Why do we buy?


Most people perceive marketing as a manipulation of consumers’ emotions. When put so bluntly, it sounds like all ads are a product of the dark side that wants to conquer the world, rule it in perpetual terror, and push the masses to buy more and more until they have nothing left to spend. But marketing is in fact on the light side of the force. And that force is love.

Love is the reason we consumers buy things. It’s the feeling that drives us to make choices, decide on our favorite brands, and determine what’s the most suitable for this or that occasion. Love is why we spend a great deal of time chatting about the best cars, shoes, and phones and why we feel so lost when we can’t find Nutella on the shelves of the supermarket.

That’s why many business conversations revolve around the power of brands and brand building, product and package design, communication, marketing, and the public’s perception of this or that company’s product as a quality one.

Some great companies jumped over these obstacles and established trust among their clients and partners, made fortunes, and kept building their empires around their products. They learned how to be liked and even loved. Relying on corporate culture, the visual power of design, and smart brand building, they attract and keep their customers. Think of Ali Express and all the things you “want” and “need” there, or Netflix when you search for home entertainment, or Snapchat when you want to outsmart your kids by following them on this social network trying to spy on them. It’s not the Facebook “like” we’re talking about here; it’s the genuine understanding of benefits you can derive from being nice and eliciting your customers’ emotional responses.

As Don Draper of Mad Men said, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”

Implement design as a natural part of your business’s DNA and invest a bit of courage into it. “Design requires decisions that narrow possibilities, ultimately until there is one,” writes Nathan Shodroff in his book Design Is the Problem. Having great design helps consumers gain self-confidence, and in return, that builds your offerings’ desirability and thus your brand. It triggers in your customers the willingness to emotionally connect and interact with you.

Design is becoming an essential element of savoir-faire, and with its help, the way to communicate the brand becomes more structured, visible, and approachable.

Make the people like—even more, love—your brand because only then they will be able to understand you and follow you. We tend to give bigger meaning to whatever seems volatile and unstable, but hey—aren’t we all like that in our important relationships? Think about chocolate as comfort food for a second; your relationship with its sweetness goes beyond the physical. Emotional triggers influence the choice bringing it to the brink of an unconscious deed. Falling in love is the same. Do we really think brands do not have the same qualities we seek in our peers, colleagues, and friends?

There are three essential pillars of identity that every company must address in its prospective conversations with the market and customers: It needs to know the Truth about itself—the tangible assets and services it possesses, how they work, and what they accomplish. Meaning is the second identity and brand-building pillar; it says what benefits and improvements it brings to the lives of its customers. It’s the thought process that clearly identifies why we want to use or interact with a brand. The third pillar is Emotion. Again, we are back on this nebulous field so difficult to measure and even worse predict. It’s the breaking point. It’s where the real relationship starts—I like vs. I not like.

So know the truth about your company, create a meaning to be understood, and make them love you. May the force be with you!

Author: Slobodan Jovanović Coba

Illustration: Margareta Nedeljkovic