As the author of Cashvertising, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the way the human brain responds to buying decisions. And one thing I’ve learned is that our brains are hardwired to make certain types of decisions in certain ways.
For example, research has shown that when faced with a buying decision, the human brain tends to rely on what are known as “heuristics” (See Cashvertising, page 74.) These are mental shortcuts that allow us to make decisions quickly and efficiently.
However, these shortcuts can also lead to what is known as “cognitive bias,” which is when our brains make decisions based on incomplete or incorrect information.
One of the most well-known examples of cognitive bias is the “anchoring effect.” This is when we rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive, even if it is not relevant to the decision at hand.
For example, if a salesperson tells us the price of a product and then offers us a discount, we are more likely to see the discounted price as a good deal, even if it is still higher than the actual market value of the product.
Another important factor in buying decisions is the concept of “loss aversion.” This is the idea that we are more motivated to avoid losses than to seek gains. In other words, we are more likely to make a decision that will prevent us from losing something, even if it means giving up the opportunity to gain something else. Every sale ever advertised takes advantage of this principle.
Fear plays a big role in motivating people to buy. Consider this example from Cashvertising, page 29…
“Your home is a cesspool filled with hundreds of strains of evil bacteria waiting to infect your innocent child as he crawls along the kitchen floor, sticking plastic toy blocks into his mouth.
“Don’t laugh. Did you know that one single bacteria cell explodes into more than 8 million cells in less than 24 hours? And that invisible microbes of all kinds can cause everything from athlete’s foot to diarrhea, the common cold to the flu, meningitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, skin diseases, strep throat, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, and a lot more.
“The solution? Lysol® Disinfectant Spray. It quickly kills 99.9 percent of germs on commonly touched surfaces throughout the home. And it’s only about $5 a can.”
BOOM! The concerned parent buys a can of Lysol and fumigates the entire house.
Why does fear work? In a word: stress. Fear causes stress. And stress causes the desire to do something.
Okay… so, what does all of this mean for us marketers and advertisers?
Understanding these psychological principles can help us craft more effective marketing messages and make more compelling offers to consumers. By understanding how the brain responds to buying decisions, we can create campaigns that are more likely to resonate with our audience and drive sales.
In conclusion, the human brain is a complex and fascinating organ, and understanding how it responds to buying decisions is key to crafting successful marketing campaigns. By leveraging heuristics and recognizing cognitive bias and loss aversion, we can create messaging that resonates with consumers and drives sales.

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