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Christmas consumption: the secrets that brands know to make us buy more at this time of year

Social consumption, neuromarketing, overcoming stress... two researchers from the ICS of the University of Navarra analyze the keys to holiday shopping

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PHOTO: Manuel Castells
18/12/14 11:49 Isabel Solana

The neuromarketing strategies used by brands, the deep-rooted ritual of social consumption, the stimulation of the neural pleasure centers when we buy a product... On the occasion of the Christmas season, two researchers from the group of research 'Consumption and lifestyles' of the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra analyze some of the key factors that lead to increased consumption at this time of year.

 "During holiday periods, and especially at Christmas, we let our guard down: we are eager for brands to give us reasons to spend, no matter why or what for. That's why Christmas is a perfect lure for compulsive shoppers". So says the doctor in Neurosciences Luis Echarte, who in addition to collaborating with the ICS is a professor of the School of Medicine.

The expert points out that "the card of credit is today one of the most socially accepted anxiolytics for download stress accumulated with frenetic lifestyles". Thus, he says that this phenomenon is due, in good part, to the fact that "we dedicate more and more hours to work and we rest less well. In the time of relaxation, all the accumulated stress emerges and one way to overcome it is to go out shopping".

Reducing the threshold of freedom through the unconscious

Dr. Echarte, who has conducted research related to neuromarketing, explains that brands focus their strategies mainly on three targets: attention -especially with the combination of colors and music-, the pleasure centers and the social element -recognition of others-. "On advertising we work more on emotional stimuli than on rational ones because the latter take longer to process," he stresses.

He also comments that many of the commercial strategies "aim to reduce our threshold of freedom, since they are aimed directly at the unconscious, at what we do not perceive and cannot control. sample However, he is not pessimistic: "People are still free to buy as long as they know what they are exposed to when they go to a shopping mall or when they choose to watch TV commercials. As an 'antidote', he suggests taking a walk in the countryside because "one stops, as if by magic, desiring things".

For his part, ICS sociologist Alejandro N. García, also a professor at the ICS, agrees on the importance of the social meaning of consumption, emphasizing its relational nature. School of Philosophy and LettersThe Christmas season brings with it a series of consumption rituals closely linked to human relationships in which we share: we have to prepare a large meal, give gifts...".

The lottery, a way to participate in social relationships

As a paradigmatic example, he mentions the case of the lottery. "It is so institutionalized -he assures- that it acquires a certain 'obligatory' character; somehow, the one who does not play has to justify why he does not do it, since it is considered a way of participating in collective relations". Thus, he alludes to advertisement of 2014, which "makes it clear that you buy lottery within a group and not to do so is to exclude yourself from it; it is not only about winning, but also about not isolating yourself from that social bond".

On the other hand, with regard to this year's most successful Christmas ads, which highlight positive aspects such as generosity -in the case of the lottery-, dedicating time to one's children -a furniture company- or caring for others -a famous soft drink-, he reminds us that, nowadays, brands "sell values, more than products. The general strategy is to generate emotional attachment through the most relevant values at a given time.

sample Professor García is not particularly alarmist about excessive consumption at Christmas, as he considers that "it is a socially extraordinary moment. In general, what we do exceptionally does not condition our ordinary general outlook; in January we tighten our belts again". And he emphasizes that "throughout the year we need periods of rest in which we can do different things and hold collective celebrations". 

Luis Echarte and Alejandro García are researchers at Institute for Culture and Society, the research center in Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Navarra, which receives support from Obra Social 'La Caixa' and Zurich Insurance. They belong to the group 'Mente-cerebro' (Mind-brain) and 'Emotional culture and identity ', two of the eight projects of research of the ICS. They collaborate in the group transversal research 'Consumption and lifestyles'.

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