Some products have become such an integral part of our daily habits that we can’t imagine how incorrigible life had been before they existed – for example, mobile phones, cars, clothes, shoes, toothpaste, and deodorant, to name a few. Most of these habits have formed due to herding behaviour – we assume something is good based on other people’s behaviour and we follow suit. Staple products like bread and milk go one step further – consumers are in the habit of buying these products so regularly that the buying process itself becomes almost automatic. This is the marketer's dream scenario.
Habits are formed when a routine of behaviours are learned through reinforcement with reward. The dorsolateral striatum (contained in the basal ganglia) is involved in committing habits to memory and is anatomically linked with the reward centre – the ventral striatum. With enough reward reinforcement, habits become ingrained and we perform the behaviours automatically, on cue. Even if you can’t convince consumers that your product is indispensible, marketers can tap into the habit-forming part of the brain by creating a ritual or routine around the use of their product. This will ensure a habit is linked to your product, and will enourage repeated use.
And as the old idiom goes – Old habits die hard.
Neuroterms: habits, procedural learning, basal ganglia, herd behaviour