Tailor your messaging to deliver dopamine and cortisol

Business benefits

Motivate your audience to take an action and improve your conversion rate.

Identify human motivators that are relevant to your product or your overall marketing strategy.

Motivators are:

  • Physiological homeostasis
  • Safety and security
  • Relationships and community
  • Status and self-esteem
  • Sex
  • Love
  • Parenting


Brainstorm rewards that you can offer your audience, related to an motivator. These could be product features or lead magnets.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivation. It activates curiosity and interest in something, and encourages movement toward that thing. However, it also helps us learn whether something is worth the effort – good reward – or not – disappointment. Once we learn, we’ll either receive another hit of dopamine for similar incentives where we expect a good reward, or no dopamine hit for similar incentives where we expect disappointment.

Identify things your audience has that they’re worried about losing – and could conceivably if they don’t move forward through your sales funnel or buy your product.

Cortisol is a hormone that occurs in stress reactions. When we’re in a dangerous situation, we lock in and focus on it. The stress response at a lower level works similarly – we pay more attention; we’re more engaged. That’s the level to aim at – not too stressed, but worried enough to be better focused.

Offer people something they want to encourage them to take an action to get it.

Make it interesting enough to get them curious, engaged, and energized. Where possible, underpromise and overdeliver. Give people a better reward than they expected. This introduces the element of delight.

Dopamine inducing promise

Show people a threat and an action that they can take to avoid it.

Use this tactic where the threat your audience faces is longer-term, and their wellbeing depends on avoiding the threat.


Don’t fear-monger – this can create learned helplessness or cynicism.

Write a value proposition that makes your biggest reward clear.