Marketers often underestimate the connection between consumers’ emotions and the decisions they form. The emotional experience a consumer has in the build up to purchasing a product or service is crucial, and there are elements of this experience that a sales person can’t control. It’s especially critical in indulgent situations, such as when a consumer chooses to make an expensive investment. Whilst having control over the way a consumer feels is not entirely possible, you can have a surprising impact on your final sale by focusing on how the consumer shapes their decision.
If a consumer is in a good mood, they’re more likely to believe the service or product you’re selling is not capable of meeting the various goals they want to achieve. The happier the person feels, the more likely they are to notice the differences between what you’re selling them and what they’re trying to achieve. This puts the sale professional in a frustrating position because at first sight it appears to be something you cannot influence. However, there is a way over this hurdle.
My recently published research paper, ‘Two birds, one stone? Positive mood makes products seem less useful for multiple-goal pursuit’ looks at how consumers negotiate the many goals they have in mind when considering a purchase to reach a final decision. It also observes how the effectiveness of a product can be perceived as less useful in fulfilling a consumers’ goals depending on how they feel at the time of deciding what to buy. The results suggest how to best sell with the consumer’s mood and multiple goals in mind.
An instance many of us have indulged in is the decision to buy a new car. When choosing which car to buy there may be multiple goals that you want to satisfy. These goals could be to buy a more desirable car than the one you currently own, while staying within a certain budget. If you decide to buy the car you’ve always dreamed of owning, but it’s more expensive than you anticipated, then you might feel a tinge of guilt for having spent so much money. Nevertheless, this would be a compromised goal for the car you are otherwise very happy to own.
I have observed many circumstances of how people try to fulfil multiple goals, such as a group of people who shared the desire to be healthy and to perform well academically. With these two intentions in mind, the group of people were asked, “How useful do you think green tea would be in helping you to achieve both of your objectives at the same time?” Green tea was the product of choice because of its combined health and performance benefits, and interviewees agreed that green tea could help them to accomplish both of their goals. The benefits of the green tea were then communicated, as you would when selling a product, but with an emphasis on the health benefits of the product.
After drinking the green tea, the interviewees reviewed how effective the product was. Those who were in a good mood claimed the product helped them to implement their health goals (the benefit that was originally emphasised the most) but they also said it was less likely to help them improve their performance, or improve both performance and health at the same time. The interviewees who were in less positive moods, however, were more likely to accept the product as meeting their health needs, performance needs, and both simultaneously.
Whilst this example was for a health related product, it’s a strategy that can cross over into other industries given that essentially emotions have a vital influence on the behaviour of a consumer regardless of what they may be considering to buy. Explicitly describing a product as helping to achieve a couple of specific objectives will make people feel more positive towards the product and increase the value consumers see in its multifunctional purposes, even if they’re in a good mood.
By Francine Petersen, Associate Professor of Marketing at European School of Management and Technology. This article is based on a research paper entitled, ‘Two birds, one stone? Positive mood makes products seem less useful for multiple-goal pursuit’.