emotional purchasing

Buying on Emotion

We all like to think we are rational and responsible beings. Even your underachieving uncle has said, “you have a great head on your shoulders” since you were twelve. However, in reality emotion plays a huge role in our decision-making processes. From fear, to joy, to guilt, to adventure, advertisers have come to realize the importance of various emotions in nudging consumers a certain way to make buying decisions. In fact, according to The Nielson Company, up to 90% of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously.
The search for capturing these emotional impulse buys has become a vital component to the ecommerce industry. Emotions are usually automatic and can be difficult to control. Think about that lump in your throat and how you “just get something in your eye” every time you hear a Sarah McLachlan song during an SPCA commercial.

According to Washington University’s Eric Chudler, the human brain is incredibly complex with nearly 100 billion nerve cells. However, there are some basic concepts that dictate emotional responses and how people see themselves. For example, the concept of taking good care of yourself can be targeted by using emotions of guilt. Every time a Weight Watchers advertisement appears, I begin to reassess the buffalo chicken sandwich smothered in ranch dressing I’m eating and think maybe I should start to work out more. Weight Watchers, of course, hopes to capture my business in that guilt-induced moment of shame.

Another example may derive from how people view themselves compared to others. It isn’t much of a mystery that people like to “keep up with the Joneses,” and that jealousy or FOMO can be the underlying driver of purchasing decisions.

The Marketer’s Perspective

emotional purchases

From a marketer’s perspective, when looking to appeal to emotion, some factors must be taken into consideration. It’s important to be aware of a consumer’s culture, his/her self-identity, and his/her emotional state when looking to make sales based on emotion.

We’ve talked in previous Brand Labs blog posts about the importance of the overall user experience. Intentionally creating these experiences can be invaluable when appealing to emotional buyers. Take the Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercial as an example. The SPCA is trying to target a segment that tends to make impulsive purchasing decisions. The melancholy music and devastating images contribute to a very powerful moment for the audience which evokes emotions of sadness and empathy to push viewers to make an impulse donation for a charitable cause.

How about Apple stores? The moment you walk in you are greeted in a friendly way and surrounded by sleek and trendy architecture as you play with the new Macbook Pro. You can even make your way to a Genius Bar to get a product fixed. Creating a fun and welcoming experience has allowed Apple to become a hip and generally well-respected company. They have built up an entire brand that has a certain amount of prestige.

Building a Brand

apple emotion
Apple is a great example of a brand evoking emotion — not just through an individual product. Building a brand identity can be a strong way to connect with consumers based on emotion. What emotions come to mind when Apple, Coach, Nike, Patagonia, Lululemon and Coca-Cola are mentioned? I’m exhausted just thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail in my Patagonia quarter zip. It’s important to look at what sort of emotions your brand as a whole is targeting and not just those of your individual products.

The Future

The next step for marketers and advertisers may be to find a way to connect with consumers emotionally while providing a transformative experience. Benefiting consumers by providing education or evoking positive emotions through advertisement interactions can increase viewership and positive associations with a brand.

Emotion-driven decision making isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Connecting with others on an emotional level is one of the greatest attributes of humanity, and companies are constantly being encouraged to make deeper connections with consumers. Thankfully, technology is making this a simpler task for sellers. Tackling such a complex subject can seem daunting at first, but understanding your consumers on a deeper level can only lead to success.