Emotional states influence our purchasing decisions.
Driven by positive emotions or even negative ones, we end up buying plenty of stuff we don’t need. Find out what kind of emotions influence your decisions and identify which ones make you spend more money on.
Emotions, states and moods influence you more than you believe. Maybe you like to think of yourself as a rational person: I buy this because I need it, it’s made of quality material and is going to last a lot more than its warranty card says it will, this can help me do my job better, it’s a good deal, etc. Instead, you go to the mall and start buying things impulsively, not necessarily because you need them, but because you want to buy them!
Remember those expensive shoes? Well you could have found at least 5 similar products with the same features, cheaper, but you still bought that one thing. Were they necessary? Of course they weren’t. You bought them because you wanted to feel good. This is the ultimate goal of emotional purchases: feeling good! If you feel bad, you want to feel good, and if you feel good, you want to feel better.
Let’s dig deeper into the subject and discover some of the most powerful emotions which influence our purchases.
The Wheel of Emotions
In 1980 Robert Plutchik proposed an illustration that could describe how emotions are related to each other and suggested 8 primary totally opposite emotions: anger vs. fear, joy vs. sadness, surprise vs. anticipation, and trust vs. disgust.
The emotion’s intensity is suggested by the shade of a specific color, higher intensity being found on the base of the illustration, so the darker the shade, the more intense the emotion. The most powerful emotions from Plutchik’s point of view are: ecstasy, admiration, rage, grief, terror, amazement, loathing, and vigilance.
The circumplex model marks the connections between these emotions. Emotions can also mix to one another in order to create different emotions. For example, interest and serenity are highly connected to optimism.
Positive Emotions vs. Negative Emotions
Positive emotions, such as happiness and caring, are related to higher levels of psychological arousal, expanded attention and increased optimism. Wanting to have more action when you are happy is explained by the fact that you want to prolong your state.
A general state of happiness will make you, more likely, to want to share your state, but also keep it for as much as you possibly can. Happiness is both contagious and comfortable.
When you feel like you are in a good mood, most likely you are feeling one of these emotions: amusement, interest, surprised, happiness, delight, pleasure, joy, hope, affection or excitement.
When we encounter a negative emotion (e.g. anger, sadness, fear) we perceive this state as disequilibrium and we instantly want to return to a “safe place”, meaning our daily state. There can be several responses when encountering negative emotions: deny the problem/emotion, avoid thinking about it, or get some distance from it.
Sadness, the complete opposite of happiness, activates similar regions of the brain as happiness. As surprising as it may sound, a study conducted by Paul Zak comes to support this idea. Working in similar ways, sadness also needs to be shared. This is the exact reason why we empathize with images and videos of people in pain. The main difference between sadness and happiness comes from the duration we are willing to experience the emotion.
Moving from the complexity and intensity of the emotions, let’s see exactly why do we buy stuff:
- Basic needs: food, shelter, clothing, etc. Don’t even imagine that when it comes to the basic needs, marketers aren’t trying to manipulate your emotions. For example: you want to buy tomatoes, then you end up buying bio cherry tomatoes from Sicily. Do you see what I’m talking about?
- Safety: security plays an important role in the buying decision. You buy insurances, plan retirement funds, and so on.
- Replacement: objects may not work anymore and you need new ones, but there is also the obsolescence factor (you feel like they are not as cool and useful as they were when you bought them).
- Self esteem: aspirational purchases such as luxury goods, high-end brand products, designer clothing and accessories. Also, there is a niche called ego stroking. It refers to the purchases made to impress other people, either the opposite sex or friends and family.
- Compulsory purchases: that enhance or substitute the feeling of love, of belonging or that can fill an emotional vacuum.
- Self-actualization: books, attending professional courses, etc.
There are hundreds of emotional marketing theories, maybe thousands. Many theorists try to explain what exactly works and what doesn’t, but it’s not that easy. Maslow’s pyramid is still a current theory and should be the starting point for every marketing strategy.
If marketers create their selling strategy…
… then you should also make a buying strategy, and why not, use a technique that will help you buy according to your needs, and only some ardent emotional.
What works best for me is creating shopping lists for both daily base commodities, but also for more expensive purchases such as a new phone or some piece of furniture. Being a little stingy by nature, I try to predict next month’s spendings by writing them down, then I compare them to my shopping lists. If the right time has come to buy something I consider useful and I can afford it, then I buy it, but if for several months in a row I still don’t manage to buy that thing, probably it’s not as necessary as I thought and I cut it down from the list.
Yes, I know, I am as boring as an old accountant. But you know what? I always have money at the end of the month.
Buying impulsively costs a lot more than you think, be careful with your emotional wallet!