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How Easily Are You Influenced by Sales Promotions?

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 7/10/2011

How do you make most of your buying decisions - emotionally or logically? Do they depend on the type of product or service you are purchasing? Most people will readily admit to being influenced, at least partially, by the advertising they see and hear. So what do advertisers focus on?

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    Basic Goal

    Advertising in its purest sense is designed to create an impact on buying behaviors. A well-designed sales promotion, aimed at the right audience, will increase the amount of products or services that are sold within a specific time frame. The challenge for any advertiser is creating a sales promotion that gets results that are measurable. In the advertising business, you only get positive results when your sales promotions, in whatever form used – TV, print, social media, email, internet, etc. – directly influence the buying behaviors of the targeted audience.

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    Influencing Buying Decisions

    Woman Thinking w Pen 

    So, what are some of the best ways to increase sales due to advertising? There is no one right answer; however, there are some basics that advertisers know to look for when developing their sales promotions.

    Advertisers work hard at being creative and interesting while making sure they target the right demographic for their customers. Without the correct audience, the most creative advertising in the world will have very little impact.

    One of the most important basics is understanding how people make buying decisions around different products and services. There are many variables – age, gender, occupation, income, race, education, among others. And yet virtually all decisions are made with some level of emotion and some level of logic. Put simply, facts and feelings are what influence people’s decision-making processes. The merging of these two areas is what formulates a person’s point of view, and ultimately, is what allows them to be convinced enough to make a buying decision.

    The trick for advertisers is to create advertising that hits as many of the emotional and logical indicators of the targeted audience in a way that captures their attention. This is where the creative side of advertisers comes into play. If they can craft a sales promotion that hits on the emotional and logical hot buttons of the target audience, then they’ve got a winner. If not, then more than likely, it’s not money well spent.

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    Features, Advantages, Benefits

    Car Handle - woman's hand 

    You may have heard of the sales strategy called FAB – features, advantages, benefits. It’s also used very successfully by advertisers to create sales promotions that include both the logical connections and the emotional triggers needed to influence buying decisons.

    Here’s how it works in a simplified version for automobiles. Remember, the impact of a sales promotion on buying behavior is the key. The advertiser needs to have a positive impact on the buying behavior of the target audience. Depending on the prospective buyer and his or her needs, the perceived value of the varying features, advantages and benefits will be different.

    The features of a car – things like four doors, storage space, or engine size – all initially deal with the logical or factual side of the decision curve. Whenever you see numbers you know the information is targeting the need to provide logical information.

    The advantages of each of the outlined features further reinforces the logical side of the decision process and begins to move into the emotional side of the decision equation. For example, four doors makes it easy for a family of four to enter and exit the vehicle. The extra storage space is great for kids on long trips. The engine size is great on mileage yet provides enough power for safety reasons.

    The benefits are where you actively deal with the emotional side. With four doors, or maybe a sliding door in a minivan, advertisers will show pictures of happy kids all piling into a vehicle with a smiling parent in the background. The emotional side is dealt with by having “happy" and “smiling" reactions in the sales promotion, which is designed to provoke the same feelings in the prospective buyer or targeted audience – adults with families. Happy and smiling behaviors in prospects are much more likely to turn into the same when making a buying decision.

    Volvo has historically used “safety" as the cornerstone of its sales promotions. They’ll provide factual data about their vehicles from third party sources about their safety records. This information alone will attract many buyers who see that factual data as the determining factor. In addition to the factual information, they’ll use the emotional connection of “peace of mind," maybe with a picture of a child or two sleeping in their car seats while the parent glances at them in the rear-view mirror. This simple image is to help sway those buyers who also need an emotional connection to the product in addition to the factual one.

    Prices for any products are designed to hit on the logical side. The higher the perceived price, the greater the emotional value that typically needs to be created in the purchaser’s eyes. This is where you see the value relationship created between emotional and logical buying. Logically, a high price for a product sometimes doesn’t make sense to a buyer. And for those buyers who are adamant about it logically, no amount of emotional reward can overcome the logics of high price. In their mind, there is no emotional return on investment.

    For others on the fence, the emotional reward that the product gives them more than compensates for the high price. That’s the power of emotions. It can easily influence a buyer into making a purchase he otherwise might not. Advertisers know that emotions play a significant part of the decision process, and if their advertising is well designed, it can override any logical part of a decision.

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    Lagace, Martha. Harvard Business School. Building a Better Buyer-Seller Relationship, at

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    Stuart Miles /