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Joanna Swartwood, Director of Marketing and Revenue GrowthMon, Dec 5, 2016 7 min read

Purchase Decisions Rely Heavily On Emotions

A lot of similar products are on the market. In fact, some are basically the same thing, only with a different logo. So why do you choose one brand of shampoo over the other? Let's be honest, they all clean your hair. Maybe you choose certain things out of habit because you've been using them since you were little. Or, maybe your purchase decisions reflect how the brand positions itself in the marketplace.

Let's go over a couple of companies that are doing things to separate themselves from similar brands. The separation circles around one common factor: emotion.

Purchase Decisions Rely Heavily on Emotions

Why Apple?

So why did I buy an Apple iPad over a Kindle Fire HD? They share similar features but different price tags. How they position their brands also differs.

Apple does a great job of differentiating itself from other technology companies. Apple claims to focus on creating and perfecting each item it makes. An example of its brand goals can be seen in the two advertisements below.

The ad above definitely humanizes the brand. It shows how Apple is focusing on enhancing the lives of the people its products come in contact with. If the company doesn't make an impact on a user's life, it's not doing its job properly. Most people will put their trust in a brand that wants to enhance their life. 

The above ad focuses on how Apple spends a lot of time perfecting its products. Apple could be cranking out product after product, but it likes to focus on one product at a time in order to make it right. This is basically the idea of quality versus quantity.

Another way Apple makes its products "better" is by offering great customer service and in-store experiences. It has Apple stores devoted to helping you with your Apple issues. You don't even need to have the AppleCare warranty to visit a store and have someone help you (although Apple won't fix your product for free, you still get free customer service).

Apple even tries to personalize your experience at its store from the get-go. As soon as you walk through the doors, the greeter asks, "What would you like to do today?" This differs from the usual tired question of, "How can I help you?"

With great customer service and awesome products, it's no wonder 50% of people buying an Apple product are new to Apple.

Power Of Purchase

While researching the influence of purchasing decisions, I came across "the goodpurpose study" by Edelman, in which it describes the power of purchase. Social purpose triggers purchases. When quality and prices do not differ, social purpose is the most important factor when it comes to making a purchase decision. This idea has rapidly increased in recent years, as detailed in the graph below.

power of purchase

People are OK with brands supporting good causes and making a profit at the same time.

Global Deck- 2012 Edelman goodpurpose Study

This idea relates to the power of purchase. People are more apt to buy products that are doing good for the world. They are even switching brands based on whether or not the brand supports a cause.

change decisions based on casue

Why Starbucks?

You have a lot of coffee companies to choose from, so why do so many people go to Starbucks? Just like Apple, Starbucks has differentiated itself from other coffee companies by providing great customer service. Starbucks is also using the power of purchase to its advantage.

Starbucks has an "environment" page on its website where it shares the company's commitment to helping care for the planet. Starbucks wants you to feel like it's directly talking to you in showing how much it values the environment. You'll see how committed the company is to building greener stores, reducing waste, improving water conservation and helping communities.

Are Purchase Decisions Based On Logic Or Emotion?

Both Apple and Starbucks tug on your emotions. Apple's mission is to make products that will enhance the user's life. Starbucks focuses on helping to care for the planet. So, do people develop brand loyalty on an emotional level?

Two researchers at the University of Texas have found that people don't tend to make their decisions based on rational reasoning. Instead, they make decisions based on what product appeals to their senses and emotions.

The study consisted of two chickens.

plump                         thin

The researchers told half of the participants that the plump chicken was natural and healthy but not tasty, and that the thin chicken was genetically engineered and tasty but less healthy. The other half of the participants were told the opposite.

Most participants chose the plump, normal-looking chicken no matter what they had been told about the chickens. People in the first group justified their answer by saying they valued health over taste, while people in the second group said they valued taste over anything.

This test shows that rational thinking is only used to justify emotional decisions. If you create an emotional connection with consumers, they will establish a relationship.

"The earlier you make the emotional connection the better, because once consumers have decided they like a particular option, the more difficult it is for them to backpedal," said Raj Raghunathan, one of the study's researchers. "Their thinking falls in line with the emotions."

So What Does This All Mean?

People gravitate toward things that warm their heart. Your product or service may be wonderful, but like Apple, do you express how you're making the product specifically to make users' lives better? Or, like Starbucks, are you devoting time to a greater cause?

You can't just create a product and expect people to instantly develop brand loyalty. You have to set your product apart from the competition and make your company stand out.

Do you agree that emotional thinking drives purchase decisions? Please share your thoughts below.

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