Why do we buy new things? That's becoming an increasingly good question as products get more alike and money gets harder to come by.
Certainly it's not our logical selves that are making all the decisions.
In advertising, research has consistently demonstrated that feelings are more important than logic --- in attracting us to ads, to products, and to the store. In fact, when we see an ad, we feel before we think. But it's always tricky to know what emotions to evoke, what psychological needs we should try to satisfy.
For years, manufacturers of laundry products were convinced that people generally based their choice on cleanliness. Which product would result in cleaner clothes. Why else would someone buy a soap or detergent? Every company tried to come out with better cleaning additives. Then one day a feisty brand manager decided to test this belief, and did some real research. It turned out that few women checked the whiteness of clothes as they took them out of the dryer. They smelled the clothes. How clean did they smell? That changed everything.
Why do you love your Mac? In 25 words or less, please. Why do people trust Mercedes, and why do we still suspect that American cars just aren't the quality they should be?
Some marketers, the lazy ones, rationalize not digging deeply enough into emotional values by saying that people "will know it when they see it". Maybe so. But shouldn't we know ahead of time, and know how to present our products?
Gatorade once gave our agency in Chicago this problem: how can we sell more Gatorade in the wintertime in the North? There was a logical reason to drink it --- it will rapidly replace the fluids that are lost when you're sick. But what was the ad that sent sales soaring? One that showed graphs and explained dehydration? No. The one that showed cute twins sick in bed. Parents melted.
A client we worked for in Detroit was the Magazine Publishers Association. They're always fighting TV (and now the new media), and decided on a strategy that said use 'em all. The campaign we launched was "Television inflames, magazines inform". Television for the emotional sale, magazines for the rational. A recognition of the one-two punch of selling.
If this sounds complicated, that's okay. It is. But understanding people, how they make decisions, is what's going to get you the big bucks.