About buying motives, I often say to marketers: “Emotions strongly, if not exclusively, drive people’s behavior – they tell us what to do, including what to buy.”
In response, I often hear something like this: “Oh, no! People are very rational when they buy our product. Emotions really don’t apply.”
This response represents the most important challenge I face when marketing experiEmotive® analytics. That’s why I am addressing it as my first blog topic.
Although I admit that this brand emotion cartoon is very funny, the woman who thinks that tile grout is not emotional has it all wrong.
The fact is that ALL products are emotional – even tile grout!. By this I mean that when people consider buying a product or not, their emotions ARE involved. And because emotions ARE involved, they should be studied.
What do I mean when I say that emotions are INVOLVED in consumer buying? At the very least, I mean that the physiological (or biological, or neurological, or insert any other “body process” synonym) processes of emotion are “consulted” for their input. When someone considers purchasing a product, thinking about this triggers neurochemical activity in the “thinking” areas of the brain (involving various areas of the cortex), which automatically triggers activity in the “feeling” areas of the brain (involving a wide variety of areas also within the cortex, but mostly deeper within the brain often collectively referred to as the limbic system). (Sometimes when we encounter a product, thinking is even bypassed and the feeling system kicks in without much, if any, thinking!)
But this involvement is somewhat understated. I tend to believe (along with many neuroscientists and psychologists who are much smarter about this than me) that emotions are not only INVOLVED in our decision-making, they are virtually REQUIRED. Emotions represent the mechanism by which VALUE is given to our ‘reasoned’ behavioral options. They are the force, the energy, the spark that is necessary for our thoughts to become our consumer decisions and behavior.
Two of my favorite quotes that support this come from Nico Frijda (and colleagues) and from John O’Shaughnessy and Nicholas Jackson O’Shaughnessy.
Frijda is a psychologist well-known for his study of emotion. In the article ‘The Influence of Emotions on Beliefs’ (Frijda, Manstead, and Bem in Emotions and Beliefs: How Feelings Influence Thoughts, 2000) they say, “Although beliefs may guide our actions, they are not sufficient to initiate action. …Emotions are prime candidates for turning a thinking being into an actor.”
O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy wrote The Marketing Power of Emotion (2003), a compelling book about emotional marketing. In this book they say, “Emotion is not an aberrant element when making buying decisions, but a necessary condition if decisions are not to be continually postponed.” A NECESSARY condition – quite compelling, don’t you think?
Even more compelling support comes from neuroscientists who study the physiological processes of decision-making. One of the foremost neuroscientists on this subject is Antonio Damasio. In his book, The Feeling of What Happens (1999), Damasio says, “These findings suggest that selective reduction of emotion is at least as prejudicial for rationality as excessive emotion. It certainly does not seem true that reason stands to gain from operating without the leverage of emotion. …Emotion and the biological machinery underlying it are the obligate accompaniment of behavior, conscious or not.”
More recent and stronger support for emotions’ “neurological rule” comes from Jonah Lehrer in How We Decide (2009). After extensive study of the most recent neuroscience research, Lehrer boldly states, “There’s only one problem with this assumption of human rationality: it’s wrong. …Whenever someone makes a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when a person tries to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence judgment.”
So this is a start. If you think that emotion is not involved with your product, add the neuroscientific evidence to your thinking. Chances are you’ll come away with a different feeling. Your product IS emotional!
[Future blogs will discuss more about how emotion impacts consumer buying decisions and behavior as well as ways marketers can effectively assess emotions' impact.]