Very soon it will be possible to perform the most mundane of tasks through an internet-connected device. Bosch, the German home appliances company, recently announced the launch of a cloud for the ‘Internet of Things’ to excel the development of their intelligent manufacturing and smart cars, amongst other products. The global IT provider SITA are also working on incorporating the ‘Internet of Things’ into airplanes to create efficient self-service capabilities for passengers. It’s a trend that’s growing exceedingly fast, and with the anticipation of how this will enhance consumers lifestyles, living in an age of the ‘Internet of Things’ is an exciting prospect. But how can we expect marketing strategies to evolve as a result of this?

Considering the buzz around this trend it could easily be assumed that consumers are looking for multipurpose devices to suit our many needs. However, recent research has shown that, whilst a product or service with various functionalities may initially seem appealing, it could equally become the very reason a person decides not to purchase, particularly if they are in a good mood.

Marketers need to take a less rational approach to understand why this is the case. Emotions heavily affect a person’s thought process when they’re considering what to buy, and if a product is communicated as serving multiple purposes when a consumer is in a good mood then the person may believe that the product cannot perform any of its functions well. Like a duck that can walk, swim, and fly, but isn’t outstanding in any of these activities. This can have a negative overall effect on the consumers’ opinions about the product.

One potential hazard is the risk of a product or service appearing to have a lack of user-friendliness, as was the case with the 1948 the Preston Tucker car. The product had no real reason to fail.  Its features were advanced for its time, but financial troubles and a general perception of the vehicle as being too complex and innovative for practical use meant the car wasn’t available for very long. Potential owners found it difficult to focus on how the Preston Tucker could meet their ultimate need of successfully driving a vehicle as their attention was drawn to various other features. Negative media attention developed as a result of this perception which ultimately led to the Preston Tucker’s downfall.

When considering how a consumer’s emotions may influence their purchasing decision, it is important to consider what goals they are hoping to achieve. Consumers who are in a good mood tend to prefer a product, or service, that helps them to implement one goal at a time. If a product serves multiple purposes then a happy consumer may perceive the various functions in the product as a distraction in helping them to reach their specific intention. However, someone who is not in a good mood will be less critical of the multiple functions, making them a less challenging target.

In one of my studies, a group of people who shared the desire to be healthy and to perform well academically were interviewed. With these two intentions in mind the interviewees were asked, “How useful do you think green tea would be in helping you to achieve both of your objectives at the same time?” Green tea was the product of choice because of their combined health and performance benefits, and interviewees agreed that green tea could help them to accomplish both of their goals. The benefits of the green tea were then communicated, as marketers would, but with an emphasis on the health benefits of the product. After drinking the green tea, the interviewees reviewed how effective the product was. Those who were in a good mood claimed the product helped them to implement their health goals (the benefit that was originally emphasised the most) but they also said it was less likely to help them improve their performance, or improve both performance and health at the same time. The interviewees who were in less positive moods, however, were more likely to accept the product as meeting their health needs, performance needs, and both simultaneously.

Whilst this example was for a health related product, it’s a strategy that can cross over into other industries, as essentially emotions have a vital influence on the behaviour of a consumer regardless of what they may be considering to buy.

It is not possible for marketers to determine the mood of a person when they’re being sold a product or service, but fortunately, there’s a simple way to counteract a potentially negative outcome and increase the value consumers see in multifunctional products. Explicitly describing a product as helping to achieve two specific objectives will make people feel more positive towards the product, even if they’re in a good mood.

Francine Petersen is the Associate Professor of Marketing at European School of Management and Technology. This article is based on a research paper entitled, ‘Two birds, one stone? Positive mood makes products seem less useful for multiple-goal pursuit’

Francine Espinoza Petersen

Francine Espinoza Petersen


Associate Professor of Marketing at European School of Management