Emotional buying decisions

When was the last time you made a buying decision entirely based on what you need, rather than what you want? Toilet paper? Sure, you needed that. But did you need the bleached 3 ply that’s soft to touch? Maybe. Your buying decision is more complex when it comes to brand names, expensive items or products you consume in public. Despite what many people think, most of us buy with emotion and justify with logic.

According to Hardvard Professor, Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of consumer decision making is actually subconscious, which means how we feel about a brand, product, company or employee has a far greater impact than our conscious efforts.

Emotional behaviour

Emotions can override our logic when it comes to making a decision. Consider the last time you purchased a brand name because you loved it. If I asked you why , you could probably break it down into logic because that’s how you ultimately justified your purchase to yourself and your significant other. Your car colour choice is not because you need red. Admit it. You want red.

Have you ever overtaken another car while driving, even though it’s less than ideal overtaking conditions , because the driver was annoying you? How much time did it save you over waiting for a safe space to overtake? Even if it was 2 minutes, chances are you overtook because you felt like it.

Have you ever been so passionate when arguing with a loved one that you say something hurtful , that you don’t quite mean? Me too. Perhaps it makes us feel better but it does little to strengthen the relationship. Logically, we know it was the wrong thing to say.

Have you ever done something to feel like you belong, as part of a team or group, even though you know it’s stupid and you would never do that same thing alone? Yeah. And as a teenager that feeling of belonging has an even stronger pull.

Powerful emotions shortcut logic

If you have experienced any of the above situations yourself, you may already comprehend the power of emotion to shortcut logic. However, logic also impacts our buying decisons.

Selling with emotion

My own experience of this, as a sales professional , was probably best illustrated when I was selling TV advertising for Prime 7. Leading up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, I was selling advertising packages ranging between three and twelve thousand dollars to local small business owners. I remember being given a massive slide deck of 30-40 slides to walk my potential clients through.

I cut this down to 8 or 10 of my most valuable slides and printed them for my top clients. we gave them more than enough information to make a decision, however, most of them said, “leave it with me”, which is code for probably not. Some of these prospects I visited twice, with the same outcome. Not a single sale.

Everything was there. The Olymic Games schedule, TV programs , times, dates, average cost per ad , potential reach, ratings comparisons . All of it. For some reason, my clients still struggled to decide.

Removing logical triggers

I thought back to my presentations and I noticed all of my potential buyers were combing through the detail of what I gave them, which included statistics, tables, graphs and other logical triggers. Somehow I was forcing them to engage their logical brain to make a buying decision and for whatever reason (ran out of time, not feeling it, too busy etc) they never purchased.

After a few days of trying to walk people through the logic, I decided to try something new. I went through our sales pack with a red pen and began crossing out irrelevant details. I created a new presentation on a single page. 95 percent of the detail that I discussed with buyers before was gone. In fact, most of what I included in this “unofficial pack” was emotionally driven.

True Blue feelings

I appealed to their patriotism by pointing out they would be seen for sponsoring) popular sports , where our Aussies perform best. I explained how our extended coverage in popular local viewing times would boost their exposure and this would be the biggest thing on TV at the time. Finally , I appealed to their fear of missing out because there was a limited number of packages. Plus the Olympic Games only comes around every 4 years.

As a result of appealing to their feelings of pride, importance and fear I sold 8 packs that year. 5 more than my nearest colleague. Keep in mind, “Sports packs” were never my strength when it came to advertising. In fact, I was lucky to sell too many cricket advertising packs at all, depite that being a popular sport and my colleagues sellling quite a few. This came down to my own emotions. Cricket is not something that excites me and I believe my clients could feel that too.

Emotional buying decisions

People buy with emotion

It’s not just me who sells using the power of emotion. Tony Robbins once said , “People buy with emotion and justify with logic”. He details this in his “Mastering Influence” course also.

Entrepeneur, Russell Branson, has a formula for telling a great story during sales presentations, videos and sales letters. Stories give information meaning and make people feel a certain way. Essentially getting them ready before your sales pitch.

Stories create culture

Stories, and the emotion that comes with them, form a significant part of our culture. Stories are how we learn legends , learn our culture, remember brands and learn the “way we do things around here” when we work somewhere new.

I recall watching a movie called “Without Limits” about Steve Prefontaine , who was a legendary Olympic distance runner. His life was cut short by a car accident. Bill Bowerman was his coach, depicted in the movie , fitting Steve out for running shoes. Bill Bowerman co-founded Mike , along with Phil knight. According to Fast company, Steve inspired Bill and Phil to make better quality products . Prefontaine’s legend still does the rounds at Nike today .

In fact , it’s almost impossible to separate this foundational story from what Mike is today. If you ever get the chance to watch the movie, without Limits, it is hard not to get caught up in the emotional roller coaster that is the life and death of Steve Prefontaine.


Happy little Vegemites

Big brands understand the relationship between emotion and buying decisions, so they often use songs or stories in their advertising. Anyone alive in Australia during the late 1950s or mid 1980’s would remember the “Happy little Vegemite” jingle. Three children , singing and dancing about their favourite breakfast food.

Similarly the lyrics ,” I like Aeroplane jelly”, are difficult to shake from our memories. As far as I can recall , there’s not a single mention of Aeroplane jelly features or benefits in this song. Just how excited this person is to eat it. “I like Aeroplane jelly. Aeroplane jelly for me. I like it for dinner. I like it for tea. A little each day is a good recipe.” Then it repeats.

Consider how you make your own buying decisions. Maybe you need a phone but do you really need a Samsung (or an iPhone if you belong to that cult?) Perhaps you need a car for travel but do you really need a brand new Lexus , with all the trimmings? Sure, you may need a new toaster but do you really need a Smeg retro style toaster and matching kettle, in pastel colours?

Probably not. But chances are you want those things. People are swayed by emotion in all sorts of buying decisions. Even you, as logical as you believe you are.

Your clients want it that way

As a micro business owner, you need to realise people may have feelings about your brand and they may also feel a certain way when they deal with you. Consider not only what you want people to think when they interact with you , your product, service or brand. Give some thought to how you want them to feel and how emotion pays a role in their buying decision with you.


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