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Neuromarketing Secrets that Trick us into Spending More

Updated: Mar 20

Does the way prices are presented influence what you buy? For example, would you be more likely to buy a product that has "50% more" product or discounted as "33% off?"  Functionally, the two provide the same value, but neuromarketers say one tricks you into thinking you're getting a better deal.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that a “50% more" sold 71% more than a “35% discount,” even though the latter is a slightly lower price per unit. The bigger percentage is perceived as being a much better value.

From supermarkets to department stores, retailers employ clever techniques designed to get you to spend more. Have you ever noticed that sale signs are usually red? There's a reason for that: People react faster and more forcefully when they see the color red. Studies also show that slow music at a moderate volume makes people shop more leisurely and spend more money. Loud music hurries them through the store and doesn't affect sales. Classical music encourages more expensive purchases.

Other research has shown that the word “FREE!” is a significant motivator for consumers. Consumers find "25% More FREE" to have greater value than "25% Bonus" or "25% More." The takeaway from all of this is that the biggest percentages with the word "FREE" is more compelling to us than a promotion with an equivalent discount.

As consumers, we don’t often realize it but we are being marketed to in some very subtle, psychological ways on a daily basis. Some companies pay good money to study what does and doesn’t persuade our spending habits. Neuromarketers are exploring how we perceive prices, value, and what influences how we spend our money.

For example, including currency symbols can also have a negative effect, but new research shows that even punctuation and decimals can make a difference in how people perceive prices. According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, consumers perceive prices that have more syllables when spoken higher than prices without punctuation.

Commas (e.g., “$1,699”) and cents after the decimal (e.g., “1699.00”) add to the number of syllables and hence make the price seem to be of higher magnitude. This is because one would express the comma version verbally as "one thousand six hundred ninety nine” vs. “sixteen ninety nine” for the unpunctuated version.  The effect is there even when the price not spoken.

There is a wealth of neuroscience research exploring the way money and references to money  prime the brain and influence our behavior - everything from how generous we are to how much we spend. This research has huge implications in marketing, but understanding what drives us as consumers may change your purchase decisions.


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