Learning Lab

Building Brand Trust

By Amy Brann

Neuroscience defines the biochemical reactions that coincide with human behavior. This has come to the attention of those who would like to influence human behavior in the field of advertising and marketing, a field called neuroeconomics and as a specialty in that field, neuromarketing or sensory marketing. A topic of particular interest in this field is the study of oxytocin. oxytocin is a hormone known to do many things, it is the primary biochemical source for feelings of trust and social connectedness. Natural oxytocin is the hormone that begins contractions for childbirth, however, oxytocin is not just for contractions. Oxytocin has a strong correlation with promoting generous behavior in humans, as I discuss in a full chapter about oxytocin in my book, Neuroscience for Coaches. Marketing strategists utilize the understanding of neuroscience to manipulate human behavior for the sake of marketing brand names. Brands are capitalizing on the understanding of what oxytocin can do to build feelings of relationship and trust transference to build brand trust and loyalty.

The Neuroscience Involved in Sensory Marketing Strategies

Sensory marketing is a strategy derived from neuroeconomics. Marketers want to understand how to better predict how consumers are feeling, and potentially use that knowledge to promote their brands more effectively. The underpinning of this strategy is to elicit the release of oxytocin in relationship with the brand name and as a result, create happy or relaxed feelings that create a powerful relationship bond with the brand. Another notable trait of oxytocin is that it helps the process of learning in social interaction. Therefore, the result of brands being capable of eliciting an oxytocin response in the brain of the receiver, is then capable of producing a strong biochemical bond between that person and the brand.

Have You Ever Considered Brands That You Hold Particularly Close to Your Heart?

Brands that are closely associated with the reward response often promote a compelling biochemical bond over time. Perhaps a favorite sweet from childhood, or a restaurant that is associated to a memory of family gatherings during special occasions. These biochemical connections create a feeling of social connectedness that go beyond typical consumer relationships. An article by the Journal of Economic Psychology discusses the power of this bond, calling it The “First-Choice-Brand-Effect” is a phenomena that happens when negative information about a beloved brand attempts to tarnish the image of the brand in the person’s brain, the brain begins to fire in places that determine strong emotionality in the decision-making process. This biochemical bond is something that can prolong loyalty to a brand for a lifetime regardless of brand performance. Simply put, consumers are willing to give the brand another chance because of the emotional connection experienced with the brand.

Is Sensory Marketing Ethical?

As this new realm of pairing neuroscience with compelling marketing unfolds there is a parallel discussion happening in the scientific community about whether or not this type of biochemical manipulation is ethical. Many coaches who understand neuroscience, understand the power of its knowledge in soliciting positive behaviors. The hope is that the purpose of this effort is for the greater benefit of the client. However, this same tool can potentially be used as a behavior weapon whose improper use can cause great concern. This development seems to suggest that as our growing community begins to mature as an institution, best practices about these types of behavioral manipulations, and the powerful use of neuroscientific knowledge will need to be addressed in more detail to offer detailed guidance for the future of the field.

How Does This Knowledge of Neuroeconomics Effect Coaching Strategy?

Understanding the principle of neuroeconomics as it pertains to sensory marketing can be useful to a coach in a variety of ways. Primarily, this same sensory strategy may be recognized in clients as each client may express the emotional bonds associated with brands as they interact with destructive habits, and toxic people in a client’s life. Understanding how the “First-Brand-Choice-Effect” presents itself, allows the coach to see similar patterns and assist the client to rewrite this coding in the brain of the client to favor a more supportive choice for the client’s life.

Furthermore, a coach can understand the power of sensory marketing strategy that the coach uses with his/her own clients. In effect, each person has a brand. How does your “brand” interact with your clients and the community at large? Integrity and compassion in practice elicits strong biochemical bonds much in the same way that the marketers use them in advertising. People want to connect with a brand that portrays itself as honest, caring, and as an experience to make people feel good about life. The way that coaches choose to interact with that knowledge can be a very compelling behavioral manipulation that can be used either for personal benefit or the benefit of a greater good. Each coach will have to decide for themselves how he/she will use this powerful tool.

As more information comes to light about neuroeconomics and sensory marketing strategy, the knowledge of neuroscience and how it effects branding and potential consumer behavior will make the ability to consult on such projects a new avenue of discussion for the benefits and possibly pitfalls of neuroscientific knowledge. Each coach will need to decide for themselves how to share this information with marketing firms and brands who are very interested to learn the secrets behind neuroscience for coaches.

Hubert, Mirja. “Does neuroeconomics give new impetus to economic and consumer research?” Journal of Economic Psychology 31.5 (2010): 812-817
Kenning, Peter. “The influence of general trust and specific trust on buying behaviour” International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management 36.6 (2008): 461-476.
Williams, Ray “Mind control: Neuroscience in marketing. Mind control in marketing” Psychology Today. (2012) Web. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201203/mind-control-neuroscience-in-marketing

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