No doubt you’ve heard that tired old line:
“People buy on emotion and justify with logic.”
You can’t get five seconds into most marketing advice without hearing it (probably for the 1,000th time). Problem is… it’s wrong. Or, at the very least, incomplete. And, frankly, not knowing how it’s incomplete is the missing link for a lot of marketing and marketers.
So, let’s start at the beginning…
Why do most advice-givers say people “buy on emotion”?
Well, because emotion IS a part of the decision to buy. A critical part. Maybe the most important part. In fact, neuroscientists have studied it and found that people whose brains are damaged in the area that generates emotions are incapable of making decisions.
“Um… I thought you were telling me buying decisions aren’t based on emotion? Not really helping your case here, Johnny Boy.”
As with anything, details matter.
What the research actually says is “Decision-making is a complex process that requires the orchestration of multiple neural systems.” Patients who have damage in certain emotion-related parts of the brain have “difficulties with decision-making”, but they’re not fully incapable.
That is, emotion is a critical piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the only piece.
In fact, Aristotle identified three components of persuasion: pathos, ethos, and logos.
Today, you might hear those referred to as emotion, believability, and logic. Which brings up an interesting point…
Why does believability matter?
Pretty much everybody agrees that believability is important. In fact, you’ve likely heard the same advice-givers who go on about “people buy on emotion” rail about the importance of believability.
But, believability isn’t emotion.
The point I’m making isn’t that emotion doesn’t matter. It absolutely does. It’s that there’s more to it… and I argue that logic is actually what pushes people over the edge to buy. It’s that critical missing piece for most marketers.
So, enough of me playing coy. What am I actually saying here?
I believe there are three things that go into buying decisions:
Think about any buying decision you’ve ever made. It’s actually pretty rare that you see something, want it, and just immediately buy it. Maybe the king size Snickers bar at the grocery store checkout, but anything more than the occasional (or not so occasional) impulse buy?
There’s more to it.
If emotion is all that mattered, hype would work. You’d see some amazing claim that you’ll instantly lose 30 pounds in five seconds just by taking this pill and you’d buy it without thought.
That’s not what happens.
The moment you hear a claim like that, you think “yeah right” — and you don’t buy. The emotional appeal is there, it’s believability that’s missing.
So, how do we get to logic as the basis for buying?
It’s that moment of uncertainty… when you’ve heard the emotional appeals and you do kinda want the thing. You’ve been given some evidence and the thing seems credible. And you’re sitting there, finger on the mouse, debating if you should go through with it.
What pushes you over the edge?
Probably something like this:
- “Well, I can always return it if I don’t like it.”
- “I’ve gotta do something because what I’m doing now isn’t working.”
- “I better just get it while it’s half off.”
Sound familiar? Those are rationalizations. They are logical appeals. They are the justifications we use to say “screw it” and go for it. So, the saying “People buy on emotion and justify with logic” is close.
But, it’s really that “People desire based on emotion and buy based on logic”. The justification comes before the purchase.
Why does that matter?
As a marketer, you want to provide those justifications. In fact, I’d argue that’s what a sale is: “Well, it is half off right now” and what urgency is: “I better just get before the price goes back up”. Limited-time offers provide a built-in and compelling justification.
Again, notice those are logical appeals not emotional ones.
Aristotle had it right all along.
Yes, you need emotion. You also need believability… and you need logic in the form of justifications that push people over the edge and get them to click that buy button.
Give it a shot the next time you sit down to write some sales copy. I’m confident you’ll see a jump in the results you get. I mean, it can’t hurt, right?
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