Dopamine, the Power of motivation

Although recent advances have been made, neurosciences are still wearing diapers because despite the huge amounts of money invested the most optimistic estate that our knowledge of the brain functioning is still around the 10 o 15%  of its real potential.

In spite of this, little by little we are discovering how it works and what makes us being human and differentiate ourselves from the rest of animal species. In these researches we can find a wide variety of topics, from neurons cataloging to its way of interacting between them and the rest of the human body. At last, from this last thing we know that it’s done using chemical impulses called neurotransmitters in the action called synaptic transmission. These are the responsible of transporting the information and orders throughout the body at a vertiginous speed.

In today’s post we are going to focus in one of the key parts in our brains’ functioning and, for what is the purpose of this blog, the impulses that form part of the purchasing process: the dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced in less than 1% of the human neurons and its key for any marketing strategy to succeed. For years, it was believed that this molecule was the responsible for the rewards feeling, so necessary to remember that satisfaction sensation, therefore tipping the balance towards that same product or service in the next purchasing process. The truth is that recent studies have shown that its utility is a little bit different (although not for that reason less important) in the reward and satisfaction process. We are talking about the motivation.

The higher concentration of this type of neurotransmitters is located at the prefrontal area of the brain, the area dedicated to the decision calculation and impulse controls. One experiment with mice revealed that, whereas mice with regular levels of dopamine launched themselves in the search for food pushed by these impulses, other mice with lower levels never started the search for food, although they ate it when it was placed in from of them. This is, these last lice lacked of motivation to move in the search of food despite they were starving.

Thanks to these studies we can reach to the conclusion that  the main objective of the dopamine is pushing us towards the fulfilling of our impulses, something that must not be ignored. That awarareness and attention that arose when watching a commercial means that the dopamine in acting. Despite this, we must highlight that dopamine is not in charge of providing us with the positive (or negative) feelings of reward (or pain), just for provoking a reaction.

When dopamine is released in the brain, that will send the impulse of doing something. This neurotransmitter is generated in  the  “Nucleo Accumbens”, in the Mesolimbic pathway. The following image will help to understand the process:

motivation for buying in the brain "red button"

In a few words: there is a direct path between the emotional brain (limbic brain) and the older brain (reptilian brain) The most visible result from this connection are the compulsive purchases, that some experts say account for 90% of all of our purchases.

Even though, as what happens with all matters of the brain, its functioning is not that simple. It has been demonstrated that when an experience is highly rewarding we generate extra amounts of  dopamine, contributing to memorize better that positive experience in the future, all of this to be able to repeat that experience in the future.

So now comes the big question: How do I transmit this to my marketing strategy?

As it is exposed in one article from the blog, the objective of advertising and branding is, precisely, to generate the perfect environment for our mind to be filled with dopamine every time we “consume” from that brand, as it happens with Apple products.

That stimuli can be done even through online media, despite being a much more limited platform due to, by now, we can only receive stimuli through vision and hearing. This can be done with text or other promising ways such as gamification (interesting material for a future post) but, as with happens with every strategy, you must be careful because a negative impact is also saved in our minds, sometimes even in a much deeper and stronger way.



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