20 February 2023

Dopamine Hit: Unboxing The Brain

Brain reactions

Packaging is more than a shipping container or a specifically designed product holder. It is an entire brain reactor that has huge effects on a consumer’s decision and the way that they feel about your brand when they are shopping for a product. So how do you hack this and increase your conversions? Understand how and why dopamine affects your consumers and what your packaging is doing in that relationship – and how it can do it better.


Dopamine is a neuromodulatory module made from the amino acid Tyrosine. Dopamine is the ‘reward center’ of our brains and the core of reinforcement that creates our behavior patterns. If we get a hit of dopamine after buying one cookie – we’ll probably go back and get another one because it felt good and actually the idea of another feels even better than the one we just had when we ate it. Then maybe the next day we’ll buy two straight up instead of one, because we remember how the cookie made us feel; and so on and so forth. That is a result of dopamine. Craving dopamine hits is natural, but creating a life around which you consistently get dopamine hits and seek dopamine hits, creates addictions. 


Shopping has been described as an addiction – but that is due to the dopamine hits which consumers get every time they interact with the products they want to get. Window shopping, online scrolling, product shows etc. A dopamine high usually comes just before the reward when the point of anticipation is highest. While you don’t want to have your consumers clinically addicted, you want to create this desire to buy more; to plan to buy more, to crave more content from your brand. That is what creates a loyal customer base. 


Dopamine can also be released from visual stimulation, certain colors, logos, images etc. The basis of advertising and marketing is to create a dopamine hit that brings the customer to the brand to buy the product, because visualizing the product in their life has created a state of anticipation where the dopamine hit is building and will stay until after they have completed that final sales conversion. How do you make your consumer’s dopamine levels peak enough to buy your product – just from the packaging; before they actually get to the product itself?


The feel-good effect which releases dopamine can be found within every element you already have within your packaging that will lead to the final conversion. Let’s start with the following:

  • Palette
  • Typography
  • Material
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Scent



The colors within your packaging palette are key to getting conversions. That is the basis of branding psychology. But the colors which you choose are key to getting that first impression and building towards that dopamine hit. Which colors are associated with your niche? Then how can you make it so that you use the palette which is expected while making it unique to you, to make it appealing to your consumers?



Font and the way in which you style that font is another visual that is key to creating a dopamine hit which gets you that final conversion. Again, the font which you choose should be reflective of the sector which you are in while being unique to your brand. 



The material of your packaging is critical to the success of the final conversion. What it is made of will either create or lose sales depending on your target audience. Different materials create different reactions and therefore different dopamine effects within your customers. Decide which materials reflect your brand’s ethics best and then work on relating to the target audience who will align with this. They will automatically be shopping with brands that use similar materials that will positively reinforce the legitimacy of your brand and help with creating not only 



Having the right shape is necessary to your packaging and creating that final conversion. Again it comes back to the sector which you are situated in and maintaining the image that allows you to be identified while being unique enough to stand out. 



Texture is a huge part of the dopamine effect. Whether something feels luxurious or a bargain, whether it feels like it came from an artisan studio or a huge factory. The texture also helps to create a rise in anticipation which increases the dopamine effect.



We’ve talked about scent before in this article Scented: What Scent Can You Do For Your Brand. But scent can completely revolutionize your packaging and the effectiveness of that final conversion. Whatever you choose for your brand’s scent logo, it should link to dopamine hits in the brain. 


When your consumer connects to your packaging and they start the journey of that dopamine hit which will result in a conversion to your brand – their brain will do a set of very specific things. But this is only dependent on what your packaging does to help to create this effect and how your marketing, advertising and branding reinforces the need this consumer believes they have for your product.


Dopamine is in essence a chemical that allows signals to pass between your synapses – transmitting neurons to specific centers within your brain that tell you different things. Dopamine is in control of the pleasure centers in your brain and can usually be found in the centre. It has been found that humans have around three times more dopamine than other primates, it is thought that this is because the aggression and competitiveness it helps to generate benefited our evolution as a species and therefore genetics with more dopamine were passed down with increased success where individuals with lower levels of dopamine either did not have the drive or the desire to compete and be aggressive.


Social media is a great asset to brands aiming to create that dopamine effect. The best way to build anticipation is by making the product irresistible but not immediately attainable. This heightens the desire for the product and raises levels of dopamine in the brain as the individual begins to get ready to either go out and buy the product or receive it. When the brain knows it is going to get a reward (i.e your product) the anticipation is enough to release dopamine which begins this cycle of motivation, reward and then getting the product which is reinforcement. If the reward matches the anticipation then the consumer is more likely to repeat that same action again, especially if they remember the anticipation being a positive state.


The success of packaging is down to design psychology. How easy it is to open, what it looks like, what it feels like, how it smells…all of these are essential elements to know and plan for. To do that successfully is to unlock and understand the dopamine map of your potential customers and tap into that; creating content and products that they literally can’t get enough of.


Do you want help with your packaging to create those all-important conversions? Get in touch with the BPAK team today to start unlocking your brand’s packaging potential.