Thinking vs. feeling: A new marketing approach


Consumers approach problems, products, and websites differently according to distinct thinking styles, rational or experiential, says a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Authors Thomas P. Novak and Donna L. Hoffman (both of University of California, Riverside) say consumers tend to think either rationally or experientially and marketers should design experiences for consumers that allow a good fit between the style and the task.

The authors describe rational thinking as “logical, effortful, and analytical,” and experiential thinking as “associative, lower effort, and holistic.” Examples of rational activities include work, carefully considered decisions, and goal-directed tasks, while experiential activities include playing, browsing, and impulse buying.

Marketers can’t read consumers’ minds, but they can offer opportunities for different thinking styles to be utilized. “One approach is to design a store or website in a way that provides opportunities for consumers to think either way, and let the consumers choose what to do,” the researchers suggest.

“Since some people tend to think more rationally and others tend to think more intuitively, different people will have greater success and happiness with different activities. However, everyone is capable of thinking both ways, and sometimes just nudging yourself to think in a different direction can help you be more successful and feel more satisfied,” the authors conclude.