Timing is Everything: How to Reach Users “In the Moment”

At Kiip, we talk a lot about the “achievement moment”.

The Science of Achievement Moments

Image source: Flickr, user: Steven Pisano

Achievement moments occur when people accomplish something notable. Examples include when someone wins a level of a mobile game, logs a finished workout in a fitness app or crosses that final item off a to-do list in a productivity app.

These are the moments when you feel excitement. You’re proud of your achievement. In a study by IPG Media Lab, scientists found that users are actually 40 percent more excited during achievement moments than they are during normal gameplay.

Stat 1

If you’re like us, you’ve wondered what exactly happens in the human brain to make these moments so notable. Hubspot’s Neil Patel wondered the same thing recently and wrote a fantastic post about the psychology of excitement. This is a highly recommended read.

The article explains that physical reactions stem from mental excitement. Think butterflies in your stomach or sweaty palms – these are your body’s way of letting you know it feels an emotion. These reactions also demonstrate that your body usually feels more than one emotion at once.

But before we go further, let’s break down exactly what occurs inside the human brain to ignite that excitement.

Your Brain Chemistry During Achievement Moments

Let’s start with the definition of excitement. Psychologist Robert Plutchik classified excitement as the combination of happiness and anticipation. To bring that into real-life situations, let’s dive into the brain of a gamer.

According to a study released last year:

“Playing video games, in turn, activates different regions of the brain related to pleasure, such as the left ventral striatal circuit which is an area involved in reward anticipation … It has been further discovered that dopamine, a chemical that the brain produces, is released when we play video games. This release has been seen in abundance in the above-mentioned circuit – specifically in the nucleus accumbens, a brain structure known to play a role in feelings of pleasure.”

Dopamine released in the brian during achievement moments

To be specific, the dopamine in your brain actually doubles, meaning you are significantly more excited during a win. The same reaction happens across a whole slew of achievement moments, indicating that this response isn’t limited to games. For instance, during fitness moments, athletes are flooded with endorphins. Flash back to your last accomplishment, whether it was spring cleaning your home or acing a presentation at work. People become more excited whenever they’ve accomplished something, online or off.

Therefore it makes sense: if you’re going to introduce consumers to your brand, time content to appear when consumers are most excited. This is the basis for Kiip’s reward platform.

Using Excitement to Boost Sales

Unfortunately, excitement is fleeting – the IPG study found it to be a temporary state that lasts only seconds. But branded content that annoys users will squash this excitement immediately. In other words, some ads crash the party. Don’t let your content be the reason the party stops. Instead produce a successful performance campaign that lets the good times roll on.

This is what generic ads do.

Now, we mentioned above that emotions cause physical reactions. One of these reactions includes decision making. As a part of this strategy, there are a few ways to leverage the excitement from a win onto your brand. We’ve covered this in more detail before, but here’s a quick crash course in behavioral economics. To start, let’s consider the word “free.”

“Free” sparks irresistible interest in the human brain – it causes people to alter their preferences to take a deal they might otherwise disregard. In the book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely runs an experiment in which students choose between taking free Hersheys Kisses and buying Lindt truffles at a very minor price point. Even though the students proved they preferred the truffles in a previous experiment, they still opted for the free Kisses. In real life, these behaviors are similar. When someone hears the word “free”, they’re more likely to impulse shop.

Brands can take advantage of this by offering something free during an achievement moment. For example, when an athlete logs a completed workout in the popular RunKeeper app, Propel could offer a “free” sample of their fitness water. Or, if Propel wanted to increase spending for consumers already familiar with their products, they could offer an extra “free” fitness water when users buy a full package.

RunKeeper and Propel reward

“Free” isn’t the only word that elicits excitement. In general, people are more likely to buy an item, install an app or subscribe to a service if a marketing campaign appeals to their emotions. This is heightened if you’re roughly half of the world whose Myers-Briggs score contains an “f.” That letter, “f” for feelings versus “t” for thinking, implies how you base your decisions – does this feel right? Emotional campaigns enable consumers to form positive opinions about brands, make them more likely to share brand messages across social media and, finally, take a variety of actions, including shopping.

So to create attention-grabbing content, brands must appeal to positive emotion. On mobile, this is surprisingly easy to do by satisfying consumers’ real-world needs. After all, a smartphone is the most personal device a person owns. You peruse dating apps to meet your partner, trust health apps to keep you in tip-top shape, shop on e-commerce apps for your everyday goods. Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. So much so that 91 percent of recently polled adults viewed their phones to be as critical as their cars and deodorant. We take them everywhere.

Smartphones are an integral part of our lives

Image source: Death to the Stock Photo

So when brands advertise on mobile, don’t show a one-size-fits-all ad. Instead, cater to the moment and the context. When a consumer finds a new speciality on a recipe app, offer them a discount on ingredients. When a maven discovers a new look on a beauty app, deliver makeup samples to help them re-create it offline. Find out what your consumers want and entice them in the moment with targeted rewards.

If you do this, users won’t click out. You’ll create lasting excitement, and more importantly, lasting engagement.

Conclusion

Why annoy users with ads when they’re busy interacting with app content? That’s bad business. Instead, brands should wait for natural breaks in app usage – like achievement moments – and serendipitously connect with users, delivering rewards that reflect the moment.

If you’re looking to launch a campaign, evaluate how the science behind achievement moments can help. After all, timing is everything when it comes to building relationships, even those with consumers. This data-backed strategy will guide you along the path to success.


Kiip redefines how brands connect with consumers through moment-based rewards. Rewards increase engagement and purchase intent, and 84 percent of mobile users say they prefer rewards over ads.

Hundreds of brands already use Kiip. To learn more, visit kiip.me/brands.

More from Kiip