Do women buy cosmetics because they’re useful or because they make them feel good?
A study by the University of the Basque Country shows that people who use cosmetics buy these products 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 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,” says Apaolaza.
Paradoxically, 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.
“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 theory of social comparison has been used in various research studies to explain how using very attractive models in advertising can affect consumers,” says Apaolaza.
“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. These effects are most heightened among people with the greatest awareness of their public image,” she adds.
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.
From a utility perspective, the researchers found that the design of the bottles or containers (attractive, making the product or brand seem technically superior, exceptional and unique) also has an impact on purchasing decisions.
“These results serve as a recommendation to the market to use persuasive strategies focused more on emotional aspects than functional ones,” the researcher concludes.
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