Nielsen NeuroFocus: Super Bowl Ads and the Male and Female Brains

Inplace #2

Are men really from Mars and women from Venus?  That question has been on the minds of marketers and brands for years, especially as we approach Madison Avenue’s seminal event: Super Bowl Sunday.


With a captivated audience that includes both men and women, brands and marketers will be jockeying for their attention throughout the Big Game with ads that will range from compassionate to borderline sophomoric.  But how effective will they really be in engaging these two very different demographics?

And with the price tag for a 30-second spot for this year’s Super Bowl averaging $3.8 million, marketers will expect meaningful ROI on their media buys. They want to go beyond simply hoping and praying that their ad will resonate with consumers.

With the advent of consumer neuroscience as a tool for marketing strategies, we now have a better understanding into the differences between the male and female brain.  For example, we now know that men are more reactive and impulsive than women, don’t always remember details of events as well as women, and don’t multi-task as well as women do.

So what are some best practices from consumer neuroscience for engaging the female and male brains?  Here are some examples:

  • For women, use emotion-based messaging (not so much facts and figures) that focus on human elements and faces.  Layer emotional decision-making opportunities over purely rational information, use subtle humor, and emphasize altruism.
  • Women respond to emotionally authentic messaging and possess strong emotional memories that have long-lasting power, which can increase their purchase intent when oriented towards your brand.
  • Use collaborative, reciprocal language when speaking to women and let them figure out their own goals as opposed to dictating them to her.  Provide her with plenty of information and the time to digest it.
  • Acknowledge that she’s integrating many goals with every purchase or shopping experience.  Women like to save money, spend time with family, and be recognized for her abilities as a multi-tasker.
  • Always make sure that the take-away message for women is based on positive emotion as other memories like facts and statistics don’t stick as well with them.
  • Men prefer products that are created just for them. Don’t expect them to understand nuanced facial expressions as well as women can.
  • For men, use action to gain their attention and get to the point quickly, clearly, and directly by using active and declarative statements.
  • Consider creating a game to attract and engage male customers while showing competitive situations or ones in which men have succeeded or conquered something or someone. The male brain loves this type of appeal.
  • Men are more impulsive buyers than are women, and not coupon clippers, so demonstrate any cost savings at the point of sale.
  • Appeal to his greater spatial awareness and abilities by using geometric patterns and objects which delight the male brain.
  • Show men how your product can help solve a problem.

Marketing is like a football game.  You can spend weeks, days, and hours preparing a game plan and hope that the product that you put out on the field is a winning one.  Advertising is no different.

With consumer neuroscience, marketers and brands now have an opportunity to better engage male and female viewers with content that scores on all ends.