You had me at “Brand.”

This morning I listened to a story on NPR “Feelings Toward A Partner Affect Brand Buying Decisions, Study Says”.


We all know there are lots of tangible and intangible things that affect buyer behavior, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise. But thumbs up to the curious researchers- Gavan Fitzsimmons (Duke University) and Danielle Brick (University of New Hampshire)– and NPR headline writers for making me turn my head.

The research asserts that when you are enjoying relationship health and positivity, you stick with your “normal” brands or even those preferred by your partner. In adverse times, you buy brands that your partner dislikes and even those that you may not like in this “act of defiance.” Listen to the story here:

Here’s an example: Last year, I was annoyed with my husband for leaving hockey gear askew around the house. I asked him to clean it up a few times, or at least get it into an under-control pile, but life got in the way (or probably a hockey game) and it wasn’t happening. On my next trip to the store, I found my huffy, pouting self in front of the hard cider section. I don’t love hard cider, but might enjoy one every year. Hockey Husband really makes a crazy, contorted face when he hears “hard cider.” Yep. I did it. I rebelled.

Host Steve Inskeep asks if marketers can use this to sell more product. To do that, there’s a lot of projection, inference and assumption that the marketer has to do- likely more than even big brands are comfortable with. And let’s talk about right time- right place. If you think getting a video to go viral took some luck, try to guess when couples are fighting.

Various 3D grocery products isolated on white

Let’s just get crazy and say Potato Chip Brand A decided to capitalize on this concept. How does it even fit into their brand story? Will it alienate a major audience? Is it a one-off promotion? How can they build the message without injuring all the brand work they’ve done so far? To me, it doesn’t sound like a solid campaign concept, but it’s worth exploring. Here’s a link to the full study:

I think people are “buying defiantly” because it makes them think they are having their own experience, not one shared with the person that ticked them off. They are also simply being normal passive aggressive humans that are trying to soothe themselves with retail therapy.

What other ways might your personal relationships affect what you buy or don’t buy? What about your customers and what’s happening behind their scenes? What did you think about the story? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.


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