remember – not all decisions are the same

55% of all purchase decisions are unconscious

This is the fifth of 20 daily THOUGHTS examining the emotions in marketingA study referred to in an earlier THOUGHT this week suggested that there is an unconscious component in 90% of purchases. Another study found that 55% of all purchase decisions are largely unconscious. Unconscious decisions are largely:

  • automatic – requiring no thought at all
  • emotional – a response to feelings (often unconscious)
Of course, not all purchase decisions are the same and some decisions involve more thought than others.
One frequently referenced model in the literature refers to three types of decision making:
  • Complex
  • Involving significant input from the neocortex (thinking)
  • Simple
  • Involving the limbic system (emotions) and the neocortex (thinking)
  • Very simple
  • Involving the limbic system (emotions) and the reptilian brain (no thinking)
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman offered a different model:
  • Slow thinking
  • involving the neo-cortex and considerable thought
  • Fast thinking
  • Involving very little thinking and considerable emotion

The first model is a gross simplification of reality and my summary is a gross simplification of Kahneman’s model. However, the point is clear. Some categories of decision-making involve more thinking (neocortex) than others. The authors of both models would agree that emotions and non-thinking (reactions) play a bigger part in consumer decision-making than slow neo-cortex thinking.

Another distinction made in relation to decision-making is:
Low involvement vs High involvement

Low involvement decision-making is generally simpler and involves less time and thinking than high involvement decision making.

High involvement decision-making is generally more complex. It usually involves more time thinking than low involvement decision-making

That said, both low involvement and high involvement decision-making can be influenced by emotions, and often to a similar extent. While the facts required may vary, the approach to addressing emotions may not.

In developing a marketing strategy, it is important to be clear on which of these categories the decision-making process for a product and brand fall into.


All decisions are not the same. While emotions dominate, consumers apply more thought to some purchases than others.

It is important to understand what category your product falls into and how much ‘unthinking’ emotion is involved in the consumer decision-making process. Then, adapt your marketing strategy accordingly.


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