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Think about buying a new car. The annoying car salesman that sold it to you may come to mind, but the single most talked about aspect of buying a new car is the new car smell. That infamous smell is just new plastic and a lot of glue. So, what are we thinking?! Well, we’re not. We’re actually feeling.

People associate a product or service with how it makes them feel. In this case, the new car smell makes us feel happy and excited. Not to quote Don Draper from Mad Men, but, “advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” The college grad/first-time car buyer is happy that they’ve “made it,” and the socialite is happy about their ego boost and visible status achieved from buying a shiny, new sports car. Whatever the reason, the common factor is the emotional feeling of happiness. Happiness is the smell of a new car.

This leads us to the basic principle of advertising and the understanding of purchase behavior. Decision-making is built on emotion.

People don’t buy a brand-new sports car because of the features; they are buying status. People don’t buy a lawnmower because of the reliability and speed of the motor; they are buying their Saturdays back. People don’t buy features. People buy benefits. And benefits make us feel good.

Here are the top three reasons why people decide to purchase:

1.    It makes us feel better about ourselves.

Buying a luxury handbag can be fulfilling, but so can buying a McDonald’s ice cream cone. Each one of us strives for happiness and this is satisfied in different ways because our happiness is an individualized outlook on our well-being and our lives. We spend money and time on things that we believe will make us happier, make us look more attractive, help us achieve a desired status, or check the box on a desired in-the-moment “need.”

2.    It removes pain or guilt.

For some, grocery shopping can be a painful task with the lines, parking nightmares, and the time lost. Online grocery shopping is simply a service and a solution that removes these pains with the benefit of replenishing our time and sanity. Likewise, buying exercise equipment for your home relieves the feeling of guilt. Per the doctor’s notice, you intend to increase your cardio with a treadmill purchase. Most of the time this piece of equipment ends up as a clothing rack or in the closet, but, hey, we feel less guilty because our home is equipped with a fancy workout machine.

3.    It tells others who we are.

Bumper stickers and team jerseys, rejoice! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us after we have our food and shelter, we crave a sense of belonging and acceptance from our social groups. The die-hard football fan wearing his team jersey out to dinner on a random weeknight night is instantly connected to the fellow fan spotted in the restaurant sporting the team baseball cap. Human nature makes us sort ourselves with those who are like us.

The emotional benefit needs to be portrayed in all marketing to convert a lead into a sale and to convert a first-time buyer into a loyal brand advocate. Before putting your next marketing message out there, ask yourself, “Does this smell like glue or a new car?”

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