Pulling your heartstrings


Ever gone to a shop, and bought something that you were not intending to buy just because the sales lady/man managed to convince you that you need that product…yes? Me too. Or went to a shop to buy a specific product only to leave with another because the sales lady/man managed to convince you that the grass is greener on the other side? And moments later you walk out of the shop and wonder what just happened… better yet have you watched an advertisement or come across a poster of pizza or scrumptious burgers and instantly felt hungry and it drove a need to go and get the pizza or burger. …well… the vast majority of marketers aren’t psychologists, but many times successful marketers employ psychology in appealing to consumers.

Consumers in making judgement we are prone to rely on our feelings and emotions, while shopping and fleetingly let our cognitive evaluations lapse. Definitely, if time has been put into research before the decision to purchase one will not be as easily swayed by an alternative option. But, in presence of time constraints on your decision or little other available information, falling back on feelings is our conventional response.

 The emotion of fear has been shown to have a powerful influence on consumer behavior (Boster and Mongeau 1984; Rotfeld 1988). Most prominently, fear can be effective in advertising contexts by persuading consumers to engage in certain activities in order to avoid fearful outcomes. .

Interpersonal research has shown that when people feel scared, they are more likely to seek out affiliation with others (Sarnoff and Zimbardo 1961; Schechter 1959). For example, individuals who experience a fearful event together e.g. a natural disaster or a terrorist act may display solidarity and group cohesion and demonstrate stronger attachments with those who were present during the experience (Fried 1963; Moore). If the experience of fear can lead to emotional attachments to other individuals, it may also be that it can lead to emotional attachments to brands

Fear influences the consumer behaviour in both positive and negative ways for a product or service.  Fear can be used to influence us into doing things that are actually good for us, such as the fear invoking advertisements and warnings on sexually transmitted diseases influence purchase of contraception…videos of car accidents caused by drunk driving can be used to invoke fear and reduce driving under the influence.

 Consumers want to be happy and marketers are increasingly trying to appeal the consumer’s pursuit of happiness. A happy and pleasurable shopping experience at a store leads to Store loyalty; when one passes by such a store, he remembers the past pleasurable experiences and gets inclined towards entering the store and buying something even if a person does not intend to shop; it leads to an impulse purchase. Or a good experience of customer service will make a consumer loyal to a restaurant.

The emotion linked to a product or brand is important, an example is “red bull gives you wings” this product is associated to an exaggerated level of happiness, thus triggers a buying decision from a consumer seeking to feel hyper or happiness.

Similar reactions can be expected when people go down memory lane and get nostalgic, about purchase of certain product/service offerings and brands. Nostalgia brings back the sentimental longing for a personal experience or past feeling, thus consumers prefer to buy brands which they bought as children with their parents

Feelings of doubt and uncertainty can easily lead to switching of brands in the event that a cheaper substitute comes up or a more attractive product is introduced to the market.  Movie trailers are used as vehicles to market a movie, trailers use suspense to draw in the consumers to want to purchase the movie. Television shows normally when transiting from one season to another, end the final episode with a lot of suspense leaving the consumer in anxiety and eagerness so as to keep the consumer hooked to the television show and want to purchase the next season.

BY Carolyn and Davin


17 thoughts on “Pulling your heartstrings

  1. What a really interesting blog, I think you raise some great points!
    I used to think of myself as a rational person, totally in control of my decisions, until I watched this great TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_asks_are_we_in_control_of_our_own_decisions?language=en
    More and more marketing companies are now looking into what is being called “Behavioural Economics”, playing on our emotions to make us buy things, and I agree with you, that one of the most common emotions targeted is fear and shame. Just think of any feminine hygiene ad that scares girls into not wearing white pants! I also think that this ad by Tena Lady shows this playing out perfectly, almost scaring people that they won’t be able to laugh or play with their grandchildren with their incontinence problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KfqmIkfIB0
    Even the marketing company that did this ad for Tena couldn’t call it “an incontinence product” – they had shortened it to “inco” product such is the embarrassment and shame that goes with the product!


    • Interesting video and points raised.Marketers use the approach of pointing out an already existing Fear, empathising with that fear and finally removing the threat by giving you a solution. They first point out a problem that might affect you, clearly put it out how severe it will be when it affects you and then tell you that you have the ability to solve the problem with their product and it’s all in your hands to make a step and purchase it. How clever


  2. Hi

    Yes and I think mood has a great deal to do with this. Have a look at Paul Harrison’s video on the Rational Consumer. I have found when I am in a shop and I am the only person there with the store attendant, you almost feel urged to buy something which you have no interest in, you then purchase something of low value and immediately what jumps into your mind is that the store attendant thinks of you as being cheap. This I guess is the one benefit of internet shopping.


    • Happens a lot, sometimes I just feel that there should be no salesperson feels so embarrasing when a store attendant has unfurled almost everything for you and then at the end it was not what you were after and have to walk out of store or buying something else.. eeeeehhh..


  3. Weddings are a classic example of the use of heart strings to influence consumer behaviour. Well before we are ready to marry, most girls have formed a perception of the perfect wedding from the information around us and our life experiences. When it comes time to tie the knot, we are already motivated to create a perfect day no matter the cost.

    Liked by 3 people

    • True. Studies show that when we buy it’s for emotional reasons, logical reason come to play when we are justifying the money used.Too much expectation is put in that one day and people go to all costs to make it magical as they see it in movies and wedding shows and catalogues. No wonder the professionals in the wedding business are making a lot of money. Everybody loves a story.. And a love story at the that.


  4. I agree, the emotions are liable to take a battering on any number of fronts when it comes to consumer purchase decisions. Alongside weddings, parenting is another classic example. Right from the moment you make the happy announcement – or even before – we are besieged by all sorts of emotional imagery about what we should or should eat while pregnant, whether to breast feed and if you can’t – well you aren’t a real mother! And on it goes during baby hood to infancy and beyond – one can seemingly never really get it right. The popular ABC consumers show “Check Out” have even satirized parenting guilt with their “Guilty Mum” sketches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true. Parents are a prime target market especially new mothers very suspectible to emotional marketing. One of the compelling strategies used is the guilt trip. Marketers tap into parents insecurities so as to push their products on them that are supposed to better and bring more happiness to their children’s lives.


  5. Fear is a great driving factor in consumer behaviour in most of the products these days and sometimes combination of fear and love is used to target and influence consumers such as in products for infants and kids, the mothers are targeted and the product is shown in such a way that if not used may lead to some kind of harm or will not be hygenic and if you love your kids than you should buy it etc. Volvo markets its car as being the safest and sometimes shows accidents in advertisements to create a sense of fear and leave a impression on the consumer mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I walked in to a car dealership one day when i was in pre-purchase phase once… i wouldn’t even call it pre-purchase…. it was pre-pre-purchase.
    I had an idea of maybe needed a more ‘grown up’ car and had time to kill. At this stage knew that it was irrational and my current vehicle was still quite new and still under finance, and upgrading my car was highly unlikely.

    All i can say is…. the salesperson was so charming i bought a car that day.

    3 years later i still wonder how and what on earth happened to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Happens to the best of us. I hope you are enjoying your car, on such big purchases it’s always best to research first online and come up with a fixed expectation with our budget. But that’s easier said than done..at times we go with a fixed expectations and see a greater deal. Or see a better looking product that is above the pre-set budget but go ahead with it. Impulse buying


  7. Many years before undertaking my MBA, I was enrolled in a course with a private institution. This provider did an extraordinary job of discovering the potential purchasers fears for their future, and selling their programs as the solution to their fears (and with hindsight, have little substance to back it up!) The question that I have around appealing to normal human fears, is when does it cross a ethical line and become emotional bullying?

    How many people have been lured into pyramid schemes, as solution to all their financial woes? Or Nigerian prince email scams, praying on the heartstrings of lonely people? Or more simply… someone not doing the right thing by their kids, because they don’t buy them a certain cereal for better concentration in school?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The comments on Weddings & Parenting are so true. Although I must admit I’ve been sucked in by some pretty good demonstrations by a skin care company & was a “loyal” customer for quite a while & also a sucker for a special offer. I would make a comparison in terms of prices/value to try & justify the bargain I guess. Perceptions change & once I started to become interested in what actually went into the product (i.e parabens, sodium laurel sulphate etc) I stopped using it even though I really liked. Once I found out the product was made in Israel, it further strengthened my argument to no longer purchase it, becasue I have an issue with the blockade of Palenstine.
    I like Laura’s point about crossing the ethical line, when does it become bullying? How many times have you caved into to pressure selling just to escape? Sticking to your principals can be tough, unless you thoroughly research before you make a decision. The economic concept of a perfect market is interesting. One aspect is where consumers & companies have the same information. How often does that happen in the real world?


    • Happens all the time. I was was at the mall Just last week. A very nice lady started engaging me first telling me how she liked my outfit..we started chatting on when she told me she was working for a charity organization and they were looking for donors. Because I had become so engaged earlier in the conversation with her..I thought it would be rude of me just to dismiss her. I listened, she kept on telling me how my small contributions would change the life of some child.Long story short I am m now donating to a charity organization every month, which is a very good thing but not something I had budgeted for at the moment


  9. Its interesting how marketers are so easily able to use our own emotions against us. Whether its using happiness and love to influence our wedding purchases or using fear and anxiety to scare us in purchasing products like you have mentioned in this blog post. I think a really powerful advertisement relating to fear is the AIDS prevention commercial shown in the late 1980’s. This ad was creepy to say the least and with AIDS fast becoming such a big problem and people not knowing enough about its causes and prevention, this ad used fear to teach us the risks of the AIDS virus. I’m sure this ad would of been incredibly effective and hit its target audience. If you have not seen the ad I am referring to, please click the link below, it is definitely worth a watch!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That video just says it all. Such a brilliant use of fear. That video will definitely leave you thinking and wanting to research more and find out how you can avert this problem.


  11. Personally, I rely on my feelings when making judgements on which products to purchase and I believe that marketers often exploit this to get consumers to pay attention to their products.

    Fear is a particularly powerful emotion and moves consumers to act. Marketers try to get their products associated with positive emotions in order to attract customers to these products.

    I think there is a rather thin line between ethical marketing and blatant manipulation of the feelings of consumers for profit. At which exact point do we move from marketing to manipulation? If consumers purchase the product and fail to feel what they thought they would feel, will they purchase the product again or will they have a permanent negative perception of the product?


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