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Mediative Blog: The Digital Results People

The Insula and the Accumbens: Driving Online Behavior

One of the more controversial applications of new neurological scanning technologies has been a quest by marketers for the mythical “Buy Button” in our brains. So far, no magical nook or cranny in our cranium has given marketers the ability to foist whatever crap they want on is, but a couple of parts of the brain have emerged as leading contenders for influencing buying behavior.

The Nucleus Accumbens: The Gas Pedal

The Nucleus Accumbens has been identified as the reward center of the brain. Although this is an oversimplification, it definitely plays a central role in our reward circuit. Neuroscanning studies show that the Nucleus Accumbens “lights up” when people think about things that have a reward attached: investments with big returns, buying a sports car or participating in favorite activities. Dopamine is released and the brain benefits from a natural high. Emotions are the drivers of human behavior – they move us to action (the name comes from the Latin movere, meaning “to move”). The reward circuit of the brain uses emotions to drive us towards rewards, an evolutionary pathway that improves our odds for passing along our genes.

In consumer behaviors, there are certain purchase decisions that fire the Nucleus Accumbens. Anything that promises some sort of emotional reward can trigger our reward circuits. We start envisioning what possession would be like: the taste of a meal, the thrill of a new car, the joy of a new home, the indulgence of a new pair of shoes. There is strong positive emotional engagement in these types of purchases.

The Anterior Insula: The Brake

But if our brain was only driven by reward, we would never say no. There needs to be some governing factor on the Nucleus Accumbens. Again, neuroscanning had identified a small section of the brain called the Anterior Insula as one of the structures serving this role.

If the nucleus accumbens could be called the reward center, the anterior insula could be called the Angst Center of our brains. The insula is a key part of our emotional braking system. Through the release of noradrenaline and other neuro-chemicals, it creates the gnawing anxiety that causes us to slow down and tread carefully. In extreme cases, it can even evoke disgust. If the Nucleus Accumbens drives impulse purchasing, it’s the Anterior Insula that triggers buyer’s remorse.

The Balance Between the Two

Again, at the risk of over-simplification, these two counter-acting forces drive much of our consumer behavior. You can look at any purchase as the net result of the balance between them; a balancing of risk and reward, or in the academic jargon, prevention and promotion. High reward and low risk purchases will have a significantly different consumer behavior pattern than low reward and high risk purchases. Think about the difference between buying life insurance and a new pair of shoes. And because they have significantly different behavior profiles, the online interactions that result from these purchases will look quite different as well. In the next column, I’ll look at the four different purchase profiles (High Risk/High Reward, High Risk/Low Reward, Low Risk/High Reward and Low Risk, Low Reward) and look at how the online maps might look in each scenario.

Originally published in Mediapost’s Search Insider December 16, 2010

Comments /

  1. Helen says:

    I like this colum. Where can I find the next column, see below :

    “In the next column, I’ll look at the four different purchase profiles (High Risk/High Reward, High Risk/Low Reward, Low Risk/High Reward and Low Risk, Low Reward) and look at how the online maps might look in each scenario.”

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Mediative: Scalable Digital Marketing Solutions

Experience
performance

Reach more buyers. Increase conversions. Turn insights into ROI. Monetize your digital properties. We can help you achieve the best return on your digital marketing investment.

What we can do for you

Take advantage of our areas of expertise to serve your specific needs.

  • Data

    Leverage our first party data and knowledge on how to deliver the right message to qualified audiences across all digital marketing channels.

  • Performance

    Find qualified audiences, capture their attention and convert them by ensuring a clear path to purchase and a maximum ROI.

  • Mediative LAB

    Combine the latest innovative technologies and data-driven research to drive digital performance.

  • Monetization

    Maximize the value of every visit to your digital properties, and discover new sources of revenue with our range of custom publisher solutions.

Gain insights to help you grow

Use our knowledge to improve your business: get our latest research, case studies, and insights sent straight to your inbox.

Our digital marketing solutions

Mediative Search Performance

Display network & digital media

Target millions of highly qualified consumers across all the right sites.

Search & performance

Leverage our thinking and solutions to deliver meaningful results.

Mediative Display Network and Digital Media
Mediative Location Based Mobile Marketing

Creative services

Influence online users with high-impact creative and persuasive content.

Location-based mobile marketing

Target online consumers locally to drive traffic to your stores.

Mediative Creative Services