Do Customers Shop with their Heads or their Hearts?

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Human thought and judgment can stem from two sources – the head or the heart, reason or emotion, thinking or feeling.  Most humans delegate different types of tasks to each of these – feelings decide what we like or want, rationality decides what we should do or what is best for us. When it comes to choosing what to buy, or where to buy it from, both of these agents play a big part. It is hence important for a marketer to know this when designing anything from a sales pitch to a marketing campaign.

The head, or rationality, deals with understanding and prioritizes clarity and logic. The heart, or emotion, takes care of feeling and controls conviction and ultimately all degrees of brand affinity. Whether a customer understands that a product is beneficial, or feels that it is desirable, both are legitimate reasons for a customer to make a purchase. The problem then arises – how to know whether to pitch to the customer’s head or heart.

How to decide where to aim our marketing?

The answer to that question depends on mainly two factors:

Type of product or service – The type of product or service in question is a big factor, and it largely decides whether marketing to the head or the heart makes more sense. Certain products such as electronics which are functionality oriented require marketing to the head. Products like cars and houses are mid-way as customers choose based on both emotion and reason. Sentiment oriented products, such as jewelry or decorative items, on the other hand, require marketing aimed to affect the heart more than the head.

The target market – The target market which is being marketed to is also important to consider. Different classes of society have different buying processes and patterns. Financially advanced customers with higher buying power tend to associate prestige and social standing with a lot of their possessions. This normally means that their buying decisions are based on emotional considerations, making it a good place to market to the heart. Customers from poorer sections of society care more about functionality and economic viability. Their decisions are more influenced by considering how much money they are saving, and how much benefit they are getting. Here, it is wiser to market to the head, as reason is the deciding entity.

How the head and heart work:

The way the head and the heart work are important to know if you want to market effectively. The head and the heart each have their own way of affecting our judgment.

Marketing to the head, or rationality, works because –

  • Humans naturally tend to find order and logic in the world, and ideas that appeal to our logic are considered favorable.
  • Humans are wired to ensure that they are getting the maximum benefit, and reason is in charge of deciding that.
  • When there is such a large abundance of choices for products as in the modern market, logic helps filter and sort through them.

Marketing to the heart, or sentimentality, works because –

  • Emotions are finally the actual triggers for action, as they evoke conviction. Emotions are what is required to actually make a customer decide to purchase.
  • Since reasons depend on logic and calculations, they may tend to confuse buyers. Emotions, however, come instinctively, and a customer is seldom confused about what they really like and desire.
  • Emotions and feelings often influence reason and logic subconsciously without our knowledge.

So, market to the head or the heart?

As you can see, the answer to that question isn’t as simple as it seems. Marketing effectively is not a matter of simply choosing what part of the customer’s judgment to appeal to. The secret to good marketing is realizing that both of these components are equally important, and finding the right balance. It has been found in studies that people without emotions are unable to make decisions, even if they can tell what decisions they should make. Emotions play a large role in actually calling to action, and reason plays a large part in choosing what is best. A successful marketing effort will satisfy a customer’s head with regard to product viability, and simultaneously their heart when it comes to product desirability.

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