Most people believe that the purchasing choices they make result from a rational analysis of available alternatives. In reality, however, emotions greatly influence and in many cases, even determine our buying decisions.
fMRI brain scans show that when evaluating brands, shoppers primarily use emotions (personal feelings) rather than information (brand features and facts).
Advertising research reveals that the emotional response to an advert has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported propensity to purchase than does the ad’s content; by a factor of 3:1 for TV and 2:1 for print.
Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand also have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than other judgements that are based on a brand’s more rational attributes.
In reality, emotions are the primary reason why many of us opt for brand name products. After all, many of the things we buy are available as own label brands and consist of the same ingredients and at lower prices. So why then, do we decide to pay more for brand name products? The answer lies in the emotional connection brands make with us.
A brand is often nothing more than a commodity given an emotional mental representation in the mind of the consumer. When the mental perception consists only of the product’s features and other factual information, there are no emotional links to influence how a shopper emotionally feels. The richer the emotional content of a brand or product’s mental representation, the more likely the shopper will buy and the consumer will become a loyal user.
We all know that emotion can be communicated effectively in advertising, and that this attraction is emotional way more than it is rational. So it follows that brand personality can also be communicated by packaging, visual imagery, and POS displays in-store at the point where shoppers decide whether to buy or not.
As shoppers and consumers, perhaps the most important characteristic of emotions is that they push us toward action. In response to an emotion, humans are compelled to do something. In a physical confrontation, fear forces us to choose between fight or flight to insure our self-preservation. In our daily social interactions, insecurity may cause us to buy the latest smartphone to support our positive self-image.
Over time, retailers and brand marketers have developed theories about why shoppers buy. Unfortunately, most of these are flawed because they view the shopper through the lens of the product. Too often, the marketers start with the features and benefits of a product and conduct research to find matching consumer needs and motivations.
Brands and retailers could dramatically improve shopper and consumer engagement and ultimately drive stronger sales by better understanding the emotional alignment of brands and products with shoppers and consumers. When shopper marketers start to tap into emotional perceptions of brands, I predict there will be a revolution with regard to the performance of different brands, for better and for worse. But in the meantime, all too many retailers and brands completely ignore shopper and consumer emotions. Take a look at all the store chains with clear floor policies: Classic examples of rational thinking killing off emotional engagement.
Let’s stop being so myopic and operationally focussed and start to recognise that shoppers and consumers operate emotionally: Even the accountants!
I have studied shopper emotions for more than 20 years now and have used them to help numerous retailers and brands dramatically increase brand share and consumer loyalty. Want to know more? Let’s talk!