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22 Emotional Drivers That Influence Consumer Buying Behavior

In 1956 a book written by Victor Schwab described forty driver based emotions which we as people want and that cause us to act. That was over 50 years ago and would you believe after all that time, some things never change?

It comes down to this. No matter how sophisticated our technology is, no matter how much we evolve, there are a number of basic needs and wants we all long for as people. Whether they make us feel complete, happy, fulfilled, comfortable, or any other combination of feelings, these emotional drivers often become the foundation for our actions.

As I see it, in the simplest form consumers buy to fulfill either a need or want. Needing and wanting, although slightly similar, are actually quite different if you look at the true emotional driver behind the word.

Consumers that buy based on need are typically filling a void for something that is a necessity rather than anything else. Needing something usually indicates more than a desire. It represents a functional reason why they must buy.

For example, a consumer needs to buy a new tire for their car when the current tire has gone flat. This is a need—the car will not run properly without the tire. Sure, they would rather spend their money on a want (like a vacation or heated seats) yet the problem with the tire causes them to buy based on need first.

Wanting however is different and is often based on desire. Consumers who buy based on want are usually buying with leisure in mind (whether they know it or not.) Wanting often indicates a “non-need” yet something that will make their life easier or more enjoyable.

For example, a consumer who adds heated seats to their car is buying based on want not need. Having heated seats in a car makes the ride much more enjoyable on those cold commuter days yet it does not necessarily fulfill a functional role (the car will still run without heated seats.) The consumer is buying based on a want that will add comfort to their driving experience.

In some cases, having heated seats might make a driver feel as though they have gained some status in life. Not all cars have heated seats, and to add that could be seen as higher class.

Knowing some of what drives consumer emotions can help us better write product descriptions which speak to them. Considering how their emotions drive their buying habits, we can develop a list of product benefits which address the various areas.

Having said that, here are a few of Schwab’s drivers that I think might be particularly beneficial for consumer (B2C) type marketing.

People want to gain:
Improved appearance
Increased enjoyment

They want to save:

They want to be:
“First” in things
Proud of their possessions
Influential over others (as seen in the submission of product ratings)

They want to:
Express their personalities
Appreciate beauty
Improve themselves generally

Consider these when writing your next product description and aim to develop a benefit list which addresses those you feel fit your product type.

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