In this series “Partner Vision,” the RevelX partners introduce themselves. They share the road that led them to RevelX and what activities they employ at our firm. In each episode, one of our partners will give their vision on a hot topic in their professional field.

In the third article in this series, we give the microphone to René Jongen. René was a partner at the consultancy firm, Boer & Croon, where he worked for 9 years. In 2014, he founded RevelX. We want to know René’s take on “neuromarketing.”

Hello René, how did you develop a fascination for neuromarketing?

“I was trained as a physicist because I wanted to know how things actually work. Later, I wrote tenders as an office staff member. I wanted to draft them in such a way that they would have the maximum result. I wanted to know how you can really affect customers, engage them, and add something of perceived value to their lives or work. That’s why I decided to look into psychology and the functioning of the brain.”

How do you define “neuromarketing?”

“The broad definition is that you use your knowledge of the functioning of the human brain in your marketing and sales. Though the human brain and human decisions are strongly influenced by non-rational processes, we do have an idea of ​​how they work and how they can be influenced. Examples are the so-called ‘slow and rapid mental processes’ as described so beautifully in the obligatory book by Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow. Other examples are the Meyers Briggs-typologies and personality traits according to management drives, which all found their basis in the work of Dr. Carl Jung.

“The narrow definition is that you use high-tech equipment to measure actual brain activity. Test subjects are hooked up to EEG (electroencephalogram) or fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) equipment. When they are shown certain images or get to hear certain sounds, brain activity is visualized. Neuroscientists know which parts of the brain play a role in which emotions and can, based on these techniques, say approximately whether a stimulus evokes the desired emotion or feeling.”

Marketing always has to do with people and their brain, so is not all marketing really just neuromarketing?

“Yes, it should be! In essence, marketing should work more with disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and biology than just with business administration and economics, but unfortunately, that is currently not the common practice.”

In the past, neuromarketing was only possible with enormous budgets. As you write in an article, it is now available for regular companies too. How did that happen?

“There are some relatively new companies that make it affordable to dive into neuromarketing. This is possible through their collaboration with academic hospitals. For a few thousand Euros you can now be part of a larger study in which people are placed under an fMRI scanner, and their responses to marketing communications measured. That is relatively cheap when you consider that the subsequent TV or magazine campaigns often cost tens of thousands of Euros.

“It is even cheaper to scan subjects using EEG techniques, but this gives less precise results. There are also derived techniques which do not look directly in the brain. With these, for example, eye movements and facial expressions are measured. These techniques are even more accessible.

“And finally, the amount of practical literature on how the human brain works and how it can be influenced is enormous. By reading some books, marketers already get a much better idea of what you can and cannot do to move your customer in the right direction.”

Is neuromarketing the job of the marketing department or should the whole organization be involved?

“Good question. Everyone who has interactions with clients should know something about how the human brain works and take this into account in his or her customer contact.

“It is fascinating to see how some people already perform an intuitive form of neuromarketing. Salespeople are a case in point. The best of them can ‘read’ people.”

You have experience in both the Business-to-Business and the Business-to-Consumer market. Where is neuromarketing more applicable?

“I don’t think this difference is relevant here. To engage your customers in the right way, you have to deal with the agent that deals with decisions: the brain. It doesn’t matter if this is a consumer’s or a corporate client’s brain. The workings of the mind are often irrational, and you have to take that into account as a sales or marketing person.”

At RevelX, you help companies grow and prosper. How do you convince CEOs to dive into neuromarketing?

“If a company focuses very much on innovation and growth, I will say: ‘Neuromarketing allows you to do what most competitors do not do yet. This allows you to influence potential customers more successfully and reap more growth potential.

“To CEOs with a more risk-averse nature I will say: ‘Through a relatively small investment, you can prevent throwing away a lot of money.’ Eighty percent of marketing budgets are spent on channels and media. The money set aside for creative work is much smaller. So, it just makes good economic sense to increase a 100,000-Euro traditional marketing budget with 10,000 Euros, or 10%, if that increase allows you to make a much better prediction of the effectiveness of your advertising. In fact, you are crazy if you don’t!”

Are there ethical limits for you when it comes to neuromarketing?

“Every human being and organization is constantly trying to win over other people, to influence them, to be liked, to make a career, et cetera, et cetera. There are some people and organizations better than others at doing this, and I think there is nothing wrong with that.

“But it would be a different story if very strong parties with large budgets use these techniques to ‘milk’ a weaker target group such as the mortgage sellers of American banks did with large groups of people who could not afford a mortgage. But that has nothing to do with neuromarketing per se.

“In fact, when I am approached by a good neuromarketer, I like it because I don’t get offers for rubbish that I have no interest in, or in a way I don’t appreciate.”