In today's world, branding and marketing are all about building relationships with your customers.
Your brand means something to them psychologically. You're more than just a product or a service.
You're something they relate to.
As you can probably imagine, there are essential psychological principles and tendencies at play here.
Specifically, emotional response plays a role.
Within the brain, social bonding — which is what you want people to do with your brand — is largely mediated by oxytocin in the midbrain.
And that's not the only neuropsychological factor involved in marketing.
It also involves reward systems and goal-seeking, which are dopaminergic, along with other human behavioral processes.
In a recent article from Entrepreneur, the author gives a general layman-friendly overview of how oxytocin affects subjective attitudes and feelings of trust, and how marketers can use these principles to engage more authentically with their audiences.
Oxytocin and Trust
One of the most important molecules for pair bonding (and social relationships in general) is oxytocin.
Oxytocin is typically released when people kiss, hug, or otherwise bond in some significant way.
It’s thought to play a role in shaping our friendships and relationships, but one of its most interesting effects is related to social risk aversion.
Ordinarily, people are averse to social risks, such as lending $100 to a stranger, but when exposed to increased levels of oxytocin, people tend to be more trusting and kind.
This is thought to be because oxytocin suppresses the activity of the amygdala, which ordinarily controls fear.
Assuming you won’t be equipping your customers with oxytocin nasal spray, the best way to influence higher oxytocin levels in your audience is to have personal, one-on-one interactions with them.
Do this enough, and people will be more trusting of the people within your organization—and your brand as a whole.
So what are the key lessons that marketers can learn?
Give people bursts of rewards.
The best results you can get will come from triggers of your customers’ reward centers.
Short of feeding them, the best way to elicit these responses is through extrinsic rewards, such as cash, gift cards, or significant discounts.
Give these rewards in response to behaviors you want to reinforce, such as making a purchase or engaging with the brand.
Make your customers feel accomplished.
It’s also helpful to reinforce that performance-based release of dopamine by making your customers feel as though they’re accomplished something, or done something “right.”
Mobile games and slot machines in casinos do this by rewarding correct behaviors with flashing lights, noises, and in-game rewards.
If you offer a tutorial for using your software or product, these built-in performance rewards can be valuable as well.
Facilitate bonding with personal interactions.
Customers are going to see your brand representatives as surrogates for your brand, so the relationships they build with them will mimic the relationship they build with your brand.
Try to encourage as much personal interaction as possible, making your customers feel connected and warmly appreciated by your organization.
Create and maintain social groups.
You can make people feel like they “belong” in your brand community by demonstrating that you share their values and giving them information and resources to help with their main problems.
However, it’s even more powerful to create and maintain social groups around your brand, including online forums, or in-person meetups.
This works much better for big brands than small businesses.
Be patient and nurture your consumer relationships.
You likely didn’t fall in love or find a best friend overnight.
It takes time for human relationships to develop, and it takes just as long for brand-consumer relationships to develop.
You need to be patient and consistent in your strategies if you want them to pay off.
You can learn more over at Forbes.
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