Does logic win over emotion when it comes to buying? Cornell University may have some insights.

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded  |

In today’s world, there is an over abundance of choices facing consumers. The advent of technology and search has exponentially added to the “confusion”. Go to almost any grocery store or mall and you’ll see 11 varieties of Cheerio’s, 25 styles of red pumps, and over 18 brands of wide screen TV’s coming in varieties from 19″ to 70″. If you want even more choices, just do a search for fashion jeans and you’ll come up with over 294,000,000 choices. With all this choice and information, we should all be smarter shoppers, right?

In a recent research study at Cornell University, their results may be different than what many would expect. With consumers doing more research and having more choices available to them, one would think they would shop and buy with logic and reason, not by emotion and gut feeling. What Cornell’s research findings reveal is that because of the more complicated market landscape, consumers depend more on their emotions and gut feelings when buying than they do their intellect and logic. Why is that?

What was discovered is the more choices and information we have, the less capacity we have to absorb all of the additional data. So, we humans, shortcut the process and go by how a product/service makes us feel and what our gut instincts tell us. For example, in one of the experiments, the scientists randomly divided students into “feeling-focus” and “detail-focus” groups. The first group was told to reflect on how the various car options made them feel, while the second one was told to remember every attribute of the cars on offer. It was the age-old battle of reason versus emotion.

When the subjects only had to consider a small number of variables for each car, the “detail-focused” group made better decisions, proving 20% more likely to select the best option. (The experiment was designed so that one car was objectively ideal.) But in a second experiment, the researchers again asked the participants to select the best car, except this time each one was rated in 12 categories. Now the decision required them to sort through an abundance of facts and options.

The complexity of the choice changed everything. The group relying on deliberation could find the ideal car about 25% of the time, but those listening to their feelings identified it nearly 70% of the time. Though they couldn’t explain why this car was the best choice, they reliably associated it with the most positive emotions.

The lesson of this research: There’s a mismatch between the modern marketplace and the stubborn limitations of the mind. We want to be rational, but we can’t cope with the plenitude on display.

So, what can we apply to marketing situations? The main take away is by relying totally on data driven marketing, specs, and reams of information, you will lose out to brands who take an emotional approach that is supported by facts and data. In other words, lead with brand and emotion that is supported with key facts that are important to your audience, not the other way around. Remember, your customers are still human, not a search engine.

About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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