Has dopamine got us hooked?
We've all felt it, the constant compulsion for more. Eat more, drink more, buy more. When we're faced with a wealth of opportunities and choices in our everyday lives you'd think we'd be content, right? Wrong.
Due to the ever expanding digital channels we are exposed to, now more than ever marketers are able to manipulate the dopamine levels in our brains to increase purchase behaviour. Generally our dopamine receptors are triggered when we experience something new or exciting, this could be from eating, to winning a game, to purchasing a new item. Similar to any other type of addiction, the receptors in our brains can become less receptive over a period of time when constantly used.
So when we are scrolling through our apps looking for the next item to purchase this triggers instant gratification, encouraging our brains to use more dopamine. The more we feel good about something the more we will continue to do it. Although in order for us to achieve the same level of happiness and to reach the high of that initial euphoric feeling, we have to keep going back for more.
When purchasing new items we typically make decisions straight away, without giving time for weighing up the positives vs negatives. During these purchase decisions the brain will trigger a spike in dopamine, resulting in emotional engagement to the specific product.
It's very common for us not to be addicted to the brands and physical items that we are purchasing, rather addicted to the thrill of the purchase itself. Have you ever felt competitive when walking into your favourite shop and find it difficult to control the impulse sensation to purchase something? This is your brain using its 'competitive mode', which is used in the instance it thinks it may miss out. If you don't make that purchase then someone else will, resulting in us irrationally overvaluing potential losses.
Thanks to the increasing growth and accessibility of apps and social media, taking advantage of dopamine in the brain through marketing is now easier than ever before. The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, and we are constantly bombarded with marketing through the offering of next day delivery, discount codes and push notifications.
It's now more important than ever for marketers to send valuable messages to their consumers. Breaking through the noise and offering a real and sincere experience while also being ethical and being aware of the impact our campaigns are having on consumers is vital. But it's also important for us as consumers to ensure we are conscious of our purchases. It's easy for us to trigger the urge to search for unwanted and unneeded items, but be aware that you may be overestimating the actual amount of gratification you'll receive.