Feel.Buy.Think

There is a common ‘quote’ about being proactive that someone came up with:
Ready. Fire. Aim.
The general idea is that success often depends on taking action before you have thought about it (aim).

It made me think about how people decide. (I know, I don’t understand how my own mind made the jump either.)

Consumer decision making has been the subject of much study – understandably so, it would be the mother lode if it could be cracked. There are comprehensive frameworks, including some with several dozen boxes and connecting lines attempting to put some (dubious) science into the subject matter.

Another fertile area of study is looking at consumer decision-making as a logical process of becoming aware of needs, search for information, evaluating alternatives etc. This is deceptively attractive, but ultimately very misleading.
People think a lot faster than they talk – we all know that. That is why your mind wonders when you are listening to someone’s presentation.

But thinking is not the fastest (most rapid) mental activity. In order of speed:

Reacting: That is the instinctive process of reacting to stimuli that typically causes flight or fight responses.
Feeling: Emotions are formed (in the mind) before any rational thought. You feel good and then rationalise that it must be the sunset and the glass of wine or whatever.
Thinking: And I mean the rational/ conscious variety. The type of thinking (other) consumer psychologists mean when they talk about the consumption decision.

I believe males are possibly evolved in a way that has allowed them to be slower to respond to their instincts and emotions. (At least they are commonly accused of not being in touch with their emotions, and there is some truth in that. Men are generally less emotional and more able to impose a (post-) rationalising thought on their emotions.

But that difference is probably relatively minor, and many men and certainly the majority of women: i.e. pretty much all people tend to base their decisions on emotions and pre-cognitive instinctive. (Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK is a good read on the topic.)

I think consumer scientists should let go of the notion of the consumption decision being rationale and conscious thought. Most thought relating to that decision is simply about finding a way to explain and justify their already made up minds.

Logic might dictate the process as being: Think. Decide. Buy.
Reality dictates: Feel. Buy. Think.