What if I told you humans take mental shortcuts (heuristics) everyday? I don’t mean just choosing a less busy street to drive on or using ctrl C on the keyboard. When I say shortcuts, I mean every time we go to the shops to buy food, laundry detergent, clothes, and many more choices we make during our busy lives. Shortcuts are not only within our capacities but within our very essence. We use them daily and we need them (Sprout 2021). If we did not have this ability to take shortcuts, we would never be able to come to a decision on anything. Unfortunately, companies and their marketing teams also know this and do an abundance of research to nudge us towards purchasing products they want us to buy. For example, you may pick a detergent because it’s in green packaging, so your mind links that to an environmental benefit choice when it could be the complete opposite. We need to remember that marketers are very good at their jobs and usually have a lot of information on how to lure us in.
So, you are probably thinking, what on earth has this got to do with sustainability…. Well, everything of course! You see, sustainability is more than just a catchphrase or a list of sustainable goals, it is a mindset (UNPRME 2022). If you have a sustainable mindset, then most purchases you make are usually considered as making the right choice for the environment. But making decisions based on catchy words or colors is not enough. Color has a strong psychological impact on decisions (Faisal Zaidi 2022; Rita Kuvykaite et al. 2009; Dan Luo et al. 2019) and it`s a marketer’s job to know this and apply it in order to sell more.
It’s not just colors either that marketers are targeting. They are also now finding ways to use organic credibility for advertising their products. Unfortunately, consumers like you and me are overexposed to claims made and symbols suggesting sustainable practices are undertaken. They are posted all over-packaged food (Lanero et al. 2020). Regrettably, this does not only impact our in-shopping purchases but online purchases too. Online Shopping sites are also tapping into our mental shortcuts. In fact, to such a degree they are even using data mining methods and algorithms to better predict consumer purchases based on internet store visits (Parkhimenka et al. 2017).
It’s terrible to think that companies take advantage of us, using psychological methods to influence our purchase behavior, I for one do not like it one bit. With so many choices to make each day, having to make even more decisions at the local food store when deciding on weekly groceries can be tiring. Luckily now you are aware of the cheeky little marketing games food companies are playing and with this insightful information, we can take action. Even if it`s small steps, where we make informative decisions a few products at a time, it would support our sustainable mindsets and beat the marketers at their own game. If there are products in amazing packages and suspicious organic symbols and claims, it takes a quick minute to pull out your handy smartphone and do a search. In addition, a sustainable mindset is also a willingness to continue to learn about all areas of sustainability. Therefore, continue the good fight as knowledge allows us to make informative decisions and can only make us wiser.
And remember, awareness is key, if we are not aware, then we are likely not well informed.
Dan Luo; Luwen Yu; Stephen Westland; Nik Mahon (2019): The influence of colour and image on consumer purchase intentions of convenience food. Available online at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen-Westland/publication/332304769_The_influence_of_colour_and_image_on_consumer_purchase_intentions_of_convenience_food/links/5e39f4e9299bf1cdb90e4093/The-influence-of-colour-and-image-on-consumer-purchase-intentions-of-convenience-food.pdf, checked on 6/6/2022.
Faisal Zaidi (2022): Color Psychology of Consumer Decision Making | LinkedIn. Available online at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141006095417-101549284-color-psychology-of-consumer-decision-making/, updated on 6/6/2022, checked on 6/6/2022.
Lanero, Ana; Vázquez, José-Luis; Sahelices-Pinto, César (2020): Heuristic Thinking and Credibility of Organic Advertising Claims: The Role of Knowledge and Motivations. In Sustainability 12 (21), p. 8776. DOI: 10.3390/su12218776.
Parkhimenka, Uladzimir; Tatur, Mikhail; Zhvakina, Anna (2017): Heuristic approach to online purchase prediction based on internet store visitors classification using data mining methods. In International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies (Ed.): The International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies 2017. 5-7 July 2017, Žilina, Slovakia. 2017 International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies (IDT). Zilina, Slovakia, 7/5/2017 – 7/7/2017. International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies; IDT. [Piscataway, NJ]: IEEE, pp. 304–307.
Rita Kuvykaite; Aiste Dovaliene; Laura Navickiene (2009): IMPACT OF PACKAGE ELEMENTS ON CONSUMER’S PURCHASE DECISION. In ecoman (14), pp. 441–447. Available online at https://www.ecoman.ktu.lt/index.php/Ekv/article/view/9405.
Singun, Amando Pimentel, JR. (2018): Heuristics as Mental Shortcuts in Evaluating Interactive Systems. In Int. J. Eng. Ped. 8 (4), p. 143. DOI: 10.3991/ijep.v8i4.8054.
Sprout (2021): Understanding the mental shortcuts that dictate buying behaviour – Sprout. Available online at https://sproutstrategy.com.au/understanding-the-mental-shortcuts-that-dictate-buying-behaviour/, updated on 7/14/2021, checked on 5/21/2022.
UNPRME (2022). Available online at https://www.unprme.org/prme-working-group-on-sustainability-mindset, updated on 6/6/2022, checked on 6/6/2022.