What percentages of your purchases are made to quench an emotional thirst?

I used to work in marketing and market research. It didn’t take me long to figure out how marketing works; you survey your target consumers and find out what their needs are, what their wants are, and you build these attributes into your existing product, or you create an entirely new product based upon these consumer needs and wants. From there, advertising takes over. Your concept or product is advertised, and the message hopefully gets across to your target audience.

Marketing is an extremely useful tool. You can gauge the feelings of people from surveys and focus groups. Sitting behind the dark glass and watching a moderator ask various questions and befriend their interviewee, you get to live in the life of an American Consumer, and you get to feel what they are feeling, and learn their obstacles, their needs, their wants, and expectations.

And then you relate these very intimate pieces of information to your brand, and you sell them products. That is the part that I had the trouble with; it wasn’t the part where you learn about people more intimately, because I loved that part. And it wasn’t the innovation, where you take consumer needs and wants and think up very creative and imaginative, out-of-the-box solutions, because that was very intellectually stimulating and fun. It was telling consumers to purchase a product in order to fulfill their needs and wants that I couldn’t deal with.

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Even so, the knowledge that I took away from this job is just amazing. I have a much clearer perspective on business, products, how to deal with clients, how to target specific audiences, how to use my brain to solve problems. What an interesting field.

Products Do Not Solve Emotional Problems

Coming from the other side of the dark glass, I have something to enlighten you with, particularly if you are having problems with spending too much money, or with occasionally purchasing products that you do not need: products are for utility purposes and can only satisfy your lower or most basic set of needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy—warmth, hunger, thirst, shelter, and perhaps some safety aspects, etc.

Marketing attempts to take these products and use them to solve your emotional problems. Marketers know that if you can tie your brand in with some sort of emotion, then consumers will come knocking down your door to buy it. Perhaps they can bring back memories for you, or make you feel like a wonderful parent by purchasing something, or add to your seductiveness as a female or male by being associated with a certain product. But these are promises that products cannot keep once they come home with you and sit on your shelf.

Products cannot solve your emotional problems. Click To Tweet

Let’s look at a few examples to further illustrate some of the silly marketing and advertisements out there.

  • Dove: Recognizing inner beauty starts with purchasing this soap
  • Subway: Your extra weight will practically melt away if you eat at Subway for lunch each day
  • Kay Jewelers: You cannot kiss anyone without first purchasing a piece of jewelry from here
  • Buitoni: This pasta is part of Italian Art History; it doesn’t belong in your pot of water, but rather hanging on the wall next to  Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci
  • Spice Island: You don’t need a passport to travel the world; just purchase one of these spices and it’s like you’ve all ready been there
  • Discover Cashback Bonus card: If you are missing out on girl time with your friends, then you get this credit card, and poof! it will come back into your life
  • Clorox Green Works: Nature has now been bottled, labeled, and is ready to help you wash your windows
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate: Moments of timeless pleasure, right in the package!
  • Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole: Without this casserole, Christmas is now a regular day
  • Arm and Hammer Cat Litter: You no longer have to clean your house; using this cat litter will give you an odor-free home that will make you worthy of guests
  • Jimmy Dean Sausage: Eating this will keep the morning sun from fading away
  • Febreze candles: Purchasing these individually packaged candles will help you be kinder to the environment because they ‘burn more evenly than other brands’
  • Axe Deodorants: Fellas, forget about pick-up lines, dressing nicely, conversation, or looks; you will get laid if you purchase this product
  • Dos Equis Beer: This will keep you thirsty for life and adventure, well into your older years

Use Marketing as an Emotional Gauge

The next time you are in a store, and you feel some sort of emotional tie with a product, a brand, etc., ask yourself why. Read the messaging, look at the package, and figure out what it is in your own life that you are lacking, feeling self-conscious about, feeling inadequate about, or desiring. You can then use this information to enhance your own life. For example, perhaps you see Werther’s Original packaging and begin to feel sentimental….but really, deep down, this is a bigger issue dealing with you missing your family.

Walk away, and do not spend your money on the product. Instead, look deeper within yourself, explore why you are feeling what you are and get to the core of the issue. You can do all of this without purchasing that product, so save yourself the money.

5 replies
  1. CentralNC
    CentralNC says:

    Excellent article. Material things satisfy some basic needs, they don’t even cover all basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

    Truth is that most of us fortunate enough to live in developed countries can satisfy our basic material needs without spending much.

    We rarely need to spend money to satisfy the needs represented on the upper levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

    Our challenge is to deal with the culture of consumerism that prevails almost everywhere. Also keeping in mind that the health of the economy is closely tied to consumer spending.

  2. nial
    nial says:

    great article. I especialy despise advertising that is focused on pulling the emotional strings of parents

  3. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Thank you for the comments!

    CentralNC: Great question; how do we balance needing to spend money in order to keep it circulating and to keep people employed, with saving money for ourselves?

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