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Subliminal house buying message: the power of multi-sensual marketing?

Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

I had a good experience the other week teaching Marketing at our Edinburgh campus, alongside my colleague Professor Steve Carter. Part of our session on consumer behaviour explored the consumer decision-making process (Marketing module 6). We looked at how consumers tend to go through a more complex, informed process when a purchase decision is highly involving and potentially risky (financially or socially). But in the break I got chatting to some students and we agreed that often, in highly involving situations, this doesn’t happen ‘by the book’ – a notable example was buying a house.

We could all think of friends, family members or colleagues who had seemed to muddle through the house-buying decision with less deliberation than for all sorts of less important purchases (wedding dress, pram, car?), despite it being probably the most expensive purchase they would ever make… myself included!

My husband and I found and chose our house in two weeks. We saw it online and visited it on the day it hit the market. The décor was beautiful: exactly our colour scheme, immaculately made-up rooms with handmade cushions and patchwork quilts, striking artwork, vases of flowers. Baking smells wafted from the range cooker. The couple were attractive and friendly, with a lovely baby nestled in her lovely nursery. We could see ourselves here, and – what’s more – the fridge magnets were arranged to read ‘Subliminal house buying message’!

The house was taken off the market within days of our negotiations, and luckily it has – touch wood! – lived up to our expectations. But I say ‘luckily’ because the purchase was not the outcome of a particularly rational or diligent decision-making process. Two things come to mind. First, we were under a lot of competitive pressure. As my colleague Florence pointed out in her last blog, the rules of demand and supply meant that, if we didn’t act fast, someone else would. Second, do not underestimate the power of marketing influences. Buying a house can be an emotional, as well as a financial, investment. As Marketing Magazine has just highlighted, multi-sensual marketing can have a big effect!