Imagine you are selling an apartment. Should you emphasise the rational benefits, size for instance, or play up the emotion, like breathtaking views?
Some recent research sheds light on how what we say impacts what our customers are willing to pay.
Is your customer thinking about themselves or others?
First we need to understand two ways we can think about ourselves when it comes to making a decision. There’s:
- Independent self-construal – thinking of myself as a unique individual who focuses on my own needs and wants. I call this a ‘Me lens’.
- Interdependent self-construal – thinking of myself as part of a social context and am defined by my relationship with others. I call this the ‘We lens’.
We can be primed to think in either way.
Use of “I”, “me” and “my” statements will lead us towards our ‘me lens’ whereas “we”, “us” and “our” will stimulate the ‘We lens’.
The lens impacts how the decision gets made
What is interesting is that the lens that your customer is using will impact whether they rely on feelings or reason to make their decision.
Take this example from the research.
Two ads for apartments were presented. Ad “A” has more impressive rational features like square footage and access to transport. Ad “B” instead plays up more emotional benefits like views and sunlight.
Figure 1 Stimuli used in research
When subjects were asked which they preferred, those using their ‘me lens’ went for B over A (55% vs 29%) and those with their ‘We lens’ preferred A to B (71% vs 45%).
It seems that a ‘me lens’ means feelings dominate whereas a ‘We lens’ switches us to reason. In large part this is because when we have to justify our decision to others, we look for solid reasons to do so. “Because it felt right” just doesn’t cut it.
We pay more when our lens matches with how we decide
The researchers also found that when we are using our ‘me lens’ and are primed to consider our decision using our feelings (e.g. by a salesperson asking us first to think “How you feel about…”), we tend to have a higher Willingness to Pay (WTP) than if we are primed to consider our reasons (e.g. by a salesperson asking us to make a decision “Based on your reasoning”). The reverse also holds for people primed for a ‘We lens’ where WTP increases when reliance on reason is first suggested.
In short, it seems that when people feel their decision strategy (feelings or reason) is consistent with the lens they are using (me or you), and they are willing to pay more.
Along with other behavioural research, to me this is another example of ‘flow’ or fluency, where people are more likely to proceed when things ‘feel right’. Even in the case of the ‘We lens’ when more expressly using System 2 rationality to make the decision, their System 1 intuition is letting the decision proceed because how they are thinking and how they are feeling is in sync.
So how do you use it?
- If you use a lot of “me”, “I”, “mine”, “my” in your collateral, make sure you also address people to consider the decision to buy using feelings because you have primed the ‘me lens’
- If you are using “we”, “ours”, “us”, and are thereby priming a ‘We lens’ then you are better to emphasise reason.
Access the research here (subscription required).
(Source: “I” Follow My Heart and “We” Rely on Reasons: The Impact of Self-Construal on Reliance on Feelings versus Reasons in Decision Making, Jiewen Hong and Hannah H. Chang Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 41, No. 6 (April 2015), pp. 1392-1411, Published by: The University of Chicago Press).
Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.