What Are the Truths and Lies About Why We Buy?

Why do we buy?

It’s a question that has baffled philosophers, marketing experts, and psychologists for centuries. Martin Lindstrom also seeks to answer this question in his book “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.”

Humor me for a while. Let’s re-enact the scene in Matrix when Neo met Morphius for the first time but through the lens of our discussion. Now choose between the two:

Blue pill: You get a million dollars.

Red pill: You understand the foundations and core of consumer neuroscience. You finally answer the question of why we buy.

We can all agree that most marketers and entrepreneurs will answer the same thing – red pill. Why? Because when we understand the underlying motivations behind our purchase decisions, we can earn a million in a heartbeat.

However, finding a concrete answer is not easy. This will require us to peer into the brains and synapses of our market using sophisticated equipment. Don’t worry, Martin Lindstrom already did it for us. 

In his book “Buyology” he sought to understand how the brain reacts in the face of ads, commercials and brands. Using fMRI and EEG technology, Lindstrom uncovered the truths and lies about why we buy.

In other words, he laid the foundation for what we now know as neuromarketing or consumer neuroscience. If you want to learn more about his discovery and how it relates to your business, keep reading.

What Makes People “Buy”_What Makes People “Buy”?

Every buying decision comes from the brain, that’s a well-known fact. However, what you don’t know is that people rarely have rational control over their purchase decisions. The human brain subconsciously selects the solutions for us. More often than not, the brain latches on to the solution that makes it “feel” right. 

Do you know why?

Because every buying decision stems from the part of the brain that exclusively feels. This area has no faculty for words or logic. Your brain will justify the choice after you’ve made the purchase decision. 

This is the reason why buying decisions are nuanced and why traditional marketing strategies don’t work. Neuromarketing revolutionized marketing strategies by helping entrepreneurs understand the science of why we buy.

Martin Lindstrom, the world-acclaimed authority on branding and culture, conducted the biggest neuromarketing study in existence. His book, “Buyology,” outlined the answer to “why we buy?” through his $7 million research on 2 thousand participants.

Here’s the rub: Wizard of Sales® already knows the answer, and we’ve shared it with countless businesses already. If you want a business expert to help you revitalize your marketing and advertising strategies, we have you covered. Know your customers’ motivation on why they buy by booking a FREE call with Ryan Chute of Wizard of Sales®.

The Truth and the Lies

Martin Lindstrom’s book “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” is a powerful marketing tool you could harness. When you enter your customer’s frame of thinking and attack from that angle, you become an unstoppable force. Since you’re hitting the right notes and rubbing the right spots, they can’t resist your offer.

That being said, here are the truths and lies that Martin Lindstrom revealed in his Buyology book:

Emotions Are Powerful Tools

Martin Lindstrom says that current market research is misleading and utterly unreliable. According to him, what we think of a solution does not necessarily predict how we behave.

The brain is a very deceptive and devilishly hard-to-understand entity. In his research, he conducted fMRI on 32 smokers to determine how cigarette packet health warnings affect them. Results showed that despite the gruesome images and hazards, cigarette warnings activate a craving spot among subjects.

In other words, they craved for a smoke even further. This is a bizarre finding considering most of them are already suffering from the health warnings. Lindstrom’s research demonstrates the power of feelings in people’s buying decisions.

We’ll forego all forms of logic if it gratifies our innermost desires. For your business, what gratification do you give your customers that your competitors don’t? Bank on those and win the emotional war.

Product Placements Have Questionable Usefulness

We know that brands use product placements on TV shows and movies to promote their business. This has been the system for a long time. However, the usefulness of product placements has also diminished through the years.

According to Martin Lindstrom, TV ad retention was 34 percent  in 1965 but dropped to a measly value decades after. He said people only remember 2.21 TV ads in 2007. Our brains have seen ads as merely “breaks” on TV shows that we sort of began blocking them out.

Their research revolved around the TV show, American Idol. Lindstrom and his team sought to understand how participants reacted to three brands:

  • Coca Cola
  • Cingular
  • Ford

Coca-cola was subtly advertised throughout the show via the coke-shaped sofas and the judges’ tumbler. Cingular, on the other hand, was featured every time callers are voting. Finally, Ford, which was the sponsoring brand, was featured during the break.

The results were astonishing. People remembered more about Coke and Cingular than they did Ford. Solutions need to be woven into the show for them to be remembered by viewers. Otherwise, they become noise.

Subliminal Messages Do Work

It was a long-held belief that subliminal messaging is a form of brainwashing. Many marketers believed it to be bad for publicity and contrary to what customers want. The result of Lindstrom’s study tells a different story.

In his experiment, a group of elderly were split into two groups and tasked to play a computer game. Throughout the experiment, positive words appeared on the screen in one group while negative ones for the other. Those from the positive group played 10 percent better versus the negative group.

What does this tell us?

Humans are predisposed to experience unconscious emotion. This meant that we could recall an image or brand even before we consciously realized what it is. In other words, we are more likely to buy a product if we have positive associations with it. That is whether or not we’re aware of it.

Logos are no longer as usefulLogos Are No Longer As Useful

Having a logo is always important, after all, it’s part of your identity. The problem is that shoving your logo down people’s throats and being too garish about it has negative repercussions. Customers will mentally shut your business out because of your relentless display.

Here’s the catch: when your branding is understated, you have a better chance at brand recognition.

In their experiment in the “why we buy” book, Marlboro employed the principle above. Instead of their logo, they used their color schemes, design and other defining details in an ad. They did not brandish their logo, only a subtle visual hint of their essence. The result is that it registered in brains better.

People see 5 thousand ads daily and they’re fed up with it. Hit them when they’re off guard and you win the brand recall race. That’s what having a brand kit is for. Your color combination is your identity, find one that makes your business easy to remember.

Brands Are Like a Religion With Their Respective Rituals

In an ever-changing, fast-paced and cruel world, what do most people look for? Comfort. We often reminisce about the past and relive memories when things were easier. The same goes with ads, when people are overwhelmed with solutions, they find the one that’s traditional. The traditional is like a ritual that gives a sense of comfort and belonging.

Take Oreo for example. There are certainly a wide array of choices that are better than Oreos. But who wouldn’t remember their “dunk it” campaign? It gives us peace, that nudges people to choose Oreos over others.

Moreover, like religion, customers value loyalty as well. They will fight for their preferred brand because there’s a subliminal sense of camaraderie being on a ‘side.’ Plus, you know how there are certain emotions evoked when using particular products.

When you purchase a solution, you’re not just buying what’s inside the package. You’re buying the values, beliefs, and lifestyles that come along with it. 

Seductive Content Doesn’t Always Sell

Sex sells, or so they say.

Perhaps in 2005 when people were all conservative about sex in media, using sex had a shock factor. The research on why we buy revealed that sex and seductive content suck the brand out of the ad.

The experiment by Lindstrom’s team revealed that sexualizing a brand doesn’t help the brand at all. If anything, people become more fixated on the seductive content rather than what it promotes. Moreover, featuring extremely beautiful models in ads doesn’t work for ladies as well. According to the book, it triggers internal insecurity among women making them jealous or threatened, which hurts the brand.

Mirror neurons are key to success

Mirror Neurons Are Key to Success

Every consumer is unique. But the reason you’re doing business is that you’re selling a product that meets a certain need. More often than not, apart from the micro-nuances, this need is similar across the board. For example, if you’re a plumber, you fix plumbing problems. An HVAC contractor installs heaters and air-conditioning units.

Consumers like to think they’re unique, which they are. However, if you manage to accurately portray them through your ads, they will identify better with your business. This is where buyer personas come in.

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your target customers, based on market research and real data about them.

Creating buyer personas is important because it allows you to:

  1. Speak directly to your target customer
  2. Develop marketing campaigns tailored to specific groups.
  3. Create content that resonates with your target audience.
  4. Understand what motivates your target customers.

Mirror neurons are the synapses activated when customers relate to an ad. They feel like the ad talks about them and their needs. This pushes customers to trust a brand further.

Why we buy is a combination of many factors. Martin Lindstrom’s research is far from perfect. However, it clarified some long-held marketing beliefs and helped marketers understand their audiences better. 

If you need assistance in understanding the motivations behind why your customers buy, Wizard of Sales® can help. Our experience in dealing with various brands and markets has enabled us to cut the smoke screen and peer through. We can do the same for your business, and it begins with booking a free call.