Research to Go

Do you know yourself better than marketers?

Did you know that sound can affect which beer you prefer to drink? If you still think that marketing influence is limited to traditional advertising, you are not a conscious consumer.

Consumer behaviour: Are you influenced by marketing?

There may be many reasons why we like certain products, but most of us like to think that we act rationally. Research, on the other hand, shows that this is often not the case.

According to theory popularised by Daniel Kahneman, and for which he won a Nobel Prize, we make choices through two different thought processes. The key differences are different levels of motivation and attention.

System 2 comes into play in making decisions you really need to think through rationally, in example when buying a house. However, we probably use system 1 more frequently. In this case, choices are closer to automatic. One example could be when you are buying detergent.

Does this sound familiar?

Marketers invest in the thousands of commercial messages we are met with every day for good reasons. With a place in our awareness, one purchase can eventually become a habit.

More than advertising affects you

Rather than whether or not we are affected, we might ask our self how and how much. Because even though we have developed certain defence mechanisms after hundreds of years of advertising, marketing has also become more sophisticated.

We have also learned to unsubscribe, unfollow, swipe or skip after five seconds, but there are other subconscious processes happening in ourselves that we might not be aware of.

The truth is that you are influenced by far more than what can easily be identified as advertising – whether in the form of newspaper ads or influencers on Instagram. Everything from the interior design of the cafe where you buy your coffee, to the music in the store where you shop groceries, or even the sound of your favourite beer, can be marketing.

Your senses control more than you think

The researchers at BI's Centre for Multisensory Marketing are studying how your senses affect the choices you make as a consumer. It’s obvious that we use our vision, hearing or taste to judge products, but it does not always happen the way we like to think.

In one study, Associate Professor Carlos Velasco found that not only the taste, but also the sound affects to what extent we perceive beer to be of premium quality. An example this knowledge being applied in marketing are the bottles of German beer producer Beck's, which were redesigned to have optimum pouring sound.

In other studies, Velasco has looked into how we enjoy our coffee. One of his findings is that - just as sound affects our perception of beer - the surroundings in which we drink our coffee have an effect on the experience. Three different studies showed that visual aspects affect everything from how much we enjoy the coffee, to how we judge the quality and specific characteristics of how it tastes.

Lady Gaga makes you spend more money

Similarly, when you are shopping for groceries, your senses also play tricks on you. In fact, not only what you buy, but also how much, could be influenced by unforeseen external factors. In a study of grocery stores in Oslo, associate professor Klemens Knöferle found that the music the stores played had an effect on sales.

Providing that there were a certain amount of people in the store, customers spent more money listening to loud and fast music like Lady Gaga was played, than to quiet ballads.

Do you think you know what led to your last impulse purchase?

Research on consumer behaviour and psychology helps marketers improve their products. It also makes it easier for them to find new ways to influence you.

Fortunately, the research can be an advantage to consumers as well, as it leads to a better understanding of how marketing can be used against us. Only by understanding these mechanisms can we truly become conscious consumers.

Do you think marketing and consumer behaviour are exciting?

Then you should read more about the following programmes: