Digital marketing has evolved at a rapid pace, the same way other fields have evolved, and it is essential to be able to use information from psychology and sociology findings so that you can do your job at a higher level.
Since the discovery of the functional MRI, neuroscientists have studied what happens in the brains of people while they engage in different behaviors and have come up with a lot of conclusions that can help digital marketers’ work become more effective. One of these findings involves dopamine.
As you are going to find out in this article, we are not the ones that control our behavior in every many aspects of our lives. Most of the time, our subconscious mind is the one driving our actions and, other times, our hormones and physiology is the one responsible for the things we do and feel.
It is more important for us to understand why we do what we do, but for marketing specialists this is an essential part of their work mostly because, if they understand how their customer’s brains work, they can come up with the best strategies to keep them engaged.
What is dopamine and what are the mechanisms that trigger it?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that people relate to pleasure. A neurotransmitter is a molecule that mimics a hormone that carries a message while traveling through your nervous system. We say that it mimics a hormone because hormones do the same thing as neurotransmitters do, but they travel through your bloodstream.
Dopamine is also involved in the reward system of the brain and also in movement. Some medications that contain dopamine are prescribed to people who suffer from Parkinson’s.
Even though our interest is in how dopamine influences the behavior of consumers online, it is important to know that many scientific discoveries have been made while studying how these medications work.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the pleasure mechanism and in the reward mechanism, meaning that it influences our goal-oriented behavior. It is important to understand that the reason behind the constant use of social media is dopamine.
Let’s say, for example, that you post a photo on your social media account. It is widely known that you are expecting reactions from your followers. Obviously, if you wouldn’t, you would not have posted it in the first place. You get some instant reactions and then you continue your daily activities.
But why do you continue checking up on your social media account? Because of the reactions. The reactions and the ‘likes’ your picture gets are the rewards. You feel good when you see that people appreciate you and admire you.
This good feeling also comes from the presence of serotonin, which is present when you feel that people look up to you and acknowledge your superiority. Oxytocin is also involved because, when you get likes, you feel that you are a part of a group, and that offers you a feeling of belonging.
So, to summarize, the reward here is the good feeling you get due to the presence of serotonin and oxytocin. But where does dopamine come in? Well, dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes you expect a reward. It is the molecule that drives you to check your social media account and search for that reward.
And this is not all. There is an even more interesting aspect behind this, which is the fact that dopamine likes unexpected rewards most. The beautiful thing that happens on social media is that you do not know when people will like your picture, a feeling that dopamine enjoys even more. That will make you check your account over and over again.
The essential thing that you need to understand is that dopamine is also involved in the pleasure mechanism that takes place inside your brain. The key to dopamine release is anticipation. Every time you set a goal, you keep pursuing it due to dopamine, which is released when you anticipate how things will turn out in the end.
A study made by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business concluded that information has the same effect on the brain as money and food do. That is why learning can become addictive, your brain constantly craves for more and more information, anticipating how this information will benefit you after you have gained it.
How all this is connected to digital marketing
There are many ways in which you can influence your customer’s behavior, especially when it comes to digital marketing. One of them is to think of your content as information for your clients. This way, you can find ways of accessing the reward system inside their brains and use their dopamine levels to keep them engaged.
There is a great way you can activate the reward system of your customer’s brain that you can use on your company’s social media account and also in your marketing emails. First of all, your posts need to have rewarding content that consists of humor or curious information. This can be text content, photography, video, anything you want it to be.
After you have decided what the message you want to send to your customers is, it will be easy to create the type of content that will be seen as a reward by your customers. It is important to pay much attention to the message because that’s what your public will associate your brand with.
An essential thing about the brain is that it forms new neural pathways through repetition, so if your public sees your content often enough and the name of your brand related to the reward in the content often enough, soon it will associate your brand with the feeling they get by the dopamine rush.
The dopamine rush comes from anticipating the reward which, in this case, is the content of your material, and will expect the next reward due to dopamine.
It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? That is why some brands have commercials that trigger emotional feelings by relating to family, personal values and love, even if the product has nothing to do with the things that happen in the advertising spot. You stay with the feeling and associate the feeling with the brand.
The feeling you get when you have a dopamine rush is pure pleasure. You definitely want your targeted public to relate your brand to pleasure and satisfaction and to expect your next post to get the reward from it.
To go even deeper, you can use the fact that dopamine strikes when you have a surprise reward by posting content when they do not expect it. If, for example, you have a personal brand and are used to posting a story at the same hour every day, once in a while try to do that when your followers do not expect it and make the message rewarding.
If you are used to sending your customers an email every Saturday at 8 o’clock in the evening, once in a while, try to send a rewarding email during the week. You can play with this however you like as long as you keep in mind that the message you send has to be rewarding.
If you are marketing for a motorcycle company, you can find a way for enthusiasts to be able to have access to new products on sale when they least expect it.
There are two kinds of people, a kind that is dependent on dopamine and who has to get involved in activities that allow dopamine to always be present, and the ones who do not rely so much on this neurotransmitter to be happy. In both cases, dopamine is present even if in the second type the levels are not so high.
Getting rewards is usually what the game industry relies on when they design a game that is supposed to get people highly engaged. The great thing about this is that you can design a marketing strategy that involves getting rewards.
Your client can get badges and points for different ways of engagement and even discounts as a reward for different activities that you want to engage them in. You ultimately have the power to use this knowledge to your advantage.
Even if there are a lot of people who understand how dopamine works, they are not that many and even fewer of them know the theory behind these strategies.
It will be hard for them to control their behavior, especially if they are a part of the dopaminergic temperaments. They will definitely engage in your games and will start to love your brand more and more.
It is not hard to understand what is going on in the back of the mind of your target customers and the practice of studying their behavior should become one of your number one goals if you want to be the best at what you do. This involves studying psychology, sociology, and neuroscience. Keep going and you will become an unstoppable force.