Decisions made with 10% logic, 90% emotion ~ Brand Mix

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Decisions made with 10% logic, 90% emotion

As I was driving into work the other day, and idly switching stations because NPR was on a pledge break, I happened to hear a political commentator say something like: People will vote in this election 10% on the candidates policies and 90% on emotion and gut.

It was one of those screeching, who shouts the loudest type shows so I continued switching to some other station but I did wonder if this statement is true. And, if true, does this type of decision making apply to everything or just to politics?

So, this morning, I started searching around for a reference. All search roads led to a book by Drew Westen called: The Political Brain: the Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. The book is written from the Democrats perspective asking how come they keep losing to the Republicans and why are so many people voting against what they perceive to be their self interest.

Westen's thesis is that the Democrats like Dukakis, Kerry and Gore lost because they tried to appeal to the dispassionate, rational, fact-sensitive voter whereas Republicans have done a better job of tapping into emotions. "Voters don't want to be inundated with facts, they want to be awash in feelings. Voting is emotional, not cognitive," Westen said in an interview while promoting his book.

So, what about soap? Or used cars? Or computers? How important are functional benefits and competitive advantages for those products? Or are they just useful to help consumers rationalize decisions they've already emotionally made? Is logic category-specific or is emotion always more important?

Links:
1) Emotion Trumps Logic in the Voting Booth: AlterNet
2) To win, Dems must fight: tampabay.com

10 comments:

Jeffry Pilcher said...

This election is about important issues... like age, race and gender.

Richard Band said...

With brands and politics and indeed, most of life's decisions, I think they're nearly all governed by 90% emotion. Practical rationalization is way down the list in terms of actual decision-making. I believe this holds true for soap as much as it does for cars, it's just that people will never admit it (or maybe not even know about it consciously). Dan Ariely's book on Predictable Irrationality proves this out again and again. The always brilliant Paul Feldwick wrote about this recently too and we talked about it on our Aug 29th post - http://www.eggstrategy.com./blog/?p=386. He talks about how advertising should stop talking about rational messages and focus instead on positive emotional associations and relationships. He cites some classic UK ads from the 70s and 80s (PG Tips, Hofmeister, Barclaycard), so I'm guessing you'll know what he's on about.

Martin Bishop said...

@jeffry: I'm not sure whether how important a decision is makes any difference on the logic/emotion scale. If anything, we may be even more emotionally-driven the more important the decision.

@richard: I've got to get around to reading Dan's book. I read "Nudge" which sort of, kind of covers the same area.

Those UK ads are, indeed, classic but none of them are as good as this (emotional) one by Hovis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFLBvLxLJMI

Richard Band said...

yeah - I saw that epic Hovis spot - quite a tug on the old heart strings. There's overt emotional communication like that and there's more subtle too. Feldwick talks about the Wassup campaign for Bud having zero rational stuff in it (nothing about Hops, glacial spring water etc), but it's about the emotion of affiliation/ friendship/bonding. He argues the most meaningful communication is all about embedding that type of positive association.

Joy Levin said...

Martin - That's an interesting thought about tying in
importance of a decision and emotion. How do we quantify "importance" though? For example, buying a car can certainly be classified as important given the relative price paid, but emotion definitely plays a large role in purchasing decisions made in that category.

Martin Bishop said...

I don't know the answer as to which decisions are more driven by emotion. I wonder if there's any work been done in this area or even whether there's enough consistency person to person to be able to generalize.

Tim Tyrell-Smith said...

This reminds me of the old marketing thought of "high interest category" (vs. low interest category). As it goes, you can charge more for a high interest category product because those are tied to the ego (teeth, hair, clothing) and the purchase decision (price/value) will be driven more (as you suggest) by emotion.

Heather Rast said...

I find your last paragraph or so really compelling. A great lead-in to a evening of collaborative discussion/debate. In a way, I guess that's what comments posting is, but there's nothing like the dynamic interplay of real people. I digress...

I'm a firm believer in the role emotional connections play in the consumer decision-making process. Case in point, Human Factors International recently launched a new suite about the PET principle: Persuasion, Emotion, and Trust. Whether talking categories or sectors (healthcare, package goods, etc.) or channel (Web or POS), consumers factor benefits, price, and other tangibles into their decision equation--but I believe the weight of those elements is far inferior to how the brand (personality, positioning, message, tone/voice) resonates with the consumer. People have and will buy above their means, below their means, because a brand "feels" right.

I prefer not to fall into the political quagmire, and of course your topic is more broadly applicable than that. But similar thought process applies--experienced voters recognize there's no single political representative who encompasses all you believe, so we choose the closest to our own. Little "forgives" are given for those beliefs that aren't synnergistic because overall, our candidate "feels" right to us.

Stephanie said...

The Political Mind by George Lakoff explores this topic as well.

Really though, both advertising and political propaganda are exercises in evoking emotions to influence decision making.

Jeffry Pilcher said...

Hi Martin,

Would you please delete the comment in this post from me? Or change it in a way that gets rid of the picture (e.g., attributing it to "Anonymous" rather than my Blogger profile)?

I'm trying to get all pictures of me off the web (for personal reasons), and this post w/my photo comes up on Page 1 in a Google Image search.

Sorry to be a bother.

Thanks much,

Jeffry Pilcher, Publisher
The Financial Brand

P.S. - Please delete this comment when finished.

 
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