The Power of Emotions


In today’s world, as companies become more data driven, the problem can arise of becoming overwhelmed with the high volume of data they receive and/or not knowing what to do with all the data they already have.

For instance, many companies possess enormous amounts of behavioral data about their customers or potential customers and try to predict what these customers might like based on what they have already done.

An example: a customer buys a pair of shoes from the company. He is then shown advertisements for similar shoes that he/she might be interested in based on that purchase and/or suggestions as to what other customers have purchased together with the shoes in question.

The limitations of this approach are that it focuses solely on the what the customer has done,what the customer might do and what others have already done. The whole concept revolves around the WHAT but not the WHY. An important, yet often overlooked factor, is that most decisions we make are based on emotion and not logic.

The decision-making methods are split into two main parts being the analytical system and the experiential system. The analytical system entails a conscious deliberation process of logically weighing all factors before arriving at a decision. Whereas the experiential system focuses on a sub-conscious process based on the past experiences of the individual, intuition as well as emotions that are related to the said experience to reach a decision 1).

Furthermore, a study conducted by B. Shiv and A. Fedorikhin found that, if processing resources are limited, spontaneously evoked affective reactions rather than cognitions tend to have a greater impact on choice. In contrast, cognitions related to the consequences of choosing the alternatives tend to have a bigger impact on choice when the availability of processing resources is high, compared to when the availability of these resources is low 2).

The key to success, therefore, is in being able to identify the personality traits (rational or emotional) of consumers and their emotions & motivations surrounding the purchases they make. Armed with this knowledge, the marketer can identify how best to target them and to develop the best type of message that resonates with them.

These insights when combined with the behavioral data of the consumer generate a much more holistic view of the consumer and enable targeting with a more personalized message. Furthermore, the company gains deeper knowledge into how the consumers of the competition differ from its own and can understand how its products are perceived by consumers in the market. In general, it empowers all actions in the customer’s life cycle – from new customer acquisition, customer loyalty, customer engagement to customer retention.


1.Epstein, S. Integration of the cognitive and the psychodynamic unconscious. Am Psychol, 49 (8) (1994), pp. 709–724
2.Shiv, B. & Fedorikhin A. Heart and Mind in Conflict: The Interplay of Affect and Cognition in Consumer Decision Making. J Consum Res, 26 (3) (1999), pp. 278–292