Just for a moment, think about the last big purchase you made.
Was it a car? A house? That boat you'd been dreaming about? Or possibly something as simple as a purse?
At first glance, it may seem that our purchasing decisions have much more to do with the careful analysis of needs than anything else - after all, everyone needs transportation or a home, right?
But when you take the time to evaluate it further, another story emerges. Maybe you elected to purchase a Volvo over a Ford because of their reputation for safety. You selected a Hermes over a Coach handbag because of the assumed status factor of carrying one.
So when consumers are faced with endless choices through social media engagements and recommendations, how do they make their decisions?
What could influence someone to select one brand of a vehicle over another - even though both have the same basic function of getting us where we want to go?
The simple answer is emotion.
Feelings - The Why Behind What We Buy
This idea of emotions ruling consumer behavior is certainly not new - in fact, it was a major hypothesis of author Martin Lindstrom in his 2008 bestseller, 'Buyology: Truth And Lies About Why We Buy'.
Lindstrom based his analysis on research in the field of 'Neuromarketing,' which he performed on 2,000 global volunteers over the course of three years. During his study, participants were exposed to a wide variety of advertising and branding materials with the hopes of targeting what stimuli actually connected with the respondents.
What he found was that the products and ads which most appeal to consumers are the ones that utilize a sensory aspect.
For example, think the bright primary colors of a McDonald's or the distinctive smell of PlayDoh.
The Power Of Community
Lindstrom also recognized that this powerful marketing approach is strengthened when brands combined the sensory element with rituals that create a sense of community. This is because brand rituals generate a self-reinforcing cycle of brand loyalty thanks to three powerful forces: routine, a sense of belonging, and trust.
Perhaps the most notable component of this practice is the idea that our sense of community is heightened by the act of sharing products and purchases with others. That's why it's common to see advertisements with parents teaching their children the proper way to eat their Cheerios, for example, or social media campaigns encouraging fans to share images of themselves, tag friends they want to share prizes with, or upload a video of how they use something.
Our sense of community is heightened by the act of sharing products and purchases with others
It's all about appealing to our inner need to belong and to be part of a group. So if you love to dunk your Oreos in milk or add a slice of lime to your Corona - then consider yourself a part of a tribe made up of millions around the world who do that as well.
Appealing To Impulses
So, now that we understand how brands can manipulate our emotions in building brand loyalty, how else can marketers have an effect on our consumer behavior?
Sometimes it's as simple as putting a product in the right spot in store, or a well targeted sponsored post to entice us at the right time.
We've all made at least one impulse buy, right? That time you ran to your local Target to grab some eggs, only to pick up several other items on the way to the checkout. A new scarf. The CD that everyone's talking about. Maybe even a deeply discounted Apple Watch.
So why does this happen over and over again? Is it poor compulsion control, or is it due to how shopping makes us feel?
According to a recent Psychology Today study, the answer is actually a bit of both - some individuals do have a documented personality trait that makes them predisposed to buying things on impulse, but more often than not, it's because impulse buys are driven by a desire to experience happiness, and the purchase is seen as a way to elevate their mood.
Simply put, those who tend to impulse buy, experience more anxiety and difficulty maintaining their feelings, which could make the act of controlling the urge to spend difficult. Therefore, giving in to the idea of buying a simple item to "make them feel better" - even for a moment - is often the driving force behind their decisions.
Marketers count on this, and strategically place products throughout stores, while providing supporting branding and online promotion that showcases the item as an "affordable luxury" to be enjoyed. This, in turn, helps the consumer rationalize the purchase.
Recognizing The Tipping Point
You may be familiar with what's commonly known as the 'Tipping Point', made popular in recent years by New York Times writer Malcolm Gladwell. This is the crucial moment where an idea, social norm or trend becomes universally accepted and, therefore, spreads like wildfire through social media, mass media and the community at large.
In terms of brand marketing, shaping this event has everything to do with creating a need, while identifying emotional appeal to tap into our desire to be a part of a group. For this to occur, Gladwell identifies three kinds of individuals that must come together at the right moment:
- Connectors - People who are actively involved in many different segments of society and have the innate ability to bring people together
- Mavens - People driven to help others make informed decisions based on their area of knowledge and expertise
- Salespeople - Charismatic people who have the ability to move others towards an intended goal
Brands looking to create their own tipping point need to work closely with these personality types. Once identified, brands can work with these distinct personalities by appealing to their underlying sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with influencing others.
This post was first published on Bryan Kramer's blog.