October 31, 2011

"Neuromarketing" and Financial Literacy

Okay, we’re getting close to that time of year when even the best of us are forced out of our comfort zone…Shopping – why do we always end up looking to purchase one gift or a couple of groceries, then end up spending $50 or $60 (or more!) before leaving the store?

One author has spent his career learning why this happens.  Marketing guru turned consumer advocate Martin Lindstrom (Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy) has studied the new field of neuromarketing – and is claiming that areas of our brains light up when we buy!

He’s found a number of what he calls “hidden motivators” that retailers use:

The amount of groceries we buy is directly related to the dimensions of our cart.  In fact, larger carts are found to entice us to spend 37% more.  And, consumers spend 30% more when they have children with them.  And 70% of people spend more time shopping when they are with someone else.

Christmas music is a perennial hit for marketers. “It’s an old trick—it makes us feel nostalgic, like we’re children again,” says Lindstrom, who calls the phenomenon “rosy remembering.”  In other words, it takes us back to life in simpler times. As a result, we tend to spend 17% more than when generic music is playing.

Now we know why the cashier counts out the small bills when giving change – fact is, we’re much more likely to spend smaller bills than to break down larger ones.  In fact, a 2009 study showed that breaking a $100 bill to make a purchase is 48% harder than spending exactly the same amount using smaller bills.

4.      “VANI-SIZING”
Wonder why the size 10 pants fit you when they never did before?  Vani-sizing—when stores make clothes bigger so we think we can fit into a smaller size—is “in nearly every store out there,” says Lindstrom, and works on both men and women.  (In three different stores, a pair of men’s pants with a 36-inch waist was found to actually measure anywhere from 37 (at H&M) to 39 (at the Gap) to 41 (at Old Navy.)

Beware!  Your dressing room mirror may not always reflect reality.   Stores play with light, adding a slight tint of rosy color to fitting room mirrors to make us look fresher and more tanned.  There’s typically quite a difference in the way we look in a dressing room compared to stores on the sales floor.

Stores study the way we walk around and shop and design around these patterns.  Retailers are even installing what the shopping industry calls “speed bumps” on the floor.  When we feel these bumps, we usually slow down and look around, averaging a 15-seond delay, which studies report leads us to spending as much as 17% more.

7.       SAMPLING
Even the most innocent toothpick-speared fruit or bite of pizza tells us we’re hungrier.  Studies even show that up to 40% of people who take in-store samples will begin buying food – whether or not that was what they are shopping for.

Large displays and canned pyramids cause you to interrupt your thinking – for a special deal or to read the package.  Studies prove that when we’re interrupted, we lose focus and are more likely to spend.  And what we’re seeing in a display may not be a better deal…we’re willing to spend up to 15% more for the very same product when it’s on a display or marked as a “special”.

When we’re offered the opportunity to receive a percentage off purchase by opening a credit card at the register, we’re falling for a major retailer trick.  First, if you do open the account, the salesperson typically receives a bonus.  And second, research shows that you spend an average of 30% more with a credit card.

So, now you’re armed with the methods to defend yourself against overspending, right?  If not (or even if you are), don’t forget to register for 2011 INSPIRED: Financial Health, our annual fundraising event on Tuesday, November 8.

#1 New York Times bestselling author David Bach (Smart Women Finish Rich and The Automatic Millionaire) will keynote a night of inspiration to become financially healthy – and we’ll hear from several local corporate professionals on specific topics including Christine Halbrook, Chrysalis Board member.  Event workshops include:

×          Leaving More Than Memories – The Gift of Estate Planning presented by Christine Halbrook, Attorney, of Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler, and Hagen, PC
×          6 Steps to a Secure Retirement presented by Matt Fryar, CFP, of Wells Fargo Advisors
×          Keeping Your Financial Assets Safe presented by Jodi Paardekooper, CAMS, CFSSP, of Bankers Trust
×          Insuring a Future presented by Brad Whitman, Partner and General Agent – Central Financial Group, of Aviva USA

This event delivers on the Chrysalis promise to educate our community about the value of financial literacy and economic empowerment.