This post is part of an ongoing series, Your Brain on Branding, where we will explore what neuroscience can teach us about building better brands and connecting with our customers.

You may have heard of the neurotransmitter Dopamine before. It’s commonly known as the brain’s “reward chemical” or the “pleasure chemical”. But a more accurate way to describe it would be the anticipation chemical. Dopamine feels good, and it is born from anticipation.

That rush you get when you have a new notification? That’s dopamine. That excitement at the beginning of a new relationship? That’s dopamine. It’s a powerful chemical that plays a part in learning, motivation, pain processing, and even the function of your kidneys! It also plays a big role in how we think and plan – activities that are uniquely human. As the anticipation chemical, dopamine is sometimes associated with adventure and risk taking.

So how does this play into branding? Let’s talk about the brand science.


How Big Brands are Using Dopamine to Their Advantage

Marketers have been using anticipation in their strategies to influence customer behaviour for a very long time.  The content that your brand puts out into the world can be leveraged to trigger dopamine release. Again: the dopamine release isn’t a result of getting a reward. What it is, is the anticipation of receiving the reward. For example, think about this situation: you have a juicy burger that you are about to eat. You’re looking at it, thinking about how good it’s going to taste. The dopamine release comes right before you take that first bite – as you’re anticipating what that burger will taste like, how much you will enjoy eating it.

Go for the cliff-hanger: when you’re sharing content on social media, when you’re creating video content or when you’re sending out marketing emails, leave something for your customers to anticipate.

Email marketers, often unknowingly, are looking to trigger dopamine release with catchy email subject lines that get their recipients attention and leave them excited with anticipation about what’s inside!


Anticipation is Key – When It comes to Brand Identity, Consistency is Still King

Don’t mistake the need for anticipation as a reason to regularly change up core elements of your brand, like your brand identity. We are still better able to recognize the familiar, and branding consistency mistakes like inconsistent messaging, regularly changing fonts, having no set colour palette, or not sticking to your brand’s core values are all going to get you into trouble. These are your foundation. Instead, create a sense of anticipation in your content, all while keeping it on-brand.


Ethical Neuromarketing

When we get into brand science and neuromarketing, the question of ethics is sometimes raised. At which point does marketing become unethical or manipulative? It’s important that we ask ourselves these questions. Reaching your customers and connecting with them is important, but you want to do it ethically. So you should be communicating with them authentically, providing them real value, with no manipulation.


Create a Greater Interest in Your Brand

Done right, using brand science to your advantage can help you generate more interest in your brand. Understanding the way that dopamine works in the brain is just another helpful tool for you to use in your branding communications!