The debate on “facts versus gut” is nothing new. No, in the marketing and advertising community, the idea that emotion (or gut feeling) has more pull over logic and reason has been proven as accurate time and time again.

But why?

We humans are interesting creatures. There are times when an argument filled with reason and logic wins us, but more often than not, the argument designed on emotion and feeling wins. We see that routinely in advertising- the ad designed to pull the heart strings will be more popular than the ad that is designed to make people think. Facts and reason can be difficult for humans to process for multiple reasons:

  1. Relies on deciphering information
    The consumer is required to have an amount of intellect that will enable them to dissect the pieces of information provided and then base a move off the information. For example, if a consumer is provided with the information that “tobacco can cause cancer” , then the consumer needs to process [cancer is bad -> people die from cancer -> avoiding tobacco could avoid cancer & death -> therefore, avoid tobacco].
  2. Relies on background/ past experience
    Research has shown that humans categorize information in the brain, and having past experiences can help people categorize information. Those consumers who are given information and has limited background experience with the facts, will have trouble using the facts and information to make decisions.
  3. Requires effort
    People like making easy decisions. Research has shown that the more difficult the decision the poorer the choice the consumer makes. So, if a consumer is presented a decision that is heavy with facts and information, or if they are presented with a multitude of options, it makes the decision harder to make. To ease the difficulty, we rely on heuristics (thinking shortcuts) to weed out all the hard stuff and make the decision process easier.

Because of the reasons above, plus many others we’re sure, marketers and advertisers focus their efforts on appealing to the emotions of consumers, regardless of how strong or weak the facts of the product may be. We can pick up our tobacco example from earlier- yes, now many people know that tobacco can be very harmful to health. But, there are many visualizations of people smoking while looking cool, sexy, being with friends, and enjoying life. Seeing that, consumers may think, “well, I like being cool,” and disregard the facts, and pick up smoking.

When groups start making decisions, the individual consumer may feel the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) phenomenon. If reason or logic is telling the person not to purchase the product, or go to the event, but most of their social circle is, the consumer may feel excluded from their community. Since the need of being loved or involved is very strong in humans, this consumer may put reason and logic to the side and fulfill their need of inclusion.

Another reason emotions reign over reason is the notion of self-confirmation bias; which is the need for people to search out information and support to confirm their own beliefs. The proliferation of social media and digital content has created silos of information where people stay and interact with like-minded people and organizations. For marketers and advertisers, this effect can make it very hard to find new customers, and to break into new markets. We enjoy being right and being with communities that share our thought process, because again, it is easier to make decisions.

Though facts do matter in the end, the marketing and advertising community has long known that emotion is key in the decision-making process for most situations. Applying how to appeal to those emotions to influence the consumer is what the marketing and advertising community attempts to do every day.