This article is by Ron Friedman, Ph.D., a motivational psychologist and the founder of the Friedman Strategy Group, a market research consultancy. Follow him @ronfriedman.
If you’ve watched your share of romantic comedies—and I’m not ashamed to say that I have—you know that there’s a certain formula involved.
Step #1: The protagonists get off to a bad start.
Step #2: The two proceed to date other, usually better looking alternatives, only to have these relationships blow up in their faces.
Step #3: Between misadventures, the protagonists confide in a wise, outspoken and occasionally flamboyant best friend.
Oh, and there’s one more thing. In a romantic comedy it’s clear to everyone except the couple themselves that they’re destined to be together. This obvious piece of information rarely dawns on them before the movie is three-quarters of the way through. And even then, they’re not quite sure how it happened. To them, love is a mystery.
Fortunately, the rest of us don’t have to remain quite so clueless.
Over the past few decades, social scientists have made extraordinary advances in understanding the dynamics of human relationships. We’ve become a lot smarter at predicting whether people will hit it off, at identifying couples with the best chances of staying together, and at spotting marriages headed for divorce. To the experts in the field, love is rarely an accident.
So what’s that got to do with marketing? In a word: everything.
It’s because the same neural circuits that light up when we connect with another person also fire when we find ourselves thinking about a favorite brand. The psychological experience of love is grounded in a common physiological language.
Yet surprisingly, few of the insights psychologists have uncovered about the science of love have made their way to the field of marketing.
Here are some of the highlights of what we’ve learned.
1. We Love What Makes Us Grow
As humans, we have a psychological need to enhance our skills and improve our competence. When we click with someone new, we increase our interpersonal resources, gain new perspectives and enhance our identity.
In short, we grow.
The self-expansion we experience in a new relationship is often exhilarating and intense, especially at the beginning, when every interaction has the potential for revealing something new about your partner’s talents, their history and their dreams.