Gotta Have It: What Makes a Brand Addictive?

Consumer decision-making is about making anticipatory judgments, and our brain does this largely through the release of dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger created by the body to send messages between nerve cells. WebMD explains that Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure, and it’s a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.

According to Psychology Today, the neuroscientist Read Montague demonstrated that merely seeing a Coke label was enough to activate the brain’s pleasure centers without even taking a sip by elevating the levels of dopamine. This proved that we don’t need to experience the product to get the rush of dopamine. We only need to anticipate it in our minds.

Marketers can leverage this anticipation rush by touting the unique and wonderful characteristics of a product – also known as The Brand Promise.

In the old days, consumers depended solely on The Brand Promise to give them information on a product or service. Now, most consumers don’t fully trust advertisers to give them the whole story.

Today, consumers rely on a combination of product advertising and verified product reviews to influence their purchasing decisions.

Product reviews are influencing product design as well. The more we experience and judge brands, and write reviews based on our experience, the more companies are feeling pressured to develop better products as opposed to just creating better ads.

Read: How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Business

Addictive brands, like Coke in the example above, have mastered the ability to induce a dopamine rush and “Gotta Have It” mentality. But how exactly?

Here are a few characteristics of brands that have figured it out.

Customer-focused

Addictive brands are customer-oriented not product-centric. The products and services are created around the needs of the clients, not vice versa. According to Forbes, Apple and Chick-Fil-A are two of the most “customer-obsessed” brands because of their relentless dedication to pleasing the customer.

Convenience

Brands like Amazon have mastered the ability for consumers to purchase with a click and to have their needs met almost instantly. With Prime 2-day-shipping (and now same-day shipping in some areas) consumers no longer have the patience to wait for weeks to get what they want. For that reason, Amazon has become an addictive platform for most of us, and we can’t imagine our lives without it.

Novelty 

Addictive brands know how to keep their customers coming back for more because there is always something new to see. Novel brands don’t stop innovating or lose momentum over time. According to Fast Company, companies like Netflix, Ikea and Adidas did a great job of resonating with customers in 2020 by offering new and exciting products that their consumers just had to have.

Purpose & Mission

Brands that have a clear purpose and mission are also more likely to gain a loyal following. Brands like TOMS, Patagonia and Bombas attract customers looking for gratification knowing their purchases make a difference.

Scarcity 

Making your product “scarce” to your customers is powerful marketing approach. Consumers feel privileged to own something that is only available for a limited time or in limited quantities. According to Convertica, scarcity works best when there’s a synergy between perceived value and good branding, and can convince a potential buyer to purchase sooner rather than later.

It’s important to remember that most addictive brands don’t just tout one or two of the characteristics mentioned above. It takes more than just having a novel product or offering great customer service to become an addictive brand. Most of the addictive brands we know – Tesla, Nike, Apple, Uber, etc. boast several of the characteristics mentioned above, if not all. And for most of them, it took take years to discover which combination of tactics resonated with their target market.

Iconic brands are not born overnight. Give it time and keep the above-mentioned characteristics in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an addictive brand!

Sources: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/unconscious-branding/201709/how-brands-addict-us

https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/65822133/JBR_9869_Brand_Addiction_Cui_Mrad_Hoog_2018_02_23.pdf

https://thepitcher.org/build-addictive-brand/

https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/creating-product-addicts/

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.