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8 triggers that make us buy

what make us buy

Deal of today is “Buy two cocktails, get one free!” Will you go for it?

Intrigued from the start of the article? That’s how we decided to present to you a new topic about the Octalysis system, developed by American gamification expert Yu-Kai Chou.

Yu-Kai Chou is a well-known expert. His job is to help giant corporations encourage their clients to buy and their staff to work better.

Yu-Kai Chou developed his own models to make the interaction between users and products interesting.

Octalysis is a gamification design framework that combines elements of game design with principles of behavioral psychology to create engaging and rewarding experiences for users.

The name Octalysis comes from a combination of the words octagon and analysis. The octagon represents the eight core drivers of human motivation that Chou identified through his extensive research and experience in the field of gamification.

This system is based on 8 basic triggers that encourage us to action.

This is a visualization of this model:  

  1. Epic meaning or calling are associated with purposefulness. This includes creating a convincing narrative or mission that gives users a sense of intention and significance.
  2. Development and accomplishment is associated with progress and involves providing users with a sense of forward motion, clear objectives and feedback.
  3. Empowerment of creativity is associated with inventiveness and gives users the tools and resources  to demonstrate themselves and be creative.
  4. Ownership is associated with possession. It gives users an awareness of possession over their advancement and recognition..
  5. Social influence is associated with relatedness and creates a sense of community and social connection among users.
  6. Scarcity is associated with impatience, feeling of urgency and scarceness around rewards and achievements.
  7. Unpredictability is associated with curiosity  and uncertainty, introducing factors of unexpected events, mental confusion, and unpredictability to keep users curious.
  8. Loss is associated with avoidance. It involves creating consequences for inaction or failure, such as losing progress or offer.

These eight core drives are distributed into four concepts:

  1. white hat core drives – empowerment, social influence, and creativity,  positive emotions;
  2. black hat core drives – scarcity, avoidance, and uncertainty, negative emotions;
  3. left brain core drives are responsible for  logic and analysis;
  4. right brain core drives are responsible for emotion and intuition.

Drives at the top are associated with positive emotions, while drives at the bottom are associated with negative emotions. The ones in the middle can be either, depending on our attitude towards them.

Each drive is related to some basic human needs. Epic meaning, for example, is about the desire to do something for something greater. For example, a wish to buy a postcard, the profits of which will be donated to a charity foundation.

According to Yu-Kai Chou the drives can be positive or negative. But that doesn’t mean some of them are bad and some are good. Just trusting that our purchase will save homeless cats makes us feel great!

But it can also happen the other way around – we get nervous when the sale ends, but we don’t have the time or opportunity to buy a smartphone at a discount!

So, it turns out that one part of the drives is linked with dopamine – the hormone of happiness. Other part is linked to  the stress hormone – cortisol. And the third one can provoke both, depending on our mind-set.

And finally we take actions either to feel better or not to feel bad.

Let’s have a look at how drives work at a simple example:

“To grow your conversion by 10 times, you just need to… “


A plane clickbait trick is an unfinished sentence. It seems that we have all seen such “hooks” a thousand times, but it still somehow feels weird because we strive to know the end of the phrase!

This is due to the drive of Unpredictability  as well as cortisol, of course.

Or another example that is a  bit more complicated – Can you guess which of the drives is behind the cumulative discount system?

Like – if you buy for 500 USD – you get 5% discount, for 1000 USD – 10%…

The answer is:

Development  drive. We get the feeling like we “deserve” a discount – the more we spend, the cooler we are! But if there was  a fee-based loyalty program, then another drive would work – Ownership. We would enjoy the fact that we can possess what others cannot. Or, on the contrary, we would feel uncomfortable because we do not have an exclusive card, which means that we are not so unique. And when we receive the note that loyalty points are about to burn out, the fear of loss works.

There’s no need to use all eight drives in one Marketing campaign. Moreover, the attempt to implement all of them at once, most likely, will scare away customers instead of attracting them.

It’s important to remember that we all have basic instincts: we want more dopamine and we want to lower our cortisol levels. And this knowledge must be used!

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