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Emotion drives cosmetic purchases over utility of product, study finds

By Andrew McDougall , 22-Jul-2011
Last updated on 22-Jul-2011 at 13:03 GMT2011-07-22T13:03:15Z

Researchers have found that the purchase of cosmetics is primarily for emotional reasons
Researchers have found that the purchase of cosmetics is primarily for emotional reasons

Researchers from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) have found that people who use cosmetics do so primarily for emotional reasons.

The study was carried out on facial creams (hydrating and nutritive ones, coloured or non-coloured, and anti-wrinkle creams) and body creams (firming and anti-cellulite creams).

"The study shows that both the emotional and utility aspect of cosmetic brands have a significant impact on consumer satisfaction, but that the emotional component has a greater effect", Vanessa Apaolaza, a researcher from the UPV and lead author of the study, which has been published in the African Journal of Business Management.

Degree of satisfaction

The scientists carried out personal surveys on 355 women aged between 18 and 50, who were selected in a random sample.

They were asked to evaluate various aspects of their perceptions of the functional and emotional factors of the cosmetics they used, as well as their degree of satisfaction with them.

The results showed that "consumer satisfaction is greatest when the cosmetics brand helps to strengthen positive emotions through the perception of 'caring for oneself' and removing feelings of worry and guilt about not taking care of one's appearance", said Apaolaza.

However, this raises concerns as it suggests that in order for the brand to provide this positive emotional experience, it must first cause consumers to have negative feelings about themselves, such as concern about and dissatisfaction with their appearance.

Creating the need to buy through negative emotions

"One way of achieving this is by subtly telling them they are ugly – something that many cosmetics adverts achieve implicitly and very effectively by showing images of unusually beautiful women", the study points out.

"The basic premise of these studies is that consumers compare their own level of physical attractiveness with that of the models used in adverts, and that these comparisons give rise to negative effects in the way they perceive their own physical attractiveness and on their self-esteem", she added.

The study points to the need to eliminate these negative emotions and to soothe women's worries about looking good as one of their main psychological motivations for buying cosmetics.

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