Emotions decide the purchase

Brain scans suggest all personal decisions - no matter how simple - are made with emotional imput

By Mark Alexander Posth

Do you think your buying decisions are based upon a rational by-the-numbers approach? Brain scans of test subjects indicate that emotion is the deciding factor in all personal purchase decisions.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in volunteers to scan brain activity during the decision-making process, researchers have found the ventromedial frontal lobe (the part of the brain typically involved in emotions) was highly active even when volunteers where making what typically would be considered rational decisions.

"If you eliminate the emotional guiding factors, it's impossible to make decisions in daily life," said Dr. Dean Shibata, M.D., who performed the study at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, N.Y.

What are the implications for marketing? Can marketers build persuasive selling environments that work on an emotional and rational level? Environments with the right colors, images, design, tone as well as usability?

These findings are a challenge to marketing on the web. For years, usability experts have touted the dogma of lean, stripped-down web pages that are nearly bereft of design or emotion. At the same time, many marketers have known intuitively how critical it is to connect to customers emotionally. Now, clearly, a middle path must be followed to achieve best results, taking account of usability issues, while addressing emotional issues.

Are web marketers up to it? How many really get it, and if they do, have the background to synthesize effective web environments from technical as well as psychological disciplines?

Mark Alexander Posth specializes in creating exceptional content strategies. Email Mark at mark@mposth.com.