How the Subconscious and Emotions Drive Consumer Spending

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When you go to the supermarket shelf, do you always make an informed and perfectly rational consumer choice? Probably not. According to Gerald Zaltman, professor at Harvard95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

Zaltman, who has studied consumer behavior for decades, says the average consumer doesn’t compare multiple competing brands and prices when evaluating a purchase decision. Moreover, what consumers say they want to buy often contradicts their actual behavior.

Indeed, consumer spending is largely shaped by unconscious and emotional needs. In fact, the vast majority of our decision-making is emotional. This is supported by the fact that people who have suffered brain damage in areas responsible for processing emotions often have serious difficulty making decisions.

Antonio Damasio, who for many years has studied people with damage to the part of the brain where emotions are generated, says these patients are normal in all respects except that they were unable to feel emotions. Patients could describe what they needed to do in logical terms, they had trouble making even the simplest decisions, like what to eat.

Should I eat chicken or turkey for dinner? Without an emotional filter, you have to make an imaginary list of pros and cons in your brain to make a purely rational decision. But the problem is that this comparison is difficult to make on purely objective grounds, so people are stuck. The implication is that our decisions are probably always driven by emotions. Let’s face it: human beings are not as logical as one might imagine.

A professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, Damasio strongly believes that neurobiological research has a distinct philosophical purpose: “The voice of the scientist need not be the mere recording of life as it is.” , he wrote in a book on Descartes. “If only we will, a deeper knowledge of the brain and the mind will help to achieve…happiness.”

Successful marketers inherently understand that emotions drive consumer behavior and have tailored their communication accordingly. Zaltman says businesses would be wise to invest in emotion-based campaigns that sell. He gives an example of a “communication device” that invokes deep thoughts and feelings of social connection. For example, the way a product is gripped in the hand and the choice of device case material finish could have a much deeper impact on consumer behavior than more abstract product value propositions such as technical superiority or lasting advantages.

Luxury goods brands should target the consumer’s feelings of self-esteem, acceptance and status, while sports brands could inspire by promising adventure and glory through the act of competition.

Research and development that combines neuroscience and product design would do well to stand out and profit, adds Zaltman. You have to know the customer in order to launch a successful marketing campaign – and that means knowing what kind of emotional experience you want to deliver to guide the customer to purchase.

“Technology is indeed revolutionizing our ability to understand customers. Knowledge about the functioning of the cognitive unconscious, including memory, attention, information processing, the nature of human universals and socially shared cognitions, as well as the neurobiology of figurative thought, for example, have already outdated most current manager thinking and practice. Many of these advances are the product of advances in research techniques. Yet the use of scientific advances requires the imaginative translation of scientific discoveries into effective market practices. It is art that goes hand in hand with science. The imaginative thinking of managers and market researchers is needed to successfully apply knowledge of metaphor elicitation and neuroimaging techniques, for example, to generate useful new products, more informative communications and in-store experiences. more rewarding,” he said in an interview. with harvard business review.


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