Neuromarketing for Casinos

Posted by Sarah Procopio on Dec 6, 2019 1:20:27 PM

Neuroscience in the casino environment is beginning to emerge as a hot topic, as highlighted at several recent gaming conferences. Applying lessons learned in neuroscience to innovation is just the beginning. Enter: Neuromarketing.

Neuromarketing is an emerging field that isn’t currently being leveraged in gaming yet, but it is being utilized by fortune 500 companies outside the gaming industry, from PepsiCo to Yahoo—think Data-Driven Marketing twenty years ago. The benefits of getting your casino into Neuromarketing early are:


1. Crushing Market Share—gaining a crucial competitive advantage.

2. Tapping into Your Players’ Pleasure Centers—more pleasurable experiences for your players pays off for your casino in the form of loyalty, increased visits, and wallet share.

3. Minimizing Risk, Maximizing Profit—test and know what is going to be effective before full rollout; stop playing expensive and unnecessary marketing guessing games with your casino’s budget.


So what is neuromarketing? We all know how effective applying a scientific approach to marketing in the gaming industry has been; using basic techniques like keeping a control group and A/B testing are prime examples. Neuromarketing takes the scientific approach to the next level and beyond. Simply put, neuromarketing is the application of neuroscience to marketing. You can think of it like the scientific, data-driven marketing approach on steroids. Neuromarketing includes the direct use of brain imaging, scanning, or other brain activity measurement technology to map a subject’s response to specific products, packaging, advertising, or other marketing elements. When leveraged correctly, the impact neuromarketing can have on your casino’s revenue can be game changing. And that is stating it mildly.


Techniques include:

  • Eye tracking—small cameras can track eye movement and focus, helping researchers understand which parts of an advertisement are most visually appealing to test subjects.
  • Facial coding—test subjects’ facial expressions are analyzed to learn more about certain responses to a product or advertisement, including frustration, happiness, and more.
  • Galvanic skin response and electro dermal activity—this type of tracking measures sweat gland excretions associated with physiological arousal and electro dermal activity that is associated with high or low levels of excitement and engagement.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)—EEG measures electrical activity in the brain that is associated with increased or reduced focus and / or excitement.
  • fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging)—this measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.


Don’t let the scientific lingo throw you off (like it will most casino operators). If you take the time to understand the power of this approach, you could change the face of the gaming industry. In many cases, brain response, as measured by these techniques, is not consciously perceived by the subject. That means this data can often be much more revealing and accurate than old-school approaches (such as self-reported data via surveys and focus groups). Current marketing practices still often rely on opinions from the executive team and intuition—it’s time to get more scientific.


For example, in a focus group, a player might tell you that the reason they chose your casino for their visit is because the offer they saw provided the best value, and they might think that is true because that was their conscious perception. However, what was really going on when they booked their stay with you is that their pleasure centers were activated by the picture of the couple at a roulette table in your marketing piece, and it evoked an emotion so strong that they picked up the phone and booked. If we threw this player in an MRI machine while he was viewing the marketing piece, we could see either the pleasure centers of his brain light up or the rational (best-value) decision-making areas of his brain light up. Knowing which center gets activated would provide key insight in relation to the actions to take to spend the marketing budget more effectively. If you believe the player is choosing to stay at your casino because of the higher value, you’d keep trying to provide higher value, which shrinks your profit margins. But if you knew (rather than relying on intuition) that hitting the player with specific artwork that evokes powerful emotions is what got the intended response, you could stop the margin shrinking and invest more time in getting the creative right. Neuromarketing focuses on examining how the brain works when it makes decisions and processes emotion, and then uses this information to create the most effective, impactful marketing campaigns possible. Does this sound expensive? It’s really not, comparatively.


Think about the hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars gaming and hospitality companies have lost from ineffective marketing efforts that missed the mark. As executives, when we are in the middle of one of these debacles, we know it is happening, but we aren’t usually lining up to attach a number to our losses. Losses don’t just include a poorly invested marketing budget—they also include opportunity cost, customer attrition, lost market share, and more, all of which are difficult to recover from. According to an article in Forbes: “A few years ago, the cost of renting brain-imaging machines kept many marketers from dabbling in neuromarketing. Today, with at least eight companies offering EEG and MRI testing devices, the costs have come down. A marketer can hook 30 consumers up to an EEG device for $50,000. An MRI trial with 20 people would cost more like $40,000.” There are also scrappier approaches your company can take by partnering with universities and tapping into their research funding. Neuromarketing offers a way to mitigate marketing losses by executing more effective marketing campaigns. If you care about driving revenue for your casino, and you spend your casino’s budget like it is directly withdrawn from your personal bank account, I can only imagine you’d be all-in on applying neuromarketing concepts so your property can cash in.


So now what? Here are a few practical next steps you can take to hit the ground running:


1. Partner with a university. In a study conducted at UCLA, brain scans were found to accurately predict which marketing campaign would yield the highest response. Universities are guiding big brands, such as Campbell’s, through the process, and they have the technology on campus to perform the testing.

2. Bridge the gap. Don’t hire a Chief Officer of Neuromarketing quite yet. Source an expert to coordinate and align your business goals with the scientific approach at the university—this way, you can prove the positive financial impact neuromarketing can have on your casino to your key stakeholders.

3. Have a clear, measureable goal. This might go without staying, but you need to have a particular, quantitative goal so you can prove the value of neuromarketing. Such a radical change is certain to be controversial within your organization, so you have to be able to demonstrate results. Recruit naysayers to give you feedback while you outline your goals so you can anticipate and counter criticism about the results when you present them.


Like all new methods that push boundaries and are on the cutting edge, neuromarketing is controversial. Since studies show that at least 95% of human behavioral decisions occur subconsciously, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, if we want to truly understand what drives our player’s decisions, we need to understand what drives their subconscious mind when they make them. The clear way to get at that is by using neuroscience—not by asking the player but by measuring his or her brain activity. Neuromarketing empowers us to view the unconscious brain—the most important driver—of the player. People rationalize choices after they are made—that doesn’t mean the reasons they provide for a given choice are the true drivers. This is why survey and focus-group data often sends us in the wrong direction, and it’s why neuromarketing holds the key to helping us make better business decisions that increase profits and reduce marketing expenses for our casinos. Are you bold enough to try it? Learn more about market research solutions at Thrive Marketing science

Sarah Procopio, President of Thrive Marketing Science, a business intelligence and driven marketing firm. Sarah specializes in loyalty program development and turning around flailing companies and marketing programs quickly. She can be reached at or 949.230.7873. This article was original published in the Casino Journal and can be found at