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the psychology of black friday

it's not you, it's capitalism


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  • The need for a good bargain stems from deep within our psyche.
  • Fomo is all too real, and big companies know it.
  • Paying by card, especially using BNPL or credit, can fool your brain into thinking that you haven’t spent a penny.

Black Friday is the time of year that truly tests our self-control. But Martin Lewis said it best:

if you were going to buy it anyway, you've saved 50%. if you weren't going to buy it anyway, you've lost 100%

Black Friday can indeed be an opportunity to save money on things you’re already looking for, but it can also be a rabbit hole of unruly spending, leaving you with more than you bargained for...

the psychology behind black friday 

The need for a good bargain stems from deep within our psyche. In fact, it’s in our chemical make-up to be exact! Neuroscientist Christian Elger explains that our brain reacts to different stimuli experienced over this period. The brain has structures known as the ‘reward system’ which houses the pleasure centre. When these structures are stimulated or triggered, a feeling of pleasure is experienced. This feeling is amplified when words such as ‘sale’, ‘deal’ or ‘discount’ pop up, and that causes the rational part of our brain to struggle to remain objective and figure out whether this purchase is necessary or not. The use of these kinds of buzzwords is magnified over the Black Friday period, which sends our shopping habits into chaos. 

To add salt to the wound, colour is also used to trigger this positive feeling in consumers. Yep, even colour is making you second guess your wants vs needs! Ever seen a red ‘sale’ sign and immediately felt drawn in? That's actually the good-vibes-part-of-your-brain being stimulated, encouraging you to follow those good vibes.

fomo is real, bestie

The ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ is huuuge in manipulating behaviour during Black Friday sales! Companies exploit a ‘scarcity principle’ and create a fake sense of exclusivity with short sale times and by setting arbitrary limitations on stock to make their products appear to be in short supply. That 'whilst stocks last' phrase? Wouldn't be 100% certain about that. All this generates a huge sense of urgency and makes consumers feel that they need to act immediately in order to save.

black friday and buyer behaviour

We’re slowly emerging into a cashless world, but even your method of payment can have an impact on how your mind processes shopping activity. Paying by card, or especially using BNPL or credit, can fool your brain into thinking that you haven’t spent a penny, whereas when you hand over your hard earned cash, you feel a sense of physical loss and your brain registers what's happening. Paying by cash is also known to increase the buyers emotional attachment to their purchase, as opposed to paying by card. Things suddenly feel so much more real. And it doesn't help that Black Friday just so happens to occur at the end of the long, hard week, on pay-day weekend for many too.

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