Freud, Emotion & Spending!!

Freud, Emotion & Spending!!

February 3, 2012 

This topic is near and dear to my heart. I, like so many others around me, am an impulse shopper. Meaning, I (and many of you tweeters too!) am one of those shoppers who may see a pack of candy or a bottle of nail polish at the register, and throw it on top of my large purchases because I feel I need it at the moment. Stores everywhere purposely stock these items as a last minute add on to increase sales. If we just listened to our logic saying “Don’t buy the gum, you have 4 other packs back in your car,” perhaps we could save a few dollars by not doing what is called emotional and irrational spending. 

So how did this idea of buying products based on irrational thoughts begin? And how did advertisers learn to use this to their advantage? Well, like most things in psychology it all started with Sigmund Freud, actually his nephew. Edward Bernays, used his uncle’s theories to create product advertisements based on idea of selling emotions. When ask to promote tobacco, or cigarettes, he learned that men in a position of power often smoked cigarettes. He created the “Torches of Freedom” campaign, which promoted that if women smoked cigarettes, they would feel just as powerful as these big boss men. Even though a cigarette has no affect on the freedom you have, women bought into it.

Obviously our emotions play a significant part in the decision we make, or in the words of ol’ Freud, irrational forces often drive human behavior.  People often want to gain something, like friends or money or knowledge, or acceptance or love, or even lose something like embarrassment, worry or pain. Advertisers know this and use ads that make you feel something so you will buy their product. Quite a few of technology ads show people who don’t have the latest product lame or frustrated which immediately makes you think, “I have to get that new phone so I don’t end up like that guy.” Or perfume ads that show if you wear their product that girl will instantly fall from the sky and in love with you (I’m sure you know which ad I am talking about). Other products that often follow this similar formula are cars, make-up, shoes, energy drinks, and restaurants. This time of year especially is an important time for advertisers. Super Bowl is approaching and some companies pay as much as 3 million dollars for thirty seconds of air-time during the most watched game of the year. Why? If the winning team is using a certain product, you’re going to want to buy that product to feel the similar emotions to that of winning a super bowl. 

Emotional spending is not just with advertisements either, I have read articles about dating website users, keeping their subscriptions to their profiles even though they are in a committed relationship “just in-case” there is a break up. The emotion and fear of the unknown can often cause us to spend on things we could really be just as happy living without. 

I have some tips however, to cut down on the irrational spending. Stay away from the home shopping network! It’s not good for impulsive shoppers, just ask my credit card. Also, muting commercials when watching TV or getting up during breaks from the show, stops bad buying habits and gives you some exercise! Lastly, if you see something you are absolutely dying to have, try and wait 48 hours and then go back to the store if you really must have it. By that time you will probably forget, or be distracted by the super bowl this weekend!

 Author: Jill Connolly

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


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