You are flipping through the channels and you stop at the sight of a new Mercedes Benz commercial. The commercial has an elegant young professional that somewhat resembles you and he is driving through the city lights to pick up a beautiful young woman. As you watch the commercial unravel, you start to picture yourself as that guy. “That’s going to be me one day” you say to yourself. As you go back to your daily routine you may forget about that commercial but that doesn’t take away the thought you had. Months down the road you see a Facebook advertisement for that very car and of course you click on it to see the price and the specs. “One day” you say, “One day.” What has happened here? You have become a Virtual Owner of this car without even sitting in it. In your mind that car is yours, that life is yours. “I’ll too be able to attract beautiful women and make all of my friends jealous” you start to think.
Advertising agencies know what you are thinking and why you are thinking it even when you yourself are unsure. The more emotional connection you form with a product, the more likely you are to make a purchase. Another example of this is a free trial. When Netflix gives you a free one-month trial and you start finding shows you love, when that month is up of course that $8.99 now seems worth the price. When Direct TV gives you a free month of HBO, they know that you are going to become a virtual owner of that channel and are drastically increasing the odds of you upgrading your package after partially owning it for a month.
Say you are furniture shopping for your new place and checking out sectionals for your living quarters. You sit on the sectional and see that there is a coffee table, an entertainment center, and a TV and all of a sudden you can picture this being your living room. As you sink further into the couch, so does your intent to buy. You are a virtual owner of this living room set. You then look at the price tag and are weary about paying such a price that is over your budget. A sales rep walks over and tells you there is a 90-day money back guarantee on the set and if you are not happy with your purchase, you can receive your money back in whole. That’s the tipping point and before you know it, you are sitting on that sectional in your living room watching your upgraded Netflix account. That sectional is yours, there is no way you will actually return it after forming an emotional connection with it. Marketers know you are going to sit down and form an emotional connection with the couch, they also know the price is a tad bit over your budget. They know you only need a little bit of persuading and throw in a money back guarantee. However, they also know you will never actually return it.
A big effect that these marketers are trying to have is Impact Bias. Impact Bias is when you overestimate the length or intensity of a future feeling. You are happy in that moment when you are purchasing a product and you predict that product will give you the same amount of happiness six months down the road thus making the purchase worth it in your mind. We all know, however, that in most cases that product gets forgotten or the value dramatically decreases from the point of purchase.
This is most relevant during holiday seasons and Christmas time. So the next time you visit your local mall and see those boots or that ring in the window, ask yourself honestly how you will feel about that product six months down the road.
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