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May I have your attention please... Attention, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour.


It doesn’t matter how much you’ve optimised your product, nailed the branding or perfected your messaging. If your target audience doesn’t notice these things, you’ve failed. That’s why attention – both catching it and keeping it - is one of the main focuses of marketing.

In this post, we will look at attention from a consumer behaviour perspective, why it’s important to understand and how Neuromarketing can get your brand, product or service the attention it deserves.

What is Attention?

Even with the entire night sky available, a telescope can only focus on one cluster of stars at a time. Our brains are like that, too. In a world full of non-stop information, we must decide which information we want to process, and which information isn’t worth the effort. This is attention.

Attention can be divided into two categories: Bottom-Up and Top-Down.

Bottom-Up attention is an involuntary, unconscious change in attention that happens quickly. For example, things in our immediate environment that elicit strong emotional responses or that are moving often capture our attention. Our brains are hardwired to focus on things that are essential for our survival, such as food, or that pose a potential threat. They only realise a split second later that the fast movement is, in fact, a waving sign rather than a leaping tiger.

Top-down attention is when we focus our attention with conscious intention. For example, if you’re searching for a specific type of paint then you’ll pay more attention to things that will help you find it in a shop, such as paint-can shapes, relevant signage, or branding.

It’s important to remember that our brains learn quickly, too. Something that once drew our attention often – for example, a billboard on the way to work, will draw less and less attention as time goes on and our brains are used to having it in the environment. A TV ad that we initially found highly entertaining will eventually become boring with repeated exposure, causing it to lose effectiveness. This phenomenon is called habituation, and it’s why, unfortunately, companies need to change up their advertising constantly, both in terms of content and media channels.

Attention and Marketing – What to Consider?

Marketers target both types of attention every day – often without realising. Have you ever wondered why store fronts use flashing lights or moving logos? Because movement distracts us more easily and diverts our attention. This is also why a lot of advertising focuses on product intrinsics, explaining to you what you want or need and why: to grab your top-down attention so that you search for their service or product.

Understanding how attention works in conjunction with how customers interact with the channels you are using for advertising ensures that you are communicating the right message, in the right way, at the right time. Customers engage with different media channels and touchpoints in very different ways, and it’s important to use strategies that capitalise on these attentional dynamics. For example, what grabs and maintains attention within a digital channel is very different to in-store, print or outdoor.

Context also plays a key role. As an example, video is an increasingly effective medium to use in digital environments – a promotional message in the form of a video on Facebook will far outperform a still image, which in turn will outperform a simple text message. In print and outdoor executions, images involving movement will outperform “static” visuals; and POS materials which themselves can move or create movement will be more effective, such as bunting or a wobbler.

How can Neuromarketing Optimise Attention?

Neuromarketing has several tools and techniques available to measure the amount of attention that your brand touch points may or may not attract.

Eye-tracking precisely measures what a potential customer’s eyes focus on, what they linger on and what they ignore. This gives a good indication of which parts of your touchpoint customers are likely to notice, and which ones they miss. This can ensure your customers are being guided towards the most appealing, useful information for them.

Using Facial Coding and Galvanic Skin Response, neuromarketers can also measure emotional arousal. We tend to pay more attention to things that elicit a strong emotional response. It’s therefore critical to know which parts of your touchpoint are creating strong emotional reactions, and which parts don’t inspire. It’s also possible to optimise for the emotions that you want to spark or avoid eliciting emotions that you don’t want associated with your brand (such as fear, disgust, sadness or anger).

Case Study: Solgar

Solgar, a health brand specialising in multivitamins and health supplement products, contacted Neural Sense with a common problem that many brands face in the retail environment: they exist amongst a clutter of other products. How do they stand out in such a complex and competitive category? Moreover, how can they make it easier for customers to differentiate between variations in their products when all product packaging must have their distinctive gold and brown colour scheme?

Using mobile eye-tracking technology and galvanic skin response, it was possible to determine the best merchandising configuration for product displays in terms of catching attention and holding attention to the exclusion of competitor products. In addition, an innovative point-of-sale display was proven to help the customers navigate the Solgar product range and locate the best product for their needs faster and with less effort. (link to video)

Have we got your attention?

If you think Neuromarketing might be the best next step for your marketing endeavours, we have a wide range of options available to suit your needs, including our strategic consulting services. These enable you to design and develop your marketing materials with the highest likelihood of attention success.

At Neural Sense, we have benefitted from the years of experience in conducting research on what does and doesn’t work in marketing. Our consulting services use that distilled knowledge as an affordable (and socially distant) solution for our clients.


Cerf, M. and Garcia-Garcia, M. Consumer Neuroscience (2017). MIT Press.

Sternberg, R.J. Cognitive Psychology (1996). 2nd Edition. Yale University


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