In Action- How to Talk and Sell to the Brain , Kogan Page.


Anne-Sophie Bayle-Tourtoulou : Associate Professor of Marketing, is the Academic Director of the Marketing Major and the Master of Sciences at HEC Paris. She teaches retailing and marketing strategy within HEC programs Grande Ecole. Her centers of interest focus on retail business and related issues pertaining to assortment decisions, private labels, pricing, promotions and out-of-stocks policies. As a consultant for IRI, she has also developed an expertise on panel data. She has published various managerial reports and academic articles. She has recently focused on a new center of interest which is the contribution of neurosciences to the management and marketing of firms.

Michel Badoc : Emeritus Professor teaches Master Intelligence Marketing students lessons on Marketing Planification and Strategy. He is responsible for Microsoft Marketing University in the frame of the HEC Executive Education. He has given conferences on Bank & Insurance Marketing and Neuromarketing. He acts as a Marketing coacher for managers of high-powered international companies.

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