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Dissatisfied Yet Happy: The Weird Brain Science of Customer Loyalty

Dissatisfied Yet Happy: The Weird Brain Science of Customer Loyalty

The happiest people are the least satisfied • The most satisfied are not happy.

That makes no sense, does it? Yet brain science tells us that being dissatisfied is not the same as being unhappy. People who are dissatisfied yet also see themselves making progress towards a goal are more happy than merely satisfied people. Smart marketers make use of dissatisfaction to create powerful emotional connections with their customers.

Negative Emotion Drives Desire

It’s good for your business when you allow your customers suffer. Why? I’ll explain in just a moment. First, let’s set the stage.

We all know that emotion drives buying decisions. And we know that facts kill emotion. Savvy marketers have known that’s true for a long time.

Now, thanks to neuroscience, we better understand why people are like that.

For decades, the gurus of marketing have told us to avoid negative emotions. Turns out, they’re wrong.

Negative emotion is not just the absence of positive emotion. It is its own separate thing. Positive emotion and negative emotion use two entirely different circuits in our brains.

That means it’s possible for humans to experience both positive and negative emotions at the same time.

In fact, if your target audience is experiencing negative emotion, you have a great opportunity to leverage that emotion for your own good. Push the right buttons, slide the right levers and you can increase desire.

And then – when you offer a solution to those negative emotions, you’ll create powerful positive emotions. And – if you do it right – you can turn those positive emotions into powerful, long-lasting emotional connections.

However, you gotta know how to leverage that negative emotion.

“Neurophysiologically we are constructed in such a way that we do not experience positive emotion unless we have an aim and we perceive ourselves progressing towards that aim and attaining that aim.” – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Negative Emotions Are Almost Always At Work

As I argue elsewhere, we 21st century people walk around with a gaping hole in our psyches. It’s there because our culture has fractured.

Strong cultures keep our deep existential questions at bay. But when culture fractures – as ours has – it no longer gives us answers to our deep questions. And that’s precisely where we find ourselves.

Almost all of us suffer from existential discontent. That’s an emotion that maps onto the negative emotional system. Unless those deep existential questions are answered, that negative emotional system is always going to be working.

The Brain Chemistry of Positive Emotion

We have two different “systems” of brain chemicals that make us feel positive emotions.

One is  dopamine. The other is serotonin.

When we perceive ourselves as making progress towards a goal, then our brains squirt dopamine. That’s a really awesome feeling. When you offer your prospect the chance to solve a nasty problem, it’s dopamine that makes them feel excited about it.

When we actually reach our goal, the dopamine turns off and our brain squirts serotonin instead. Serotonin is a nice feeling, but it’t not as intense as dopamine and it doesn’t last as long.

Dopamine makes us feel good about heading in the right direction to reach our goal. Serotonin makes us feel good about having reached our goal.

So your prospects can feel negative feelings and positive feelings at the same time. You want them to feel dopamine-feelings though. Don’t give them serotonin feelings too soon.

Amplify the Suffering First, THEN Offer the Solution

The old marketing acronym PAS is built on this reality: Pain-Amplification-Solution.

Isn’t it interesting that the old guys knew what worked, even if they didn’t know why it worked? Now we know.

Tell me what you think. Can you see how to amplify customer dissatisfaction in a way that makes them feel more love and loyalty to you? This is where Loyalty Triggers can help. I recommend you get the guide if you don’t already have it.

Learn to Use the Loyalty Triggers

Free Quick Reference Guide eBook

Logos vs. Faces • Science Tells Us Which is Best

So you want to create an identity for your business? Science tells us which type of images work best.

HINT: It’s not the ones most people use.


Let’s talk about how we – how our brains perceive images, words, messages.

And how that affects us when it’s time to set up our marketing, our advertising and our branding.

Neuro-scientists have established pretty conclusively – beyond any doubt – that the human brain / mind / psychology reacts to faces much more positively than to things.

Babies as early as two-weeks old show a marked preferences for faces over things.

Now, before you guys jump in and say, “awww, that’s only true for females rather than males…” No, that’s true for all – both genders – from the beginning.

It is true that males prefer “Things Over People” more than females do.

But across the board, the human brain reacts – even if it’s at a subconscious level – to images of faces much more positively, much more strongly, and much more predictably than the human brain responds to abstract ideas.

So how does that affect us?

I was looking at a potential client today that needs to update their branding. (Now I’m not going to go into what branding is and is not.) Let’s just talk about the kind of thing that they currently have.

Currently, their brand is this very abstract, geometrical, obviously very-high-tech – I don’t know – series of embedded letter “L’s”, it looks like.

Nice colors. I mean, the colors are not terribly interesting. But that’s kinda of tertiary significance.

The primary significant that you want with your imaging is something that is arresting to the eye and utterly unforgettable and completely identifiable and unique.

And they’re nowhere close to that.

Secondarily is what the image actually contains. And tertiary is the colors itself.

These folks have an extremely abstract logo. And what their brand is – is anybody’s guess. So they clearly do need help.

Were I advising them – if they hired me – I was gonna say, “Look, the first thing you’ve gotta do is, you want your image to be something that people instantly relate to. And the human brain instantly relates to faces.”

And in addition to faces – layered on top of the face itself – is a personality.

What we’ve gotta do primarily – number 1 thing – is we’ve got to connect the idea of a personality with a face and character – connect it in the minds of your target audience – with you.

So when they think about YOU – Mr. Company – what they think about is – they think about a person.

And it doesn’t have to be You the CEO or You the Founder, or You even The Spokesperson.

But they’ve got to have an image – a facial image – and a personality that they feel good about, that they can connect with your offering. Whether it’s a service or a product or a company or a club.

People will remember a person with a personality – with a distinctive look and distinctive, relatable personality – long after they’ll remember some sort of abstract image with – you know – well-designed fonts and colors and geometric logo. Those things just don’t have the same kind of cognitive power that faces and personalities have.

When it’s time to create that image for your offering – whether it’s a company, a product a service, whatever it is – rather than going first to the people who design abstract images and they worry about color, think about giving a face and a personality to your offering.

That can be someone who stands for the offering like Colonel Sanders stands for KFC. Like Jack the Clown stands for Jack-in-the-Box restaurants. Like the Geico Gecko stands for Geico Insurance.

But it’s got to be something with a recognizable face. (There’s sound neurological reasons for that.) And a personality that we both relate to and admire.

Remember, if your audience doesn’t feel it, they aren’t gonna love it.

See you tomorrow.

How the Troxler Effect Ruins Your Marketing Efforts

How the Troxler Effect Ruins Your Marketing Efforts

Can too much advertising actually ruin your marketing? Neuroscience has the surprising answer.

Too Much Advertising is Like Staring at a Red Dot

How much do you depend on repetition in your advertising?

For decades, marketing experts have told us that we need to make as many impressions as possible as frequently as we can afford. The idea is simple:

The more someone sees you or hears about you, the more likely they are to remember you.

Simple – and wrong. Dead wrong.

The reality is as harsh as it is counter-intuitive:

The more you are exposed to anything, the less likely you are to notice it.

That’s not opinion. That’s science.

It a phenomena called neural adaptation. And it is your brain’s way of protecting you from information overload.

Here’s what really happens inside your brain.

Your Brain Hides Stuff From You

We humans have five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste & smell. Those five “input channels” dump huge amounts of data into your brain all the time. Way too much for you to comprehend.

not a chair

This is Not a Chair

So your brain helps you.

Your brain checks all that data coming in and filters out the “useless” stuff. This process happens all the time, even though you aren’t aware of it. It is sub-conscious. You only notice the things your brain flags as “useful.”

So what kinds of input does your brain flag “useful”?

  • Anything unexpected gets noticed
  • Anything threatening gets noticed
  • Anything that furthers your goal of survival and reproduction gets noticed

Pretty well everything else gets filtered out. It never makes an impression on your consciousness.

The Troxler Effect in Action

You can demonstrate this to yourself, right here, right now, without moving from your chair.

The Troxler Effect

Troxler Effect

Stare at the red dot in the center of this image. In a few seconds, the dark circle around the dot will slowly fade away.  The only way to see the dark circle is to move your focus to something else.

When you stare at the red dot, your brain perceives that the peripheral information – the darker circle around the dot – is not changing. So it quits paying attention to it.

This optical illusion is called the Troxler Effect

The Troxler Effect demonstrates neural adaptation at work.  When your brain perceives that “nothing is changing”, it simply filters out that information.


(The reason the red dot doesn’t fade has to do with the shape of your eye and some small movements you don’t perceive. You can read the details in a 2004 paper by Hubel, Martinez& Macknik published in the journal Nature.)

Your brain is interested in new data. Not the same data over and over and over again.

The Troxler Effect is just one example of the same principle. When your brain gets the same information too often and too soon, then your brain just filters it out.

Is the Troxler Effect Ruining Your Marketing?

When your prospect is exposed to the same ads over and over again, he or she experiences the Troxler Effect. Her brain evaluate the signal, recognizes “oh, this isn’t new,” and then considers it “not interesting.”

When that happens, her brain filters that particular combination of signals so that it never reaches her consciousness.

To put it bluntly:

Recency & Frequency can actually decrease market “awareness” of your offering.

The science doesn’t lie.

What are the scientifically sound ways to make an impact on your audience? Learn How to Craft an Irresistible Persona.

What are the scientifically sound ways to make an impact on your audience? Learn How to Craft an Irresistible Persona.