About emotions and guilt appeals

Today’s lecture discussed the the internal factors of consumer behavior as well as greenwashing and sustainability marketing and communications in terms of product and corporate communication. A number of interesting examples and discussion emerged during the lectures, of which I found emotions as an internal consumer behavior factor being one of the most intriguing.

In addition to motivations, knowledge, awareness, values, attitudes and norms, among others, emotions was introduced as a major factor in affecting consumer behavior: the mood we are in will have an impact on our consumption and, vice versa, our consumption behavior has an impact on our emotions.

I can easily recognize myself as an “emotional consumer”: if I’m happy and on a good mood, I find shopping for clothes, for example, to be very easy for me; all clothes I try on seem to fit me perfectly and I tend to find dozens of pieces to buy. I think I actually do spend more money while shopping in a happy state of mind. In contradiction, if I’m sad, angry, frustrated or otherwise on a bad or negative mood, I can’t seem to find anything nice and nothing seems to fit me. I often tend to leave the stores even more angry/sad/frustrated. Furthermore, even though I was happy when beginning shopping, if I don’t find anything, I can become frustrated and thus anrgy, leading to a negative emotions caused by consumption patterns.

I can also identify with the role of emotions as a moderator in consumption; however, I’m not sure how far this moderation, involvement and information processing actually goes in my consumption patterns. If I see an emotionally appealing ad or read an emotional headline, I may get very involved with the issue, searching additional information on the matter, trying to find background and alternatives and other issues relating to the one at hand, but still, I notice, there may continue to be a gap between my attitudes and behavior. However involved I may be with a certain issue, say, women’s rights in developing countries, I may not necessarily get involved into an organization, give donations etc. It is actually very interesting to acknowledge these of oneself, and it makes me wonder what is it that keeps me from acting instead of just thinking.

What especially interested me in terms of emotions as an internal factor of consumption was the aspect of guilt appeals used in marketing and advertising in order to appeal to people’s emotions. I think beauty advertising is one of the major players using guilt appeals in marketing. Advertising cosmetics, fashion and beauty products, for example rely heavily on making consumers (that is, often in this case, women) feel bad about themselves (“I should take better care of my skin”), feel inferior to others (“I don’t have as smooth skin as that woman in the ad does”), feel guilty of behaving in a certain way (“I ate candies yesterday and will not thus lose weight”) and so on. I think this issue of guilt appeal towards women in advertising is a remarkable issue of social sustainability; women are constantly pressured to take more and more care of their appearances in terms of buying new, trendy clothes, trying out new make-up and beauty products as well as investing in their appearance in such ways as going to hair dresser, self-tanning, regular cosmetologist visits, teeth whitening, fake nails and eye-lashes and so on. This pressure does not, to my opinion, contribute only to women as individuals, but to society at large, further promoting consumption as a means to a better, happier and more successful and perfect life.

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