Neuro decision making is a new multi-disciplinary area of science that attempts to convert new discoveries about the brain into understanding how the mind works while making decisions, such as choosing a brand. This article attempts to look at the role of marketing, and how it affects the consumer’s well-being, based on the current views of how the brain functions.
It is important to realize that all decision can only influence the future. When a customer buys Coca-Cola in a store, it is for future consumption. Even when you order a Coca-Cola in a restaurant, it is for future consumption. Your brand choice can only be about future consumption- even if the future is very near, as in the case of ordering something in restaurant.
It is obvious that the decision is based on your ‘expectation’ of what the future consumption moments will be like. It is also obvious that your expectation will largely be determined by your past experiences of the brand(i.e, memories).
your brain forms memories all the time, based on the environment and how the body feels in a particular moment. If you are experiencing pleasure when you are consuming Coca-Cola, this memory is laid down as well as other memories of the moment. If, on the other hand, the soft drink one is consuming has an unpleasant taste, the memory of ‘not felling good’ is laid down.
It is important to realize that this ‘feeling memory’ that is laid down is not only due to how the body feels about the Coca-Cola quenching one’s thirst and tasting pleasurable. This ‘feeling good’ memory could also be due to the relaxing environment, the pleasant company, or even the expectation of a great meal at the restaurant. Anything pleasurable that makes one feel good is part of the memory. Similarly, if the experiences is negative, even if only due to the environment, this feeling is recorded.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is secreted in the brain when you feel good. It is called the ‘feel-good chemical’, and is the basis of any kind of drug addition, from cigarettes to hard drugs. Addicts abuse drugs so that the brain produces a dopamine rush. Nature has not endowed humans and animals with the ability to produce dopamine, but they have dopamine-production abilities in their brains so that they will know they are experiencing pleasurable feelings. This then allows the brain to record a memory of what is producing this feeling, so that they can seek such experiences in the future. All of this happens without any conscious decisions being taken by the person experiencing these feelings of pleasure.
# Understand your brand’s dopamine moments and the ‘brand soma'(feelings) that comes to mind when consumers think about your brand.
# Market the brand to all the employees. Let them understand how they enrich the consumers’ life by providing them fell good moments. This motivates them by addition meaning to what they do.
# Use the marketing department to market the brand internally.
# Stress this via all internal staff magazines, conferences, etc.
# Collect consumer positive experiences via social media. Competitions where consumers show picture of what the brand makes them feel.
# Understand what feelings are so that you can measure them.
drugs are just ways that humans can attach the brain to produce these feelings of pleasure (dopamine) quickly. Experiments on mice with implants in their brains have shown that dopamine is releases when they feed. However, are even more important, after a while their brains produce dopamine even before they feed- dopamine is produces in anticipation of consumption.
Whey you read the words ‘Coca-Cola’, what comes to mind is not eight letters. What comes to mind is an interpretation of what these eight letters stands for. This interpretation is based on your memories, which includes those of how you feel about this word.
Now think about three other brands of soft drinks. Again, you can only think of these brands based on your memories, and again these memories will include your feelings about these brands. In other words, one does not need an external stimulus for memories and feelings to be evoked; mere thinking about something sets the process going in the brain.
Dopamine is called the ‘feel-good chemical’, and is the basis of any kind of drug addiction, from cigarettes to hard drugs.
Before one can think about anything in the environment, you have to interpret what that thing is. Reading these sentences, you are interpreting what the black squiggles in front of your eyes are. Not only that they are letters, but also they represent words, that the words represent sentences, and what all this means. Only then can you start thinking about what you are reading. Similarly, if a snake pops up near you, your brain needs to interpret what it is and how it might make you feel. If it could harm you, your brain needs to divert your attention from the words to the snake. It is important that your brain, when it is interpreting the environment, also assigns to whatever appears in the environment a ‘feelings memory’, i.e., will not affect your well-being.
When your eyes detect the word ‘Coca-Cola’, it stimulates the neurons in the eyes. These neurons will fire stimulating neurons in the occipital region in the back of head. These neurons will again fire, stimulating other neurons based on the chemical status of the synapse, which is determined by experiences (or memories). These in turn will stimulate other neurons setting off a wave of stimulated neurons firing toward the frontal lobe, which is where our thinking happens. As this wave of stimulated neurons progress from the back of the brain to the front, it passes through the mid-brain where ‘feeling memories’ are added to the developing interpretation. At this stage, dopamine is releases based on the ‘feeling memory’ so that, by the time the wave reaches the frontal lobe, it not only represents what the word stands for, but also how this would make you feel.
If the frontal lobe now thinks of any other brand, or even activity involved with the brand, this again sets the neurons firing. This time, the firing goes back to the mid-brain where ‘feeling memories’ are attached to the interpretation. The result being that the frontal lobe now can consider alternatives based on how they would make the body feel when they are used.
This is how brand choice happens. The frontal lobes can now compare the dopamine-producing abilities of the alternative brands, and choose the one that will make the body feel best when consumes or used.
Even animals can make choices. They choose between a place to build their nests, or where they will reside. They also choose between alternatives foods. They make these choices based on the dopamine production they expect will result from the different alternatives. Hence, the importance of the dopamine system for all animals, it allows them to live a more pleasurable life by choosing the alternative that produces the most dopamine.
One can understand why shopping is mostly a pleasurable experience-until one has to pay. Throughout the experience, the brain is producing dopamine thinking about the different brands. People will say, whey they feel down, they are going to have some retain therapy- a word that came into being in 1957, according to Wikipedia. The habit of doing window shopping is also explained by this dopamine reaction to just seeing brands without the pain of paying.
Marketing, especially advertising, tells people how they would feel whey they use the brand. This might be done in many different ways. Coca-Cola might show the moment of people being social while drinking it. A certain car brand might show people experiencing freedom by driving in the wild. Another might show its advanced safety features promoting how safe people will feel. Yet another might show how envious people will be of the driver. A certain bank might show how exclusive people will feel if they bank there. A washing powder might show how proud one will feel because of the cleanliness of the clothes.
Some brands will show people will feel when they use the brands. Other will simply list their features and leave it up to the viewer to infer how they would feel using the brands. Sometimes a reason is given for why the brand will induce a specific feeling when used, sometimes not.
It is not only advertising that helps people understand how they will feel when using the brand. Packaging too will help them form an impression of how they would feel. Price is also a good clue when considering how the brand would make them feel. Even the type of store the brands are sold in and the media they are promoted in act as clues for people to decide how the brands will make them feel.
Marketing is all about creating these ‘feeling memories’ so that people will get the most pleasure from the brand. Or, in other words, the brand will make people feel good.
It is important that companies understand that they are not in the business of producing a product. they are in the business of creating feelings of pleasure for people. They are increasing the ways people feel good about themselves and their lives.