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THE SCIENCE OF PERSUASION

A Crazy Little Thing Called 'Love'...



Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and along with it all the cliché marketing campaigns. Regardless of whether you’re someone who marks this day down on your calendar lovingly or if you’re someone who thinks it’s all become a little too gimmicky, Valentine’s Day triggers some form of emotional response in you. And that emotional response is becoming more valuable than gold when it comes to the consumer brand relationship.


‘I buy, therefore I am’ has been identified as the central theme of modern human behavior according to a study conducted by the National University of Singapore. They found that people have shifted the focus of buying away from satisfying basic physical needs and towards being an indication of our social identity and a manner in which social status can be gained. This means consumers’ buying decisions are more emotionally driven than what they have been previously. Additionally, it has been found that when a brand is no longer viewed as an object but rather as a social entity, individuals are able to form associations with the brand that resemble interpersonal relationships and are therefore more willing to trust and commit to it (Fürst,2015).


What drives an emotional connection? What gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling when you think of that someone special? Or why do hugs just seem to fix everything? These are all responses generated by a crazy little thing called ‘love’… I mean oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus that has been deemed the ‘love’ hormone, due to its association with the formation of social attachment and trust. Researchers reported that individuals in the first stages of romantic attachment had higher levels of oxytocin as opposed to non-attached single individuals, and these increased levels of oxytocin persisted for up to 9 months.


A study in 2013 claimed to have demonstrated that an elevated level of oxytocin caused participants to show greater empathy towards others and become more generous. The participants were asked to donate money in response to public service advertisements. Half of the participants were given a pharmacological dose of oxytocin, and the other half was given a saline solution. The study concluded that those with elevated levels of oxytocin donated to 57% more causes, donated 56% more money, and reported 17% greater concern for those in the advertisements. The study then went on to measure the levels of another hormone, ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which is responsible for regulating cortisol levels. They found elevated levels of ACTH and oxytocin together resulted in a 261% increase in donations (Zak, 2013).


Now you don’t need to be working oxytocin administration into your marketing budget in order to stimulate that lucrative little love hormone because in reality measuring oxytocin levels is a complex and costly process. There are a number of other measures of emotional engagement that are far more obtainable, for example using facial coding to pick up emotional response in copy testing. By using strategies to build trust and increase commitment through storytelling, appropriate visuals and through optimizing user experience, you can increase oxytocin production in the brain naturally. Creating these emotional connections with the consumer in turn directs attention, deepens engagement and drives behavior. Emoting your brand can be hugely beneficial in solidifying the consumer brand relationship and making sure resources are directed in a manner that reaps resultant desired behavior change.


Regardless of whether you’re forming new relationships or solidifying pre-existing ones, it’s all about forming those longer emotional connections, Valentine’s Day gimmicks and all.


References


Fürst, A., Thron, J., Scheele, D., Marsh, N., & Hurlemann, R. (2015). The neuropeptide oxytocin modulates consumer brand relationships. Scientific reports, 5, 14960. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep14960


Zak, P. J., Lin, P. Y., Grewal, N. S., & Morin, C., Johnson, W. D. (2013). Oxytocin increases the influence of public service advertisements. PloS one, 8(2), e56934.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056934

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