COVID19: The Psychology Behind Consumer Behavior

This is Part 1 of a seven-part series where we analyze consumer behavior during the ensuing coronavirus pandemic. Making sense of recent consumer psychology yields valuable insights that can be leveraged to attract, retain and propagate customer interaction during the Coronavirus pandemic.

While the COVID19 poses an unprecedented challenge to business owners across the world, it's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve your marketing while the world is on "pause."

Principle 1: Leverage Emotion

Think about the last time you splurged and made a large purchase. How did you feel?

Perhaps you were ecstatic about booking a weeklong vacation in the Bahamas-- or maybe you finally purchased that red Corvette you always dreamed of! Potentially, you've even felt a sense of relief by making an essential purchase.

Most recently, we've seen extreme consumer behavior when shoppers began stocking up on certain products, such as hand sanitizer, masks, and toilet paper, in fear of an imminent shortage. This fear was so prevalent that it even contributed to a temporary, self-induced shortage of basic household goods.

The point is, psychology & your emotions played a critical role in your decision to make a purchasing decision.

In the case of the toilet paper shortage, there was arguably little reason to begin stockpiling rolls of toilet paper by the garage-full. Nevertheless, as word spread across Facebook about stores running low on supplies, consumers began to fear a global shortage of toilet paper. This fear created a positive feedback loop wherein more and more shoppers began to hoard rolls and rolls of toilet paper.

March 2020 Toilet Paper Shortage
The implication: consumers will spend lots of money on things--even when they don't need them--if an emotional response is strong enough to influence their behavior.

American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, theorized that humans have a hierarchy of needs, including food, water, shelter & sex, as well as more complicated needs like achievement & legacy. When we become hungry, our body recognizes the need to eat, motivates us to find food, and restores homeostasis by eating.

Similarly, when consumers make purchasing decisions, psychologists theorize they are following this same pathway, known as Hull's Drive Reduction Theory (also see Incentive Theory). Moreover, when consumers satisfy their desires by making purchases, the brain releases dopamine, stimulating the reward pathway. As a consequence, the behavior gets reinforced.

So what does this mean for marketing strategy?

The most significant takeaway from these psychological insights is that successful marketing campaigns influence others' behavior by eliciting an emotional response.

So, here are a few methods you can use to start influencing behavior:

1) Discover what your customer wants

In order to elicit an emotional response, you must first identify and become fully-acquainted with what it is that your customer needs or wants.

If you already have a relationship with your customer, your job is fairly easy- simply ask a few open-ended questions that reveal his or her needs.

If you haven't met the customer before, you should do some preliminary research by reading market reports and thinking critically about your typical customer, who they are and what they're looking to accomplish.

For instance, a financial advisor who helps high net worth individuals plan for retirement may make the assumption that Prospect X wants to avoid high-risk equities based on her experience with other clients.

2) Think about how your product/service solves the customer's need

Once you have a complete understanding of what your customer needs, the next step is to consider how your company can satisfy his or her needs.

It is important to consider not what your product or service is, but what it does. What outcome can your customer reach if they purchase from you?

Remember, your business is the bridge between where the customer is now and where the customer wants to be. How might your offering close this gap?

The financial advisor, for instance, bridges that gap between someone with no retirement savings, and a prosperous retired person by crafting a sophisticated investment strategy that minimizes downside risk and tax incidence.

3) Paint a vivid picture of the outcome

This step involves strategically evoking an emotional response in your customer, based on what you think his/her need is. Just like a certain song can instantly alter your mood, so too should your message.

Here are a few of the emotional responses marketers target:

  • Happiness

  • Fear

  • Curiosity

  • Greed/Desire

  • Guilt

When attempting to "fit in" to one of the emotions, your message will need to reflect your customer. What makes one person happy, doesn't make everyone happy.

We can accomplish this in several ways, but a few of our favorite techniques include:

  • Selecting the perfect picture: stunning visuals create powerful emotional responses

  • Using effective headers: deliver an impactful statement in as few words as possible

  • Strategic word choice: be exceedingly deliberate in your choice of words, especially adjectives and verbs

Want to learn more? Visit to learn how we use psychological principles & $100,000+ in market research tools to craft winning strategies.

39 views0 comments

A Michigan-based Company

Ann Arbor, MI 48104


  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
Begin the conversation

© 2020 by Modern Mind Technology, LLC.