How to map marketing science to the customer journey

Marketing as “an art and a science” is as mundane as it is nebulous – but true nonetheless. What comes to mind when you think of marketing? Do you think about the connection between your creative work and your clients’ neural circuits?

When wrapping your message in a creative art form, try to evoke thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behavior. But how do you influence the behavior of your customers? It starts with understanding how your audience’s brain processes information and ends with post-purchase endorsement.

Depending on the stage of the customer journey, you may want to evoke different thoughts and behaviors. In this article, you’ll learn how to develop creative assets that trigger different activities in different brain regions while aligning with your business strategy.

Connect creative work to the customer journey with Brain Science

In an interview, Tony Crisp, an innovative brand strategist and founder of the CRISPx Brand Agency, described a methodology he has developed to connect creative work to the customer journey using brain research, simplified into four distinct phases:

  • Seek.
  • Choose.
  • Use.
  • Fix.

Crisp maps each stage to a primary neurotransmitter for his creative team to trigger as part of the framework.

“There are certain neurotransmitters that motivate mammals to move,” explained Crisp, “and the DOSE framework provides guidance to my creative team” at different stages of the customer journey, as shown below.

letter neurotransmitter/hormone travel phase
D dopamine Seek
O oxytocin Choose
S serotonin Use
E endorphins fix

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Search phase: dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that drives your customers’ behavior in pursuit of goals. Are your marketing efforts aligned with your customers’ goals? As a catalyst for the golden rule of content marketing, you can nudge your client into action by triggering a dopaminergic surge at the right time.

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Crucially, your clients generate the greatest dopaminergic spikes when they are waiting for rewards and not receiving them. As a result, you want to entice your audience to take action by creating a heightened sense of anticipation. When your audience expects value for just clicking a button, you can easily get them to click, share, or call.

If your audience expects clicking a link in your marketing email to deliver an informative white paper with worthwhile content, chances are you’ll increase your CTR. If your PPC ad provides details about the solution your audience is looking for, you’ll likely increase ad conversions as well.

In the “seek” phase, potential customers are looking 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 that important? When you help customers achieve their goals, you can direct their behavior directly to your shopping cart.

Select Level: 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 influences your decision-making process – including decisions about products and services.

In a classic 2013 study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, Claremont Graduate University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara examined the link between oxytocin and decision-making when exposed to marketing content.

As part of the study, participants were given oxytocin before viewing public service advertisements. The participants who received oxytocin showed 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.

The researchers concluded that advertisements with emotional content, related to a connection with another person, are particularly effective. For example, a video promoting skin lotion is more likely to trigger the release of oxytocin if it shows another person applying the lotion to someone, rather than just showing the bottle itself.

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According to Crisp, at the Choose stage, customers are more likely to choose your brand if they trust it. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak revealed that the “amount of oxytocin recipients produced predicted how trustworthy — that is, how likely they would share the money — they would be,” according to a 2017 Harvard Business Review article.

So the question is, how do you get potential customers to trust your brand over competing offerings before making a purchase? When marketing to potential customers at this stage, Crisp asks his team to consider what creative elements are most likely to trigger the release of oxytocin to build trust between an offer and his customer’s brand.

Usage Level: Serotonin

Serotonin is a multifaceted neurotransmitter that plays a role in everything from mood and cognition to appetite and digestion. The effects of serotonin on marketing are complex and not fully understood.

Although in an infantile stage, research suggests that serotonin plays a role in mood and consumer decisions. According to this, for example, customers “in a positive mood” tend to rate “advertising, brands and consumer goods more positively”

Researchers from Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and the California Institute of Technology tried to understand the role of serotonin in product selection. They found that depleted serotonin levels correlated with delay in voting.

As a result, the researchers concluded that marketers who “include the trade-off effect with the intention of encouraging choice of an intermediate solution may be less effective when the target population’s serotonin levels are lowered,” which can occur in older consumers or during the winter months for example.

According to Crisp, serotonin is important in purchasing and consuming processes. As a result, the DOSE methodology focuses on increasing serotonin levels during the “use” phase. How do you ensure customer satisfaction after using your product and service?

Fixed stage: endorphins

Endorphins are naturally occurring peptides that inhibit or relieve physical or mental pain. Endorphins can reduce stress and improve mood. How does the concept of pain relate to the customer journey?

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Crisp points out that bad experiences during the “use phase” can cause pain. What happens when your customer has a problem with your product and service? How good is your customer support team at relieving customer pain?

In the DOSE methodology, customers only enter this phase if problems arise during the “use phase”. 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 do you need to convey your solution in a beautifully wrapped message?

Regardless of the scope of what you need to solve, Crisp suggests that marketers need to determine how to alleviate pain, particularly psychological pain. And that can happen by tying your resolution to the release of endorphins.

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View the customer journey from a scientific perspective

When you integrate marketing science into the customer journey, you are not limited to one framework or methodology. Instead, think of DOSE as an overarching approach that guides your team’s creative thinking.

The DOSE framework at Crisp is part tactical, part philosophical. It’s tactical by offering specific actions that match the customer journey. At the same time, it is philosophical because it offers a comprehensive approach to marketing.

Perhaps most importantly, DOSE ensures marketing and design teams understand the critical connection between art and science. Depending on your goals, you may want to trigger a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones that activate different circuits in the brain at each stage of the customer journey. As such, it is up to you to decide the extent to which you follow any particular methodology.

Whether you use the DOSE methodology or another framework to connect creative work to brain activity, one thing is certain: you can give your brand a competitive edge with a healthy dose of marketing science.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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