How to map marketing science to the customer journey
Connecting creative work with brain science to trigger different behaviors along the customer journey.
Marketing as “an art and a science” is as platitudinous as it’s nebulous —but true nonetheless. What comes to mind when you think about marketing? Do you consider the connection between your creative work and your customer’s neural circuitry?
As you package your message into a creative art form, you attempt to elicit thoughts, feelings, emotions and behavior. But how do you influence your customers’ behaviors? It starts with understanding how your audience’s brain processes information and ends with post-purchase advocacy.
Depending on the stage in the customer journey, you might want to elicit different thoughts and behaviors. This article uncovers how to develop creative assets that trigger different activities in various brain regions while aligning with your business strategy.
Connecting creative work to the customer journey with brain science
In an interview, Tony Crisp, an innovative brand strategist and founder of CRISPx Brand Agency, described a methodology he pioneered to connect creative work to the customer journey using brain science, simplified into four distinct stages:
Crisp maps each stage to a primary neurotransmitter that he wants his creative team the trigger as part of the framework.
“There are certain neurotransmitters that motivate mammals to move,” explained Crisp, “and the DOSE framework provides my creative team with guidance” at different stages in the customer journey, as shown below.
Seek stage: Dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that drives your customer’s behavior in the pursuit of goals. Are your marketing efforts aligned with your customer’s goals? As the catalyst for the golden rule of content marketing, you can get your customer to take action by triggering a dopaminergic surge at the right time.
Critically, your customers generate the largest dopaminergic spikes when anticipating rewards, not obtaining them. As a result, you want to entice your audience to take action by creating an elevated sense of anticipation. When your audience anticipates value for merely clicking a button, you can easily get them to click, share or call.
If your audience anticipates that clicking on a link in your marketing e-mail will deliver an informative white paper with rewarding content, you’re likely to drive up your clickthrough rate. Similarly, if your PPC ad offers details about the solution your audience seeks, you’re likely to increase ad conversions.
During the “seek” stage, prospective customers search for a solution to a problem. As a result, Crisp advises his creative team to develop assets and experiences that trigger the release of dopamine to facilitate goal-directed behavior. Why is this important? When you help customers attain their goals, you can guide their behavior right into your shopping cart.
Choose stage: Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that facilitates pair bonding. Your pituitary gland releases oxytocin when you cuddle with your partner or hold your child. It makes you feel connected to another person and influence your decision-making process — which includes decisions related to products and services.
In a classic study from 2013, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, Claremont Graduate University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, explored the link between oxytocin and decision-making when exposed to marketing content.
As part of the study, participants were administered oxytocin before watching public service advertisements. The participants who received oxytocin demonstrated a significant change in behavior: they “donated to 57% more causes, donated 56% more money and reported 17% greater concern for those in the ads” than those who took a placebo.
Researchers concluded that advertisements involving emotional content related to a connection with another person are particularly potent. A video promoting skin lotion, for example, is more likely to trigger the release of oxytocin if it shows another person applying the lotion to someone instead of simply showing the bottle itself.
Customers in the “choose” stage are likelier to select your brand if they trust it, according to Crisp. The neuroeconomist Paul Zak revealed that the “amount of oxytocin recipients produced predicted how trustworthy — that is, how likely to share the money — they would be,” per a 2017 Harvard Business Review article.
The issue, then, is how do you get potential customers to trust your brand over competing offerings before purchase? When marketing to potential customers in this stage, Crisp asks his team to consider what creative assets are most likely to trigger the release of oxytocin to develop trust between an offering and his client’s brand.
Use stage: Serotonin
Serotonin is a multifaceted neurotransmitter that plays a role in everything from mood and cognition to appetite and digestion. The implications of serotonin in marketing are complex and not fully understood.
Though in an infantile stage, research suggests serotonin plays a role in mood and consumer decisions. Accordingly, customers “in positive mood states,” for example, are more likely “to evaluate “advertisements, brands and consumer goods more positively”
Researchers from Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg and the California Institute of Technology sought to understand serotonin’s role in product choice. They found that depleted serotonin levels correlated to choice deferral.
As a result, the researchers concluded that marketers who “incorporate the compromise effect with the intent to promote the choice of an intermediate compromise option might be less effective when the target population’s serotonin levels are lowered,” which might occur among older consumers or in winter months, for example.
According to Crisp, serotonin is important in purchasing and consumption processes. As a result, the DOSE methodology focuses on increasing serotonin levels during the “use” stage. How do you ensure your customer’s satisfaction after using your product and service?
Fix stage: Endorphins
Endorphins are naturally occurring peptides that inhibit or reduce physical or psychological pain. As for the latter, endorphins can reduce stress and can improve mood. How does the concept of pain connect to the customer journey?
Crisp suggests poor experiences can induce pain during the “use” stage. What happens if your customer has a problem using your product and service? How skilled is your customer support team at alleviating customer pain?
In the DOSE methodology, customers only enter this stage when problems occur during the “use” stage. How do you make your customer feel good enough to use your product? Do you need to address the problem as part of your overall business strategy, or must you deliver your resolution in a nicely packaged message?
Regardless of the scope of what you must resolve, Crisp suggests that marketers must determine how to mitigate pain, particularly psychological pain. And that can happen by linking your resolution to the release of endorphins.
Looking at the customer journey from a scientific perspective
As you incorporate marketing science into the customer journey, you’re not limited to any framework or methodology. Instead, view DOSE as an overarching approach that guides your team’s creative thinking.
The DOSE framework is part tactical and part philosophical at Crisp’s company. It’s tactical in offering specific actions corresponding to the customer journey. At the same time, it’s philosophical because it provides an overall marketing approach.
Perhaps most importantly, however, DOSE ensures that marketing and design teams understand the critical link between art and science. Depending on your goals, you might want to trigger a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones that activate various brain circuits at every stage of the customer journey. As such, it’s up to you to decide to what extent you follow a given methodology.
Regardless if you use the DOSE methodology or a different framework for connecting creative work to brain activity, one thing is certain: You can give your brand a competitive advantage with a healthy dose of marketing science.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.
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