Emotional Hot Buttons Drive Shopper Behavior

Emotional Hot Buttons Drive Shopper Behavior

October 14, 2015

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Think about the last decision you made. What really drove your decision? The secret all marketers know and base their work on is that all of us make decisions primarily based on emotion not logic. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Pam McCarthy, MS, RD, a colleague and friend with strong expertise in using emotion-based messaging and influence principles to drive consumer behavior change.

According to McCarthy, "Most consumer decisions are based on emotions—along with a tiny dose of logic. But people want to appear logical, taking great strides to protect their heart from judgment. So they wear a mask. The wise RD recognizes the mask but speaks to the heart where the emotional drivers of decisions lie." Pam provides examples, including the mom who wants to feel successful by protecting her kids. Retail dietitians will have greater success by encouraging this parent to reinvent a better life for her children and take steps to insure their future compared to providing a list of the benefits of iron-fortified foods, for example. Messages for older adults that help them feel in control of their future and do everything they can to feel secure enough in their ability to live a purposeful, healthy life will speak directly to their emotional hot buttons.

While emotions drive behaviors, not all emotional drivers are the same according to McCarthy. She explains, "Some people are driven by feelings of status while others are more motivated by family values or a deep desire to nurture themselves or another person.  Some people have a deeper desire to feel sexy than to be in control of their future." Other universal drivers of behavior include belonging (desire to be accepted and feel you belong to a greater group), self-fulfillment (desire to be the best possible) and achievement (desire to achieve dreams and goals). Retail RDs can put this into practice by asking powerful questions and listening carefully to understand the individual shopper's emotional hot buttons before framing responses. The resulting responses should be framed to target emotions first and then logic.

Retail dietitians engage with shoppers in all life stages and with a myriad of questions and/or ideas they have chosen to believe. Understanding emotional hot buttons and the real drivers of consumer behavior can be an impactful way to move shoppers to change their behavior.