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Don’t Feel Bad About Spending: How Brands Psychologically Lure Us In


Have you ever run to the store for a specific item, only to leave with a cart full of other random things? Don’t worry: It doesn’t just boil down to a lack of self-control. There’s actually a variety of techniques brands use to psychologically influence consumers into spending.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways brands manipulate shoppers into buying things.

Use Colors To Elicit Certain Emotions

The colors of products and labels aren’t just to make them stand out or look pretty; they’re specifically chosen based on the emotion(s) brands wish to evoke from shoppers. For example, black is often linked to luxury, high-end items whereas shades of blue tend to draw feelings of trust and loyalty.

This isn’t the only method brands use that take advantage of your senses, either.

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Target Sense of Touch, Sound, and Smell

Brands also leverage the sense of touch, smell, and sound. According to Time, a recent study found shoppers who touch items are likely to spend more money than those who don’t — a concept known as the “Endowment Effect.” Keep this in mind next time you’re digging through a messy display table at a clothing store.

Similarly, certain music and scents can affect consumers’ moods and, in turn, their willingness to spend. This is why it’s common to hear classical music playing in high-end stores and upbeat, pop songs in those targeting a younger crowd.

Your journey throughout the store is also something brands known they can psychologically manipulate…

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Strategic About Physical Layout and Product Placement

Ever feel like you’re walking through a maze looking for something you feel should be immediately accessible? The store isn’t accidentally disorganized. Brands purposely place items — both on the shelves and throughout the store — to maximize the likelihood of shoppers seeing and purchasing other items. This includes placing the most expensive products at eye-level, cheap items by the register, and even putting items marketed toward children lower to the ground.

Even bargain shoppers aren’t immune to manipulative tactics, though.

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Make You Think You’re Getting a Deal

People love a good bargain — which is brands utilize a variety of methods to make shoppers feel like they are saving money when they’re actually not. In a tactic referred to as “anchoring,” stores advertise an item with two different prices: the higher, “original” one and the one after it’s been (supposedly) marked down. But the brand never intends on selling the item at the higher price, just giving shoppers the illusion of getting a deal.

The same psychology goes into offering “free shipping”; advertisers convince consumers to spend a certain amount of money to qualify for free shipping. Customers hone in on the word “free,” paying little mind to how much more money they’re spending just to reach that threshold.

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Instill A False Sense of Urgency

If there’s anything consumers fear more than overspending on products, it’s missing out on an item or deal about to expire — which is where the use of “limited offers” come into play.

In what’s known to psychologists as the “scarcity principle,” brands place a time restraint on a product and/or make it seem like availability is limited, giving consumers a push to act (read: purchase) quickly.

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