How is Consumer behaviour driven more by narratives than price?

24th February 2021

Why do emotional based communications (Marketing, Sales, PR etc) engage and persuade consumers four times more than facts, figures, or pricing?

The explanation for this lies within the structure and development of the human (consumer) brain. Probably one fifth of our brain (our central executive – located at the font of our heads) likes numbers, facts, figures and statistics. So communications based on numbers and logical arguments have about a 20% chance of resonating with an audience. Which means that 80% of our brain processes messages in a more lazy way – very quick judgements about how you feel about the message or the messenger.

If you think about it humans have always been more engaged by the more emotional led messages or stories – think back at how captivated you were as a child being read stories.

Imagine if Goldilocks and the bears read:

‘At precisely 6.17pm one summer evening, a young lady of 15 years and 5 feet 6 inches tall, with blonde hair decided to procure some supplies and lodgings. She broke into the house of 3 large furry mammals (thus breaking trespassing laws), broke 6 items (totalling 32 pieces of gold), stole some food (including a popular breakfast cereal) and then rested, tired by all her criminal activity. She was later caught by the owners’

The story might give us lots of facts and the gist of what happened but the narrative hardly engages, excites or ignites my emotional repertoire!

A story creates an opportunity to strengthen brand identity and value, it has the power to impact brand perception by tapping into consumers’ emotional (that 80% of the brain part!) connection with a brand.

At Innovationbubble  we employ psychology and behavioural science to explore how a story might be relevant to an audience and how we can frame it in a way that connects the customer with the brand. Psychologically speaking people don’t buy what you sell they buy the story of what you sell – it is how something connects and resonates with us that is the real selling point, how you tell the story is the brand. The story narrative depicts how a product might be perceived and understood by its target audience, it elicits a feeling about who you are and who you can be in life.

Consumer research has shown that narratives can add a great deal of value to an item. Simply telling a story about a product or a brand can increase consumers’ interest in it. As the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman said “making decisions is like speaking in prose”, in fact storytelling plays a central role in consumer behaviour, because our brains are hardwired to help us process our environment – we think in terms of stories!

In psychological terms most of the information we’re exposed to during the course of our lives is filtered through narratives. The brain processes the information we acquire about the world in terms of sequences of events and the emotion we attach to them. We use rules of thumb to predict the maximum utility of our purchases, and these heuristics also help our brains discard any information that isn’t remarkable to us.

We are constantly telling ourselves stories – for example when we choose a subject to study we may use a narrative to envision what we can become, a place to holiday in and then we think of all the possibilities and the various experiences that awaits us, also when we have a negative experience with something we might look into the past to build a narrative for a similar experience in the future. Much of the social information we gather in life is stored in narratives, and we use what this information represents (our cognitive and emotional assessment of it) to make decisions, that is, if the story isn’t relevant to us it won’t stick. We use narratives of the events stored in our memories to make judgments about the people we surround ourselves with, our beliefs and attitude, and as Kahneman argued we quite literally make these decisions in prose.



Narratives and consumer behaviour

The way the narrative is told to consumers is relevant and will affect their purchasing decision, and intelligent brands don’t sell the features of their products they sell the narrative – they sell us the emotion, the thrill and the possibilities, they generate a feeling.

Most consumer behaviour theories assume that customers evaluate pieces of information separately, however, consumer decisions are made more holistically, people consider the narrative – that is the sequence of events involving the item of their purchasing choice. So, if stories play such a central role in our lives, they might also have the power to influence behaviour change. Let us consider the following:

You want to buy a camera, instead of taking a piecemeal approach you may think of the adventures you’ll register with this camera, the places you’re planning to visit, you may picture yourself holding the camera in front of the Taj Mahal, at your best friend’s wedding or a graduation present for you kids, and considering the specific features of an object (e.g. battery life, weight) comes into play, but the final purchasing decision does not rely on the specific features of the item but on the narrative of the sequence of events surrounding it.


Why do humans think in narratives?

The amount of information humans are exposed to can be costly to maintain, to retrieve and comprehend, therefore we shrink the world with heuristics (this is the 80% lazy part of our brain). This is hardwired in our innate need to organise, categorise and make sense, hence why we create narratives to help us give order to the chaos around us. Thus, information that isn’t important to us will not squeeze through the brains’ cognitive barrier.


How can we help?

At InnovationBubble we use this knowledge to help brands stay relevant, engaged and have more marketing impact. We draw on our expertise in the psychology of consumer behaviour and experience working with global brands to help them uncover how consumers feel, what their needs are and how we can help them bridge this gap and tell an impactful story. We can assist brands understand the underlying needs of their target audience in order to craft a story that’ll engage, entertain and satisfy their needs. We can ensure that you have no more than 1-4 psychological audience segments to work with – making your brand work both more simple and more impactful. We have successfully helped brands in various sectors to see considerable increase in their revenue (50% plus in some cases) by employing our psychological tools and research proficiency to investigate the underlying and nonconscious psychological needs of their audience. A brand’s most marketable asset is a story that is appropriate and valuable to their customers specific emotional needs.

We apply our psychology and behavioural insights expertise to assist businesses in strengthening their brand identity and to better connect with their target audience. Please reach out and we can discuss how we can help you tell a good story and engage that 80% of the brain that traditional marketing often fails to engage.

Author: Innovationbubble