Consumers make decisions to purchase discretionary products largely based on emotion because there is no strictly rational reason for buying something you don't need. However, even in the purchase of necessary products, consumers' emotions are engaged. After hundreds of hours spent talking to and interacting with consumers in a research setting, I know that emotion is at the foundation of people buying things they don't need. Reason is always secondary in the purchase decision.
A word of caution to marketers: If you do not think this is true, then you have been listening to the words consumers say, not the way they say them. In focus groups, I have seen men, in particular, trying to act so rational in explaining their purchasing behavior, yet when they are given an exercise designed to reveal the underlying emotions, their eyes light up and they get excited. In these settings, I have seen grown men turn into little boys before me. Their emotions take over, and that is where they ultimately make their purchase decisions. I even think that these men have convinced themselves they act rationally, but they prove the deception on camera in the focus group.
Because consumers make purchase decisions in the emotional realm, they are highly responsive to environmental cues and clues that stimulate and communicate on an emotional level.
Because consumers make purchase decisions in the emotional realm, they are highly responsive to environmental cues and clues that stimulate and communicate on an emotional level. Marketers need to make sure that the emotional messages they send are in keeping with the emotional needs of the customers. Design of products, packaging, advertising, and logos resonate on an emotional level. Color sends strong emotional clues, so marketers need to use color effectively in packaging, as well as in the color palette of the product.
Involving shoppers with the product or the ad establishes a connection. Most companies pay too little attention to heightening consumer involvement through in-store and point-of-purchase displays. Brand and product awareness are no longer the endgame. You need to get consumers to do something with your product—pick it up, touch it, or interact in a multisensory way. That is what will imprint the brand in the shopper's consciousness and begin to establish an emotional connection with the customer.