Neuromarketing and sustainability: How to look into the heads of your customers

Emotions in marketing are also crucial for sustainable companies. Find out here how to create sustainable customer loyalty with neuromarketing.
Limbische Systeme sind seit jeher Forschungsobjekt.

It accompanies us every day: Climate change is progressing seemingly inexorably, floods suddenly dominate everyday life, plastic waste strangles the ocean and earth, people and animals are threatened by exploitation, droughts and extreme weather. As a result, thousands of pictures hit us every day. You will certainly know one of them: A koala with scorched fur and hands that a female assistant gives water after a forest fire.

This is exactly where you can make an important observation that is invaluable for your understanding of human nature. Recall the picture and imagine that you see the injured koala in the scorched forest. What feelings does the sight trigger in you? What thoughts? From anger to fear and despair, you'll certainly come to a very specific point: You'll want to help.

Every time something touches us like that, no matter how big or small the thing itself is, it's clear that something deep within us has just been addressed. But why is that so? And what does that have to do with marketing for sustainable companies?

A whole lot: Because behind all feelings, thoughts and ultimately (buying) decisions, there are emotional and motivational systems that we are usually completely unaware of in everyday life — and therefore provide the basis for targeted neuromarketing.

Sounds morally reprehensible? Don't worry: Neuromarketing is not rocket science, but used correctly and responsibly, an important tool to make people aware of the sustainability of your company and do something good with it.

In our article, we will show you the principles of neuromarketing, which motivational and emotional systems are specifically relevant in the area of sustainability and how, with precise knowledge of your customers and precise wording, you can ensure that your company and vision receive the reach and commitment they deserve.

Understanding emotions: What happens in me when I see something?

The question of what makes us humans tick has been on our mind since time immemorial. Because the processes in our brain are complex: We see something like the image of a koala and thus absorb it — even if we try to suppress it. As a result, this instantly triggers a chain of feelings and thoughts, such as “Something like that shouldn't happen. I feel powerless. What can I do?”.

The fascinating thing about this is that we are often not aware of these processes or even have no access to them at all because so many processes happen automatically.

In order to understand this unconsciousness, countless studies have been and are carried out every year. And in order to use it, the advertising industry has always invested a great deal of money, from subliminal advertising to A/B testing, to enable advertising measures to be precisely targeted at the subconscious systems of potential customers. The combination with the scientific approach forms a separate area of research, which is invaluable for every company that wants to draw attention to itself in the world: neuromarketing.

Because we humans are influenced by thousands of factors in our lives and everyday lives — our culture, our social context, our age, our gender and, in particular, our individual experiences. This creates unique ways of thinking and feeling in each and every one of us.

Yet we unite fundamental trends and similarities in our emotions and motivations to an extent that determines our entire lives and that you can use for yourself as a company with the help of neuromarketing.

Neuromarketing 101: The basics

Emotionssysteme bestimmen unser Fühlen, Denken und Handeln.
Emotional systems determine how we feel, think and act.

Neuromarketing is based on empirically researched knowledge of different areas of the brain that are activated by specific stimuli. These are made visible by the so-called Limbic Map, a map of the various systems in the brain. But which areas are there? And what are they responsible for?

The first division is that of the three emotional systems:

  • balance — the desire for security and stability, the need to avoid danger and change.
  • Stimulant — the desire for experience and discovery, for novelty and individuality, the need for unknown stimuli and the avoidance of boredom.
  • dominance — the desire for power, status, superiority and autonomy, the need to assert oneself and leave competition behind.

These three main systems include modules:

  • In the balance system:
  • bond — the search for a connection, ensuring the survival of descendants and the desire for personal care and help.
  • solicitude — ensuring the survival of offspring on the mother's side, which is also transmitted to pets.
  • In the stimulus system:
  • match — particularly active in young children to improve motor and mental skills, but still pronounced among adults.
  • In the dominance system:
  • Hunt/Prey — the inner drive of all bargain hunters.
  • Raufen — the brain center for soccer and co., active when watching and playing all types of competitive sports with opponents.
  • sexuality (male/female) — a collaboration between different brain areas with significant differences between the sexes.
  • Appetite/disgust — the association of positive and negative flavours and odours.

Finally, these modules include a large number of motivational systems: For example, these are might and power in the case of dominance, creativity and individuality in case of stimulation, tradition and surety with Balance and many more, particularly in the overlapping areas between the systems and modules.

Sustainability and marketing: neuromarketing for advanced users

These divisions and systems are extremely interesting for neuromarketing because they enable links between products and the underlying emotions and motivations — and thus a precise orientation of marketing measures to activate precisely these emotions and motivations. The following applies: The more motivational and emotional systems are addressed positively, the more valuable the product becomes.

Especially The balance system and the complex of care are interesting for the topic of sustainability. Because this always starts when it comes to family, friends or even pets: every person and every living being that you care about and want them to be okay with.

That is why the Care module includes all products and services, from gifts to nest building to social issues, social responsibility and caring for and protecting nature. Because the underlying need to ensure the survival of the offspring on the mother's side also applies in a figurative sense to the preservation of all life on our planet and accordingly includes your entire (environment) world. After all, you want to give yourself, your family and, in the broadest sense, humanity the security of continuing to exist healthily and safely.

Oxytocin is an interesting aspect of this in connection with the care module: The hormonal social glue activated in this module provides care and strengthens bonds — and that if you manage to address the care module, also between you and your customers.

After all, not to be underestimated are the Power struggles in the head, which arise when we address several motivational complexes that are initially opposed to each other. Generally speaking, we feel divided between:

  • hedonism and asceticism
  • revolution and preservation
  • and selfishness and altruism.

It is therefore completely normal if you are torn: Then are just different motivations at work. When it comes to sustainability and environmental protection, for example, this is often reflected in very specific “all or nothing” thinking. This often becomes an excuse not to buy a product or not to use a service after all, because on the one hand you feel the sense of purpose, but on the other hand you also feel guilty that it is not enough.

With the knowledge of power struggles in mind, it is easier from a business perspective to nudge potential customers in the right direction by addressing exactly this conflict directly — and simply resolving it by exhausting the other side.

What effect do emotions have on sustainability in marketing?

Mit Neuromarketing bringst du Emotionssysteme gezielt zum Aufleuchten.
With neuromarketing, you specifically light up emotional systems.

With the world's ever growing awareness of the consequences of human recklessness on nature and our continued existence, it is becoming increasingly relevant for all companies how they feel about sustainability.

If you're a fundamentally sustainable company, you have a good chance of reaching out to people who care about sustainability — and that's a whole lot, as you can see. But for this to work, these people not only need to be able to see exactly how sustainable your company is: you also need to meet their exact emotions and motivations.

Because you achieve the greatest commitment through so-called Brain-fetters. These are products, services and even missions that tell a story and activate motivational and emotional systems so strongly that there is a great desire for them — also in the form of a strong brand that recharges these emotions again and again.

In addition, every good brain stimulant also has the aspect of multimotivationality. Denn Every situation, every sight, every need can trigger or emanate from different areas of the emotional system at the same time. The more reasons, i.e. motivations, you have, the more active your brain is.

Even in the area of sustainability, it is not just always about pure care, but there are sub-categories: For one, care is active in combination with an increased need for safety, in the other, perhaps more in conjunction with the need to build a nest. You should carefully consider these multi-motivational fine-tuning when directing your marketing.

How can I use neuromarketing for my sustainable company?

The best way to harness the power of emotions and motivations is to know exactly what makes your customers tick. Otherwise, you run the risk of going in the completely wrong direction with your marketing measures and the presentation of your company.

You finally catch a confessed grandma with different pictures and descriptions than a teenager or millennial. If you press too hard on the emotional lacrimal gland with the latter, they could easily spring off you, while Grandma, on the other hand, is much more willing to use her savings for a good cause.

The The key to understanding your customers is creating and using a Buyer Persona. With the help of this, you can get a detailed insight into the minds of your existing and potential customers. Because the most important questions for designing your sustainable company presentation are these:

  • What do my customers feel, think and need?
  • In addition to care, which components also come into play?
  • Are there any age or gender differences that I need to consider?
  • What kind of person is my ideal customer?

Once you've established this basis, it's time to put it into practice on the content level. Keep a close eye on your buyer persona, their needs, wishes, challenges and, in particular, their emotions and motivations. Based on this, you then choose your phrases and images to present your company and message exactly as you saw — and felt! — want to be.

In general, keep in mind:

  • Be informative but not cold. Professionalism is one thing, but in the area of care in particular, human warmth is crucial — and certainly compatible with a competent appearance.
  • Think about the systems and the buyer persona. When creating content, remember again and again: What are you selling? How and why? And which emotions and needs do you want to address with whom exactly?
  • Be authentic. This is a crucial point, particularly in the area of sustainability. Don't make promises that you don't keep. After all, you also notice when someone wants to deceive you with greenwashing.

Specifically, you should also pay particular attention to the emotional and motivational systems. Sustainable baby clothes You sell better with gentle formulations that convey a lot of safety, but also comfort and comfort. For a sustainable logistics software On the other hand, you supplement the aspect of care primarily with the motivations of reliability and efficiency.

Neuromarketing: An important tool for your sustainable company

Insight into the minds of your customers is essential for you as a sustainable company. If you know how your customers feel and think, you can use targeted content to convince them why they should follow your good cause — and that is Nothing to be ashamed of as a sustainable company.

Despite all the precision, there are, of course, points that are difficult to predict or estimate from the outset. Even if you are convinced that you have struck the nerve of your customers, incalculable things can arise, especially in how something you send out into the world is received. Methods such as A/B testing and — very old-school — customer surveys will help you here. Through contact and solidarity, many question marks will quickly be resolved.

Because in principle, knowledge of our emotional and motivational systems and empathy are the key to your customers. So make it a habit to think and empathize with them.

You can do this in exactly the same way as with our picture with the koala in the scorched forest: Get out of yourself and imagine yourself seeing your text, page or product for the first time. What do you notice? What do you see? And most importantly: How do you feel?

Cover photo by David Matos. More pictures from inara writes and Fakurian Design.

About the author

Nora Scharer is creative director at inara wrote. Psychological profiles and the development of unique storylines are her area of expertise. Language is their colorful tablet.

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