Understanding positive & negative emotions in consumer behavior

*Puccinelli, N. M., Grewal, D., Motyka, S., Andrzejewski, S. A., & Avnet, T. (2016). Effects of affect on consumer behaviour: a meta-analytic integration. Marketing Science Institute Working Paper Series, Report No. 16−114. https://www.msi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/MSI_Report_16-114.pdf

Do positive emotions of customers lead to a more positive buying behaviour?

The chief strategy among marketing practitioners is to create a positive environment meant to shift their clients’ moods towards more sunny dispositions. Before starting a conversation with a call-center representative, clients listen in the background to some positive music and a message telling them how important they are for the company. When the conversation begins, the reps encounter them with a positive tone and smiling voice. All this with the purpose of putting them in a good mood. However, as the discussion evolves, some clients prove to be quite critical of the options provided. And sometimes it feels like this “feel-good strategy” is backfiring.

The client’s goal to assess the options objectively and not be influenced by the good mood created by the environment, make him even more critical of the options provided. Despite his positive mood, he is quite skeptical and reserved in his buying behavior. So then, are positive emotions beneficial or not?

Integrating the vast amount of research on this topic, a research* which analyzed the results of 624 studies involving 33.000 customers reached the conclusion that consumers are 63% more likely to choose to buy a product if they feel positive than if they feel negative.

 This congruence is more likely to appear when the affective state is low in arousal level (the client is calm, relaxed);

  • low in processing intensity or ability (the offering doesn’t require much cognitive processing);
  • high in representativeness (the offering is associated with a story that is personally relevant for the consumer) and when social norms support affective expression (more frequent in Western cultures).

For example, if a retailer is looking to boost sales using this strategy of creating a “feel good” environment, they might play relaxing classical music to enhance a calm mood and the sales representative should approach the client with a calm tone, rather than a positively exciting pitch. The offer should be presented in a simple way, with limited details, so that the client doesn’t feel the burden of complex cognitive processing and, if possible, associate a story that can be personally relevant for the consumer inspired from his previous purchases, or from acquisitions made by someone like the client. Also, the benefits of a positive mood are greater for unplanned purchase opportunities, such as when customers are just browsing as opposed to those who are motivated to find a specific product or item.

As for the remaining 37% where the benefits of a “feel-good strategy” are more modest, we can imagine a retailer playing the upbeat song Happy by Pharell Williams, and the sales representative greeting the client with an overly enthusiastic tone and loading the offering with tons of details, that would increase client’s arousal (make him more alert, as opposed to calm & relaxed), increase the cognitive processing (make him more attentive) and would attenuate the influence of the positive affect.

Further, we would expect to see less efficiency of the “cheer up strategy” in a retailer selling more complex products or services that require more cognitive complexity.

Finally, in contexts in which consumers must make a challenging cognitive decision (e.g. choose and investment) a feel-good strategy might backfire. Consumers who feel positively will evaluate offering more unfavorably as they strain to accurately analyze the options.


So, creating environments that elicit positive emotions in customers works when we manage to create a relaxed atmosphere, where we can calmly present a product/service that doesn’t require much cognitive analysis and we can connect it to something relevant for the client. But trying to “cheer up” clients when they need to make complex decisions might backfire into a more critical customer that negatively impacts the purchase behavior. 

These scenarios highlight the complex nature of human emotions and their effect on customer’s behavior.

@RepsMate we fundament our work on extensive research, providing our clients with evidence-based practical solutions that facilitate communication between reps & customers and make interactions count.
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Picture of Ioana Mânea

Ioana Mânea

- Associate Professor at Faculty of Psychology at Universitatea Titu Maiorescu, Career counselor & International Master Trainer Career Development (GCDF).
- Co-Founder RepsMate

If you are sure that you want to join a mission to change the world, come to the RepsMate team!