Just for a moment, think about the last big purchase that you have made. Was it a car? A house? That boat that you have dreaming about? Or possibly it was something as simple like a purse.

At first glance, it may seem that our purchasing decisions have much more to do with the careful analysis of needs than anything else. After all, everyone needs transportation or a home-right?

But when you take time to evaluate it further, another story emerges. Maybe you elected to purchase a Volvo over a Ford because of their reputation of safety. You selected a Hermes over a Coach handbag because of the assumed status factor of carrying one.

So when consumers are faced with endless choices, how do they make their decisions? What could influence someone to select one brand of vehicle over another-even though both have the same basic function of getting us where we want to go?

The simple answer is emotions.

Feelings. The Why behind What We Buy

This idea of emotions ruling consumer behavior is certainly not new. In fact, it was a major hypothesis of author Martin Lindstrom in his 2008 bestseller, Buyology: The Truth and Lies about Why We Buy.

Lindstrom based his analysis on “Neuromarketing’ research that he performed on 2,000 global volunteers over the course of three years. During his study, participants were exposed to a wide variety of advertising and branding materials with the hopes of targeting what stimuli actually connects with the respondents.

What he found was that the products and ads that most appealed to consumers were ones that utilized sensory appeal. For example, think the bright primary colors of a McDonalds or the distinctive smell of PlayDoh.

The Power of Community

Lindstrom also recognized that this powerful marketing approach is strengthened when brands combined the sensory element with rituals that creates a sense of community. This is because brand rituals generate a self-reinforcing cycle of brand loyalty thanks to three powerful forces: routine, a sense of belonging, and trust.

Perhaps the most impressive component of this practice is the idea that the sense of community is heightened by the act of sharing these products and purchases with other. Therefore it’s common to see advertisements with parents teaching their children the proper way to eat their Cheerios. Of encouraging their fans to Instagram themselves sharing a Coca Cola.Emotions

It’s all about appealing to our inner need to belong and to be part of a group. So if you love to dunk your Oreos in milk or add a lime to your Corona? Then consider yourself a part of a tribe made up of millions around the world who do that as well.

Appealing to Impulses.

So now that we understand how brands can manipulate our emotions in building brand loyalty-how else can marketers have an effect on our consumer behavior?

Sometimes it’s as simple as putting their product in the right spot in stores to entice us at the right time.

We’ve all made at least one impulse buy, right? That time you ran to the Target to grab some eggs only to pick up several other items by the time that you made it to check out. A new scarf. The CD that everyone is talking about. Maybe even a deeply discounted Apple Watch.

So why does this happened over and over again? Is it poor compulsion control? Or is it due to the fact about how shopping makes us feel.

According to a recent Psychology Today study-the answer is actually a bit of both. There are some individuals who have a document personality trait that makes them predisposed to buying things on impulse. But more often than not, is because of the fact that impulse buys are driven by a desire to experience happiness and see the purchase as a way to elevate their mood.

Simply put, those who tend to impulse buy experience more anxiety and difficulty maintaining their feelings with could make the act of controlling the urge to spend difficult. So, giving in to the idea of buying a simple item to “make them feel better” even for a moment is the driving force behind their decisions.

Marketers count on this and strategically place products throughout the store while providing supporting branding that showcases the item as an “affordable luxury” to be enjoyed. Which, in turns, causes the consumer to rationalize the purchase.

Recognizing the Tipping Point

You may be familiar with what is commonly known as the Tipping Point, especially made popular in recent years by New York Times writer Malcolm Gladwell. This is the crucial moment where an idea, social norm or trend becomes universally accepted and therefore spreads like wildfire among mass media and the community at large.

In terms of brand marketing, shaping this event has everything to do with creating a need while identifying emotional appeals to tap into our desire to be a part of a group. For this to occur, Gladwell identifies three kinds of persons that must come together at the right moment:

  • Connectors: people who are actively involved in many different segments of society and have the innate ability to bring people together
  • Mavens:people driven to help others make informed decisions based on their area of knowledge and expertise and
  • Salesperson:charismatic people who have the ability to move others towards an intended goal.

Brands looking to create their own tipping point know that they must work closely with these personality types. Once identified, brands can work with these distinct personalities by appealing to their underlying sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with influencing others.

Image credit: Tiny Buddha