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Irrational consumer behavior is human

Conscious consumption is important to us, but we still buy conventionally? Why our consumer behavior is so unreasonable and what moral licensing is all about.

Irrational consumer behavior

Have you treated yourself to a cheap salami pizza in the pizzeria around the corner even though you only wanted to go for organic meat? Do you feel guilty in such a case? It doesn't have to. Everything is normal. Man acts irrationally. That's what someone who knows it says because irrationality is his job: the behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

The fact that it happens to him that he gets a sports car instead of the planned family van underlines his thesis: “People have less control over themselves than they think.” Reason says Ariely is just an illusion. The psychologist also confirms that the image of the rational consumer is a myth Hans Georg Häusel, who deals with the transfer of the findings of brain research to questions of consumer behavior:

“Current brain research is forcing us to rethink. There are no decisions that are not emotional. "

Hans Georg Häusel

Irrational consumer behavior: we are creatures of habit

Behavioral economist Ariely also knows what keeps us from reason. Habit is at the top of the list. Based on how we shop, this means: "Once we have found a product that tastes good, we always buy the same thing without ever thinking about it again." Reinhard Geßl, co-author of the study "Why consumers ( no) buy organic ”, knows what Ariely is talking about:“ If we bought and ate meat from Austria throughout our lives, then this meat tasted good and it wasn't bad for us. As a consumer, I do not perceive the consequences for the animal's husbandry environment because I do not understand them. So I have to find a conclusive reason for myself why I should now replace it with an expensive organic meat. ”Most people fail to justify this because it is complex. Therefore, many reach for the cheapest price, with which any discussion is unnecessary. "The cheap price is a good argument for a purchase."

Irrational consumer behavior: rules of thumb and free offers

Then there is the heuristic - mental strategies, rules of thumb or abbreviations that help us make decisions with little knowledge and time. For example, consumers often consider supermarket organic to be the poorer organic because a company is involved or prefer regional goods, although this area is completely unregulated. True to the motto: "Regional is the new organic". Hans-Georg Häusel, marketing, sales and management brain researcher knows the motives behind it: “The desire for home security is a deep longing in people. Regional products serve this longing. ”At the same time, they suggested care, authenticity and unspoiled originality:“ In contrast to “cold”, industrially manufactured foods, which are associated with inferior ingredients, greed for profit and corporations. ”How the regional products would then actually be manufactured do not matter here - "Faith is enough".

Geßl knows that supermarket organic is rejected by consumers: "If you answer the question where you buy your" better "organic, then answer" Not at all! "Because you only shop in the supermarket. I don't understand this logic. If I am not satisfied with a product, I will not buy one that is inferior in all categories by potencies. “You also buy a better car if you are dissatisfied and not a worse one. Ariely confirms this illogicality. As a rule, he says, one's own irrational consumer behavior is dominated by the attributes bigger, faster, further. Say: "Anyone who drives a Porsche Boxter often wishes a 911, who owns a small apartment, a larger one."

The pursuit can, however, go hand in hand with the loss of proportionality. Then it can happen that you easily accept a surcharge of 200 euros on a bill for a few thousand euros and redeem a voucher the following day to save 25 cents on a one-euro can soup.

Irrational consumer behavior: beauty superstition

Our irrationality is most evident in the beauty area. There, many find genetic engineering and stem cell therapy exciting and are willing to pay any price. Faith does the same here, says neuromarketing thought leader Häusel: “We believe in astrology, we believe in life after death, and we believe that a cream kills our wrinkles. Hope and the associated belief - there is no superstition - is an important part of human existence. "Both are deeply emotional processes:" While belief conveys security and security, hope promises an improvement. "And where are they? located? "Faith is more connected to our balance, our security system, hope more to our reward-expectation system."

But what does science say, who is known to act outside of any emotion? Ökotest last examined 2017 high-priced face creams in 22, including twelve conventional and ten Natural cosmeticsCreams. While there was no complaint with the latter, the conventional products contained a lot of problematic ingredients such as. B. PEG / PEG derivatives, organic halogen compounds, questionable UV filters or allergic fragrances.

Why do the majority of consumers still use conventional cosmetics? "It is due to the fact that we do not yet see any direct connection between beauty products and our health," says Sophia Elmlinger, founder of the vegan fresh cosmetics label Imiko. We still consider cosmetics as products that we only use externally.

Rewards and moral licensing

Responsible for buying or not buying, as we know from brain research today, are the unconscious reward values ​​of products. Now you might think this is the case with green buyers Environmental Protection, But not true: The strongest motive is the desire for more prestige with other people, as the Rotterdam School of Management found together with two US universities.

But it gets worse: Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong from the University of Toronto showed that buyers, after collecting plus points in their “moral account” with organic purchases, did so egoist mutated. The test subjects acted more selflessly if they had previously been confronted with organic products. However, if they not only looked at them, but also bought them, they behaved unsocially and cheated or even stole more frequently in subsequent test situations. Moral licensing The technical term is called and it says: Whoever tops up his moral account in one area of ​​life sees the right to let himself go in other areas. Somehow irrational. But maybe you can take countermeasures after all?

Irrational consumer behavior:
Insights from neuromarketing

  1. Discounts ensure purchases - discount signs ensure a significant boost in consumption. The reward center is revved up while a region of the brain responsible for control reduces its activities. In an experiment, two identical rummaging tables with socks were placed in front of a shop. On the one hand the pair was available for three euros, right next to it the supposedly discounted three-pack cost 15 euros. In spite of the simple calculation, the three-packs in particular were bought.
  2. Ideal figures motivate us - If we see a model with an ideal figure and smile at us, this activates the reward center, which is responsible for “wanting” and a feeling of happiness.
  3. Faces stay - If you want to be remembered, you rely on faces, no longer on logos. Faces activate the areas of the brain that are associated with feelings and memory formation.
  4. We remember the brand at the beginning - examinations in an MRI scanner show that a brand name is most likely to be remembered when it flickers on the screen at the beginning of an advertising spot.
  5. The brand image changes perception - An experiment in which subjects were given Coca Cola and Pepsi to drink showed clearly: If the test subjects did not know what they were drinking, the majority of Pepsi tasted better, they consumed it in the knowledge of the brand, Coca Cola ,

Photo / Video: Shutterstock.

Written by Alexandra Binder


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