Dopamine – Its Role in Pleasure & Buying

Let’s talk about brain chemistry!  You’re probably thinking how is chemistry even related to the world of marketing.  In fact, these two disciplines appear to be polar opposites of each other, since chemistry is from the realm of science and marketing has more to do with business and sales. 

But when they come together, the value that they create is immense especially when it comes to giving a greater sense of clarity of what is going on in the brain’s of customers when they are exposed to marketing stimuli.

Quick Crash Course on Brain Chemistry

Today, we are going to talk about one very important brain chemical, better known as neurotransmitters, that is responsible for influencing consumer’s mood and their buying behaviors.  A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that allows neurons in the body to communicate with each other. Through these exchanges in communication, it also impacts our state of mind in terms of mood, feelings and perceptions, which ultimately can influence our everyday behaviors.

The neurotransmitter we will explore is called dopamine.  This neurotransmitter can be seen as the “happiness or feel good” chemical in the brain.  One of the main goals of neuromarketers is to create messaging and strategies that triggers the release of this crucial neurotransmitter in their customer’s brain to enhance brand loyalty and to create repeat buying/engaging behaviors in their customers.

Bringing it back in time (Way back!)

To understand why dopamine is important to helping a business build brand loyalty and influencing their customer’s buying decision, we need to explore the important roles this neurotransmitter played in the brains of our evolutionary ancestors.

In the cavemen days, survival was the top priority for our ancestors.  This came in the form of having enough resources to avoid starvation, which meant doing whatever it took to secure food as the #1 priority.  

So, dopamine would be released in our ancestor’s brains when they got hungry.  The role of dopamine was to motivate our ancestors to seek and secure food for their families.  The anticipation and reward of acquiring food resulted in a further release of dopamine, which increases the chances of survival for our ancestors in a time when food was generally scarce due to their nomadic lifestyle.   To close the cycle, dopamine is also released when a goal is accomplished, especially in the case when the hunter has secured a food source and after a meal has been finished eaten.  

The ultimate result of this dopamine cycle on survival was the repeated behavior of securing resources so that the primitive need of having enough food provided the best opportunity for survival.  Dopamine creates a positive feedback loop where the repeated behavior of hunting enhances the chances of avoiding starvation and favoring the individuals who participate in food securing activities consistently.   In this respect, dopamine is recognized as the motivation and reward neurotransmitter in the brain.

So How Does Dopamine apply to Marketing?

Even though there have been continuous innovations in the distribution channels of marketing, the one thing that has remained constant is how our brains work.  

Today, making sure we have enough food to survive is not a main priority for many, since food is often a readily available commodity.  Instead of getting our dopamine hit from hunting – In the world of marketing, the release of dopamine in customer’s brains is often associated with finding the most creative ways to influence their consumer’s shopping behaviors.  

So, as neuromarketers, we want to tap into the same neural circuitries that influenced our ancestor’s drive to repeatedly want to secure food, but in marketing, we now want to trigger activity in the same neural network with activities that are related to buying.  

Instead of repeated behaviors of securing food, our goal is now to instill repeated behaviors of buying services and products from businesses.   So, if your business is able to provide the best customer experience, then this will lead to continual release of dopamine in your customer’s brains, which encourages them to become repeat customers of yours and helps cement the brand loyalty your customers have with your business.

The primary goal here is to create positive associations of reward, goal fulfillment, motivation, between your products or services that your customers experience everyday to your brand to help them achieve the ideal version of themselves.

Here are some ways this can be done:

Free Samples & Free Trials – Offering free samples or free trials is a fantastic way to trigger a large dopamine release in your customer’s brains.  This effect becomes even more powerful if businesses are able to offer free samples or free trials that are novel, since the combination of receiving an immediate reward coupled with the curiosity and anticipation of discovering the nuances of the free offerings taps into the primitive impulsive survival instincts to want things now as well as engages the brain’s pleasure system to start releasing dopamine in response to receiving the easily accessible and novel free samples and free trials.

Use messaging that focuses on primitive instincts of survival –  This can be extremely powerful in creating the tagline for a business to make their brand as memorable as possible to their audience.  One example is capitalizing on the scarcity of food. The fast food chain, Wendy’s, did an excellent job doing this in their 1984 commercial where they created the catchphrase “Where’s the Beef?”, which taps into the roots of survival instincts of making sure you secure enough food to survive.  

“Where’s the beef?” has become one of the most well known and recognized catchphrases in the advertising world and the general public instantly associates this memorable maxim to the Wendy’s brand.

Mobile marketing – The use of smartphones and mobile devices have penetrated all aspects of our lives over the last decade.  It’s a way for us to stay more connected as well as make our lives more convenient and efficient in terms of executing daily tasks in both life and work. 

So, one way that businesses can keep their brands top of mind is by implementing a strong mobile marketing strategy that focuses on push notifications to keep their audience in the loop of new offerings and customized updates that relates their customer’s needs.  

Every time, a customer receives a new push notification, this is a pattern interruption to their daily lives which sparks the release of dopamine, but it also creates a sense of curiosity and anticipation for the customer to check to see what the push notification is about, which triggers a further release of dopamine.  And finally, when the customer has read the push notification, the feeling of finishing the goal of checking it gives the customer another shot of dopamine.  

Rise of Artificial intelligence (AI) –  As people’s expectations to experience things are getting much shorter, this also means that they want not only products and services delivered sooner than ever, but this also translates into the world of customer support and help they expect from businesses to provide in answering and solving their problems.  

Moving into 2020 and into this new decade, the use of artificial intelligence to handle this large volume of customers expecting real-time customer support from companies will be incredibly important in creating the best experience for customers and making the brand as the top of mind choice in their industry.

The rise of chatbots is one powerful solution to handling the demands of providing the best customer support service for business in the most efficient way.  Chatbots are immediately available to provide support to customers, and they are available 24/7 for 365 days of the year with no limitation on the number of chatbots that can be active at any point in time to handle large spikes in customer demands as quickly as possible.  

The results of using chatbots as a core part of a business’s customer support system means that customers receive fast and effective solutions to their concerns and problems, eliminating  barriers, such as uncertainty and anxiety, that minimize purchasing behaviors.  

Instead, chatbots brings customers one step closer to buying since they help remove these negative barriers, which means that customers are more motivated and excited to buy your product or service and reap the rewards that your business offers, all of which are activities that trigger dopamine release in your customer’s brains.


It’s critical to understand the importance that dopamine plays in your customer’s buying behavior, since this will give you a much more granular approach to identify whether your messaging and marketing strategies are working optimally to trigger the release of this neurotransmitter in your consumer’s brains.  

This means that you can start being microscopic along every point of your marketing path to make the changes at the points where the triggering of the release of dopamine in your customer’s brain would have the greatest impact on their decision to buy from you in a repeated fashion.  

Being able to purposefully trigger the release of dopamine also helps to capture new customer’s attention so that they become aware of your products and services and consider buying what you are offering over your competitors, as well as building a loyal customer base for exploding your brand awareness in the marketplace.

Take the Guesswork out of your marketing

Happy Buying Brain can help take your marketing to a whole new level and one of the ways is showing you how to implement the strategies we talked about above that trigger dopamine at tactical points in your marketing to get the maximum impact in your customer’s brains so that they choose to buy from you instead of from your competitors.  

To get a quick snapshot of what these strategies would look like for your business, contact us at 780-977-2313 or