Have you ever wondered why shopkeepers use mannequins to display their apparel collection, why there is always an attractive channel – showing a football match or a serial or any song – playing on televisions in an electronics shop? Have you ever felt like having those similar cool looking shoes you saw a person wearing or having those white color earbuds your friend uses? Well, thanks to the industries which are investing a tremendous amount of money and other resources in studying consumer behavior.
Consumer behavior is the study of the processes and factors a consumer considers before and after buying the goods. The study helps marketers to understand the needs and wants of the consumer, what are the products needed in the market place, and how to best present them to attract the buyer. It helps them know that what do the customers buy, why do consumers buy, how frequently do customers purchase and many other things.
So, here we will talk about one of the most critical elements – Mirror neurons – which generally helps marketers to influence our buying behavior.
What are Mirror Neurons?
Mirror neurons are the neurons that become active when an action is performed and when that same action is observed.
Have you ever wondered why, when your favorite team scores a goal, you pump your hands in the air? Or why tears roll up in your eyes when you watch your favorite hero crying in a movie? Or that feeling of energy and dance that floods through when you watch your favorite dancer dancing in the film? You can give all the credits to mirror neurons. When we watch someone do something, whether it’s scoring a goal or our favorite actor dancing, our brain reacts as if we are performing these tasks by ourselves.
Mirror neurons also explain why we feel happy when we see someone happy or sad when we see someone sad. Our mirror neurons get activated when we see someone in pain, and we feel the pain as if it is ours.
Yawn. Do you feel like yawning now, or are you actually yawning, or are you getting that initial feel of tiredness? I am, not because I am tired, but because I have simply typed the word yawn. Mirror neurons not only become activated when we see someone performing those actions, but they also get activated when we read about someone performing that action.
How do Mirror Neurons affect our behavior?
Let’s take a real-life experience of mine. Once I was passing the front window of the United Colors of Benetton (UCB) showroom. I observed a mannequin wearing a slim fit jean, an attractive t-shirt, and a perfectly fitting black leather jacket. He was looking great, confident, relaxed, and appealing. There subconsciously, even though I had put some extra kgs, I thought even I could look like that if I bought that outfit. I could be him. At least my brain was telling me that, even though I was not aware of that at the moment. Next thing I remember, I entered the showroom with my debit card and purchased those jeans, t-shirt, and jacket. I felt like, along with those clothes, I have bought that image and attitude too.
You will wonder that not only ours but others’ behavior with us also affects our purchasing behavior and influences our purchase decisions. According to a study conducted by two researchers of the University of California and the University of Michigan, exposure to brief images of smiling or sad faces affected the amount test subjects were willing to pay for a product. Participants who saw happy faces were willing to pay twice for a product as compared to those who saw angry faces. It means that managers who teach their retail serving employees to smile while attending a customer are on the right track.
However, the effect of mirror neurons is not limited to offline shopping. For the last few years, we have observed a tremendous increase in the number of unboxing videos shared by social media influencers. Lately, many companies have also joined the league. But how do these influence us as consumers? Let’s consider an example of a video showing a person unboxing one’s brand new iPhone 11. So, when a fan watches this video, it seems that she watching someone else unboxing their brand-new phone gives her as much pleasure as opening that new iPhone herself. In fact, there are multiple video-sharing websites that serve this kind of vicarious pleasure. Chad Stoller, executive director of Emerging Platforms at the ad agency Organic, explains, “It’s the culmination of lust. There are a lot of people who aspire, who want to have something they may not be able to afford, and they can’t buy it yet. They are looking for some way to satiate their appetite.” Or maybe it’s just mirror neurons at work.