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Marketers: embrace the emotions




About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.


So many business people and, indeed, so many marketers I talk to, develop strategy without understanding the basics.

Many do not understand the basics of strategy and many more do not understand the basics relating to the people they are trying to influence. Herein lies an opportunity.

When consumers say they need something, more often than not they do not need it at all. They just want it. The woman who needs a new dress before a ball, generally has other outfits she could wear. The child that needs a soft drink would have his or her need well satisfied with water. The man who needs a new car, is generally more concerned about his image and gadgets he wants to play with.

Most purchases are driven by want and want is all about emotion. It may be emotion that is in the process of being rationalised, but it is emotion nonetheless. As such, there is real merit in understanding human and, in particular, consumer emotions.

Research highlights three levels of purchasing:

  • Reactive – fast thinking – driven by the reptilian brain
  • Emotional – driven by the Limbic system
  • Cognitive – slow thinking – driven by the neocortex
  • Emanating from the Limbic system, the second-most primitive part of the human brain, emotions drive most purchase decisions. Human beings experience thousands of emotions. Universal emotions include happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise. Primal emotions include seeking, rage, fear, lust, care, panic and play. All of these emotions impact on behaviour.

    All of these emotions create feelings, states and/or identities, and these conditions underlie each and every purchase decision. People buy products on the basis of feelings, states and/or identities. Further to this, the cognitive component in many purchases is not only secondary – it very often occurs after the purchase process is complete. Post-purchase rationalisation is very common indeed.

    This highlights the importance of having an emotional hook in order to maximise sales.

    Emotions are highly complex. They are influenced by cognitive, physiological and behavioural factors and, in turn, they impact on humans cognitively, physiologically and behaviourally. All four factors are intrinsically linked and vicious cycles are common.

    The power of emotion is clear from:

  • Psychosomatic – or more correctly, psychophysiological conditions
  • The placebo effect
  • The impact attitude can have on both physical and emotional health
  • One of the most important emotions, particularly to marketing, is fear. Research has repeatedly found that fear of loss impacts on behaviour twice as much as desire for gain. Indeed, fear of loss is one of the most powerful drivers of consumer behaviour – although, that said – incredible claims of scarcity are becoming less likely to drive purchase and more likely to cause brand damage.

    Recognise the importance of human emotions in the purchase process. Understand that most purchases are driven by emotions and rationalised after purchase. Be clear on which emotions you are addressing.

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