Emotional purchases

If you're honest with yourself you'd have to admit that a part of your purchases are impulsive. It's a lie — in reality, all your purchases are emotional.





In 2007 two scientists — Brian Wansink and Jeffery Sobal — ran a study on 140 people and established that 99% of food related decisions they made were kind of...automatic. They did not even notice the very fact of deciding anything.


While the average person thinks they make 3-4 decisions about food/day in reality it's over 220 decisions. This research created the whole new movement in behavioural science and marketing. More and more studies piled up that proved that most if not all of our decisions are based on the processes that are run by our subconsciousness. Though it is a tough philosophical question that is directly related to the question of the existence of a free will (how free are we in our choices if most of the decisions we make are not based on reasons), still most of behavioural scientists now agree that consumer decisions are heavily biased by emotions and that they make them most often without consciously realising, why.


In 2011 Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman published "Thinking Fast and Slow" where he came up with a theory of 2 Systems that is still one of the most influential in behavioural marketing


A classic puzzle that is used to demonstrate how these 2 systems work:

A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?


If your answer is 10 cents — your System 1 speaking (correct answer is 5).

In a nutshell, System 1 is a part of your mind that is responsible for fast, automatic, intuitive decisions. System 1 controls our behaviour most part of the day. It is also a system that kicks off when a specific type of behaviour moves from the learned one to automatic.

Think about the walking process. Babies are very awkward with walking. First, when they only start to walk, they wobble, spread their hand for balance. It seems like before taking every step they make a conscious effort, remembering how this walking thing is done. But the more they walk, the more confident they are. Eventually, a baby starts to walk with ease as this newly learned behaviour becomes automatic. Most people don't think about how to walk when they do it. System 1 defines the walking process, the way we put our feet, the way we choose the direction and scan the environment trying to assess if it's safe enough before we place out foot on a new spot. We do all that without thinking.




System 2 is based on reasoning. It is also active all the time but its voice is muffled by reactions to stimuli we receive every second, because visual, auditory and tactile stimuli are first being processed by System 1. As soon as System 1 arrives at a decision based on the inputs it receives from the outside world, the role of System 2 is reduced to rationalisation of this choice — we have to explain to ourselves why we decided this way, and not the other. If System 1 has not made a conclusive decision because the inputs deliver some new information that is not consistent with what we've got used to — then the "analytical" system kicks in and we start reasoning more consciously.


What does it mean in terms of marketing? In general:

— Irrelevant aspects will impact consumer's decisions more than relevant. For example, a post of an influencer will have more impact on a customer decision making process than a review in a magazine.

— Context is a king. Meaning, trends, location, adopted norms, etc will define the decision more than the most accurately crafted features

— Immediate goals more often are more important for a customer than long-term plans. In practice, it leads to the following behaviour: the services that are not used regularly every month will not be renewed no matter how big the discount is for an annual subscription. However, if the need arises, the customer will pay x2 for the monthly fee.


If you need more information on this subject feel free to contact me on Twitter or LinkedIn (DMs are open) I'm also available on ProductHunt if you prefer this network. Useful links and resources: 1) Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook — https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013916506295573 2) Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVQJdIrDJ0
4) The multiplicity of emotions: A framework of emotional functions in decision making — http://finzi.psych.upenn.edu/journal/bb1.pdf