Emotion and Neurochemical Design|Digital Marketing Skills Review

“I do believe that an improved understanding of the multiple irrational forces that influence us could be a useful first step toward making better decisions.”
― Dan Ariely, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

For most of us, our decisions are not based on the extrinsic properties of a product or service alone, but on emotional factors and neurochemical responses that align with our needs. Marketers can optimize for emotion and hit various neurochemical triggers to make their product or service more appealing and help make the decision-making and buying process easier and more persuasive for potential customers.

By using certain design and textual elements, we can boost the emotive value of our website, increase conversions, and allow for a friction-free environment, which very well could increase the probability of customers returning to the site to continue to engage with our business and buy more of our products and services.

Hierarchy of Needs

There are many different models that try to relate how humans might make decisions, what motivates them and causes them to act. This is still a very open question, but according to Dr. Brian Cugelman, in his module at the CXL Insitute’s CRO program maintain that one of the best models in-line with modern scientific research involves a hierarchy of needs based on neurochemical responses. From bottom to top here is how that neurological hierarchy of needs model would look applied:

  1. At the base of the model, would be avoiding risks, this is associated with the neurochemical cortisol. We can associate certain categories of industries with this more readily such as insurance and health. but we can also use this in marketing in general. For example, a risk free trial of a product or service is a type of this risk aversion in action.
  2. Next is self-protection. While avoiding risks is about staying out of harms way, self-protection is an aligned goal, but is more involved in protecting against harm when harm comes. Cortisol is also related to this need. Some industries that might be aligned with this, IT security, insurance, etc. An example of a marketing tactic to use to address this hierarchy would be using social proof to ensure the potential customer that your company, product, or service is trustworthy and will do what it says it will do.
  3. Now that these two basic needs are met, we can lead into the need of affiliation. This is the need for humans to feel connected and it is associated with oxytocin. This is tapping into that tribe mentality that marketers like Seth Godin promote. One industry example of this that might be affiliated with this might be Crossfit or diet communities where there is the sense that members are part of something bigger than themselves. Groups like this even create terms of their own that those who a part of the community use to bond closer together and increase that feeling of affiliation.
  4. Status and Esteem is next, with the related neurochemical serotonin. Status can be used in our messaging by relating to how the product or service might elevate the users position in the human pecking order. One of the most obvious examples of this type of marketing to status is the way some car manufactures set their brand apart by imbuing their product with a certain status that have become an anchoring in most peoples minds. Car manufacturers like Porsche, Mercedes, have used their elevated status to appeal to luxury car afficianados but also to signal to the general public that the driver of this sort of car isn’t just anybody but somebody that has the means, the intelligence, and the positioning to choose only the best of luxury vehicles.
  5. Mate Acquistion, retention, and parenting : lastly the biochemical/biological need to find someone to settle down with for the long term and reproduce. We’ve all heard the old marketing maxim that “sex sells.” This need is what it takes advantage of, but I would think that just also making a product, service, and the design of website and marketing material emotionally appealing to the potential customer and then using social proof to back up trustworthiness and dedication of the company would also tap into some of these needs.

Designing for emotion

As stated, much of our decision making is a result of emotions and not reasoning/ rational thought. There are some things in design that we can do to relay the proper emotion that we want our customers to feel when they come to our site.

By targeting our customers emotions, we can more readily ensure that they will connect with our site. By targeting specific emotions and relating them with our brand, we can even make a distinction in the consumer’s mind as to what sets our company/product/ service apart from our competitors and add a little more leverage to bring them into our fold.

According to Talia Wolf from CXL, we need to make sure that we are crafting for mobile first and make sure that we understand that people on mobile act differently than people that are using a desktop. With mobile, we typically only two seconds to convince someone to keep reading and engaging with our brand. This makes using emotional triggers a necessity if we are going to reach people in these fast moments, because people can process emotion much faster than they can engage in rational thought.

Here is the process of how Talia typically designs for emotion. Similar to writing copy in CRO or design, what is first and foremost here is lots of detailed, planned out research:

  • First do an analysis of 10 to 15 different competitors and grade them according to four different parameters: messaging (what are they trying to relay through their messages?), colors (what kind of emotive value does their colors reflect?), Images (What kind of information do their images convey?) and emotional triggers (what kind of these psychological triggers are these competitors using to sell their product? Should we use similar emotional triggers or different triggers to differentiate and niche our brand?)
  • Second do an emotional SWOT. SWOT stands for strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats. The first two are concerning the product or service our company is offering. The second two involve industry and competitor positioning and how that relates to our business.
  • Third, from this SWOT analysis we derive how we want our customers to feel, using the proper elements, words, visuals, and colors.
  • Lastly we continue to test these elements in order to gain knowledge of what is working and what is not, constantly tweaking as needed to relay the proper emotion

Designing for Desired Outcome

Another way to enact proper design, and it would be best if we coupled these two methodologies together, is designing for desired outcome. According to Dr. Cugelman there are seven desired outcomes that are typical of the decision making journey in any marketing effort. These outcomes are as follows:

  • Concentrating — When a potential customer lands on a website, we need to grab their attention. We need to get them to focus.
  • Learning –We want our customers to understand our product at least at a basic level, understand what it can do for them and how it can benefit them.
  • Desiring — We need to motivate these potential customers, to inspire them.
  • Deciding — Calling them to action, we need that motivation to lead them to make a decision
  • Trusting — We need our potential customers to trust our company and our product/service to do for them what our company says it will do.
  • Acting–we need them to take the necessary action to make that motivated action an actual conversion by clicking that CTA button or checking out their cart.
  • Maintaining -We want our potential customers to continue to come back to our organization to purchase more products and services or continue to interact with our brand.

In this journey, there is one specific decision that we want to avoid and that is, our potential customers quitting while going through one of these steps and abandoning their actions. But it is important ahead of time to know that no one has ever minimized this abandonment of action to zero. As long as we continue to market to buyers through these typical buyers journey, there is always going to be a potential for and actual situations in which our potential customers leave this journey and decide to take other actions or no action at all. Important in this process then is not only that we facilitate potential customers with a clear path of action but also to have a process for re-engaging those customers that drop-out of our process for whatever reason.

Source Messages for our Audience’s Journey

To get our audience to go through this process, we also need to delineate what action we must take and what psychological tools we might use to help create these actions as much as we possibly can. For each of these audience’s action, we can list an action that we must take to help guide them through this journey

1. Concentrating (Aware)

For this first desired outcome, we can say that our message or role in this journey as an audience guide has to be to help the audience concentrate by directing their attention.

One way to do this is through preattentive processing. There are numerous ways that we can present information to help the audience concentrate better.

By creating patterns of a design for example and then breaking up that pattern, we can create attention to detail on the page that will help guide the audience to pay attention better.

The reason a broken pattern works in helping direct attention is the same reason that a larger object makes us feel that it is more important than a small element on the page. We are hardwired to notice changes in our environment and respond to them.

2. Learning (informed)

For the next desired outcome, we need to educate. As mentioned before, features tell but benefits sell. We need to use both of these to have proper information for the Audience to make a decision. The most important of these though is the benefits.

3. Desiring (motivated)

Evoke emotions is the related action that we must take to help guide the buyer into motivation. This has already been discussed in detail, but it is important to focus on non-explicit motivations as opposed to explicit motivations, as they’re much more powerful. For example, it’s more powerful that a car like a Lamborghini is a status symbol for an Audience than it is that it can drive a person from point a to point b.

4. Deciding (Intent)

Our action to guide our audience in this journey is to support decision making. Having a clear direct path to action and familiarizing customers with the process can help reduce friction and encourage the audience to take action. Remember that irrational motivation makes up about 20-30% of the decision-making process. For example, seeing the dollar discount and a percentage discount of a sale or savings converts better than just the dollar discount shown alone.

5. Trusting (confident)

To help the audience in trusting our company or product or service, we need to make sure that we integrate in our design assured outcomes. Sometimes this is done with a money-back guarantee. First impressions are also very important and using social proof to allay any concerns that an audience might have.

6. Acting (Short Term), and

7. Maintaining (Long Term)

The actions we must take to tackle these last two outcomes in the buyers journey involve providing a path/opportunity, creating trigger responses, and supporting progress. We need to be aware of the path that people checkout and make sure that we are eliminating as much as possible any friction that they might find along the way. Forms that they have to fill out should be short and meaningful to the purchase at hand, for example.

There are two reasons why a person in your audience might abandon his/her audience journey. The first is motivation, because this involves so many factors, this is nearly impossible to alter, but the second is ability, the person just couldn’t figure out how to get through the journey. This is something that has tremendous potential to design for, to help get the person through the journey easily, pleasantly, and without friction.

Cultivating the Customer’s Journey Through Emotion

By using emotional appeal and designing-in psychological/neurochemical triggers to bring our customers through their journey, we can connect with them on so many levels. By doing this we are not only able to increase conversions, but also help maintain these customers for the long term.

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