Use Neuromarketing to Categorize People Beyond Factors like Age

Leon Bilen is a psychology graduate working as a marketing consultant in Istanbul, Turkey. It was his interest in the link between psychology and marketing that sparked Leon’s curiosity about neuromarketing. Nowadays, he implements neuromarketing tactics in the marketing campaigns he oversees.

Why are you interested in neuromarketing?

A: Advertisers are using digital more and more. They need to stand out. And everyone is over-excited about data. This raises the question: are behavioral targeting and data about user journey or cookie history really enough? Our “target groups” are in the end, humans and they have emotions which make them deviate from their habits. What about different personalities, perspectives? We want to know how different people react to the same ad or visual. What’s effective, and what isn’t – and why? So that we can improve ads before spending a lot of money.  

You work as a freelance marketing consultant. What’s your view on neuro?

A: I read a lot about neuromarketing, I think it’s a very good thing. Neuromarketing makes marketing teams more efficient. For instance, I read about an American travel agency applying coconut scents in their shops to increase the sales of tour packages. Apparently, people associate coconut with sunscreen and holidays. An interesting idea I used for one of my clients, a sunglass brand.


“Neuromarketing helps brands speak to the consumer in a way that they can better relate to the brand or product. It customizes content and communication to different people in an efficient, useful way.


What are your doubts?

A: I’m doubtful about imaging methods like fMRI, because the research is conducted in a laboratory setting. In psychology we speak about the Hawthorne effect, which is when people change or improve their behavior because they know they are being observed. I would be more inclined to trust findings from research conducted in real-life settings. Not a doubt perhaps, but I think the imaging methods do have a shortcoming when more than one area is involved in a certain reaction: Which area fires first? What is the cause and effect relationship between those two? That is a very relevant question if you aim to use the results in a marketing setting. 

What questions do you hope to answer with neuro?

The most general question we are trying to answer is, is this campaign effective? Does it reach its aim? For instance, for a life insurance client we were trying to find out which people are more willing to purchase a policy. In an article I read that people content in life are less inclined to invest in their future. When we used an algorithm to target less content people, our campaign turned out 10 to 12 per cent more effective than previous campaigns.


“I try to use neuromarketing to categorize people beyond factors like age. I try to out find how people decide with their emotions, and how emotions are present in different people.”


Would you recommend your clients to use neuro technology internally, or hire a vendor to do the work and interpretation?

When it comes to imaging research, I’m sure I would recommend a vendor. That’s their specialty. Besides, buying all the equipment is not viable financially. In terms of interpreting the results, I’m not sure to what extent the scientists would know about the practical implications. I would suggest a collaboration between the vendor and the clients’ internal marketing team. 

As we wrap up the interview, Leon mentions that it’s hard to convince brands to commission neuromarketing research in Turkey. “We have little chance of working with direct research, also because of the currency rate at the moment.” Nevertheless, he concludes, “neuromarketing is where everything will go in a few years.”

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