Click Here for a Reward!

Posted by on Feb 11, 2017 in Blog Post, Neuromarketing

Congratulations, read below and claim your reward: Knowledge.

When Advertisements Become a Game

If you have regularly used the internet in the past decade, you may have come across some web advertisements that ask you to shoot a target, throw a basketball into a hoop, click a picture multiple times, or interact with the advertisement in some way other than just clicking it.  This form of marketing uses short games to create a temptation for “winning”, whether it be simply completing the game, gaining a high score, or attaining a special reward (like a coupon for winning).  Upon seeing these games, many people feel an urge to play, even if they recognize that it may lead them to a site they don’t want to visit.

Reward Based Marketing

What is it: Reward Based Marketing is a tactic that utilizes dopamine production and exploits feelings of pleasure in order to generate attention or profits.

Where it works best: It tends to work best for attracting attention to your site by tempting potential customers into clicking an ad through the use of games.  For example, you might have a button with the text “click 20 times in 10 seconds to win” above it.

It also works well for generating purchases.  For example, stores have scratch-and-save sales where you essentially have a chance at a 10%, 20%, or 100% discount (or something similar).  While 99% of people may only get the 10% discount, many individuals will purchase more in hopes that they will get the 100% one.

This tactic is also useful in maintaining customers via “rewards-point” programs.  Every time a customer makes a purchase you give them rewards points which can be redeemed for prizes or future discounts.

How you can use it: If you have a product or service that is difficult to advertise, you can use a game-based advertisement in order to attract potential customers.  For example, you might have a banner with a ‘pong’ type game that says “first to 3 points wins.”  Many individuals viewing the banner on a site will feel compelled to play the small mini-game in order to receive the psychological reward from winning.  At this point they get sent to your website with a congratulations message and information on your product.

Another method of utilizing this form of marketing is to have luck-based discount events or contests to generate profits or interest.  For example, you might hold a contest to win a new HD 4k TV, where every $100 spent gives a customer a ballot in the lottery draw.  This would entice individuals to spend more in hopes that they win the TV.  A real-life application of this tactic is McDonalds’ monopoly games.  Once a year when you purchase certain foods you get monopoly properties (small pieces of paper), and if you collect sets of them, you can turn them in for prizes.  This collection-based method is extremely successful at enticing people to purchase more since they experience part of a win (having 2 out of 3 properties) compelling them to attempt to experience the full win (getting the third property which they often don’t realize is rare).

Teenagers are one of the best groups to target with this form of marketing, as they often overvalue their chances at winning a prize.  Further, by offering highly-desired but difficult to obtain prizes (like VIP concert tickets), teenagers may feel that the contest is the only way to attain the desired item.  This train of thought is normalized to the point where it appears in popular culture.  Consider Roald Dahl’s famous book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which Veruca Salt’s father purchased as many chocolate bars as possible in order to find a golden ticket. Also, consider that in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every golden ticket became a major media event.  Similarly, this form of marketing can be used in conjunction with social media to build brand recognition, which in turn can elicit media coverage from key sites catering to those interested in the rewards.

A third way to use this marketing technique is to offer reward points with every purchase, and randomly give customers bonus points.  These points will psychologically pressure customers to continue to purchase your products since they feel like if they don’t, their accumulated points will go to waste.  Further, the bonus points generate a feeling of pleasure which customers will want to experience again (see the neuroscience section).

The result: If you manage to successfully utilize reward based marketing you will be able to attract new customers, generate more profits, and retain your customers while creating customer loyalty.

The Neuroscience:

The reason this marketing tactic works is due to a history of evolutionary stresses.  Reward systems allow for a species to ensure that they commit to necessary functions such as eating, drinking, reproduction, competition, etc.   Thus, humans in general want to receive rewards and avoid punishments.  Winning as opposed to losing is a type of reward that often comes with benefits.  The psychological benefit is largely due to the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) which then activates receptors and signals neuronal activation, leading to a feeling of pleasure.  Additionally, an individual may receive a material benefit, which is often the acquisition of something of value (e.g. reward money) and also contributes to the psychological benefit. Further, an individual may attain social benefits, such as the acquisition of status or “bragging rights,” which are involved in mate attraction and self-esteem.

This reward system is far from simple however.  Wolfram Schultz [See Wolfram Schultz], a neuroscientist at Cambridge University has done various studies in this field and has shown that we learn to predict awards.  He used an experiment with monkeys to demonstrate this, by shining a light at them, waiting a few seconds, and then squirting a few drops of apple juice into their mouth (monkeys apparently love apple juice).  At first, dopamine neurons did not become excited until the reward (apple juice) was given, but overtime as the monkeys learned that the light precedes the award, the neurons began to become excited at the shining of the light rather than the reception of the reward.  Conversely, if a light was shined and no reward received, the monkeys’ dopamine neurons would stop firing and their expectation of receiving a reward when a light is shined would decrease (and with it the chance of neurons firing prior to the reward).  However, when monkeys were given a reward randomly and did not expect it, their dopamine neurons fired three to four times more than an expected reward.  Casinos use this knowledge to create gambling games that entice individuals to continue betting.  You can use this knowledge to attract new customers, increase customer purchases, and retain your customers (as explained in this blog post).

This is a very simplistic explanation and only just touches the surface of reward based marketing.  A Light in the Rain Ltd. can use this technique to help you grow your brand, ensure people remember your business, convince people that they will be happiest purchasing from you, and increase your success in many other ways.

 Sources Cited / Further Research:

Wolfram Schultz – (most articles are not free)

Also see: A Neural Substrate of Prediction and Reward – Wolfram Schultz, Peter Dayan, P. Read Montague –

Copyright A Light in the Rain Ltd. 2017