Hormones & Marketing

You are what you feel! Our senses play a relevant role in generating our feelings and even determines our behavior. How? Whatever we perceive with our senses, which will directly drive our hormone system. Hormones are small but very powerful, they change the way we feel. They can cause mood swings, irritability, gloom and anxiety. But hormones also help us feel positive by evoking focus, connection, pride, joy and relaxation.

Advertising likes to manipulate our senses. We all know that the supermarket spreads the smell of freshly baked bread by the bread department. And yes, it has been proven that customers actually buy more bread then. Stimulating our senses helps subconsciously entice customers to make a purchase. How is it possible that certain senses influence your sales and marketing just day after day?

It is not just the diffusion of smells or music that makes us react to our environment. In our modern age, it remains sadly under-reported that it is precisely stories that evoke the strongest reactions in people. Just watch a movie that manages to touch you emotionally, sometimes to real tears. Even the historic speeches of Martin Luther King with “I have a dream,” John F. Kennedy with “We choose to go to the Moon,” or the recent story of Extinction Rebellion, their stories all contribute that the message resonates strongly with their target greeting. In each case, it is perception through our senses that evokes certain negative or positive feelings caused by our hormones. Never forget that every conversation or story evokes emotions. Emotions evoked by our hormones. 

Based on what we as humans perceive with our senses, there are four main substances in our bodies that largely drive our feelings. These substances are called hormones and act as messengers that initiate biological processes. Based on our perceptions, the body will release hormones that ensure our body stays balanced. They direct our decisions. It is these substances that control our bodies and, therefore, our behavior. But can you use this science to influence your marketing? Below are some key moods that a particular hormone causes in people: 

  1. Want attention? Summon Dopamine! Dopamine plays an important role in reward-motivated behavior in executive functions, motivation, arousal, reinforcement and reward. Positive effect, such as a pleasant feeling after reward, dopamine has been shown to have a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. It helps us to take action, that we don't wait and see. This hormone does have an addictive effect because it makes us feel good when dopamine is released. 
  2. Want humanity? Call up Oxytocin, cuddle hormone! High oxytocin levels are associated with feelings of trust and connection. We feel safe. The Christmas commercials and other feeling good expressions every year are examples that help us evoke this feeling. We literally melt like wax in their hands. Look back at the movie Love Actually more, this kind of storytelling helps us feel more human.
  3. Want relaxation and creativity? Evoke Endorphins! Endorphins mask pain, but are partly responsible for creating a feeling of happiness or euphoria. Endorphins are involved in reward systems in the brain, directing many types of (consuming) behavior. They help create our stamina.
  4. Want to summon pride? Summon Serotonin! One of the most well-known effects of serotonin on the central nervous system is its effect on mood. It produces a feeling of serenity, inner peace and contentment. It suppresses a whole range of feelings such as anxiety, aggression, sadness and the feeling of hunger. It creates pride, loyalty and bonding. Carrying brands, awarding diplomas and certificates and visibly rewarding achievements are thus expressions that help raise Serotonin levels in people. 

You can see from the above hormones that can indeed change people's behavior. The other side of the coin is that those particular hormones can get out of balance for various reasons. This can lead to complaints but also to unwanted behavior among your customers and employees. The two main hormones that cause this are: 

Cortisol + Adrenaline are the best known stress hormones, they make us alert. People care little about others at higher doses because they are too busy surviving. They destroy their immune system when high levels are present in the body for an extended period of time. Cortisol and Adrenaline are evoked by creating an unsafe environment. Examples of situations that trigger these hormones are; pressuring your customers with mandatory signing of offers (cars, kitchens), yelling at employees (TV world) or keeping people in the dark about keeping their jobs. It is these types of situations that cause stress reactions. These bad hormones are widespread in our modern world and disastrous for our health and for negative behaviors.

As a company, you can actually do something with these nasty hormones. You can rather uniquely leverage this fact of excessive stress hormones into your proposition. A good example of this is the campaign of Nationale Nederlanden that focuses on a stress approach: Less stress, less absenteeism. Unburdening your customers lets them breathe a sigh of relief!

PS: the tool to get you started is the Jobs Stories Canvas.

Ruud Olijve

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