When consumers encounter promotions while shopping, they are compelled to act on their visceral impulses. At Sentient Decision Science, we call this compulsion hot-state decision making. Hot-states lead to a reduction in immediate self-control (Loewenstein, 2000), and many marketing campaigns emphasize immediate action with hot phrases like “One day only!” and “Call now!

Catchy slogans, such as “Hungry? Grab a Snickers’®,” Nike®’s “Just Do It,” and Sprite®’s “Obey Your Thirst,” tap into these visceral states and motivate immediate consumer behavior. As a result, consumers often fail to return to a cold-state, where the rational mind might be able carry greater weight on the decision.

From a marketing perspective, encouraging hot-state decision making has the potential to boost short-term sales since consumers will buy products during hot-states through simple reminders of their visceral depletions (e.g. “I am really thirsty!” or “I forgot how hungry I was!”). However, this may not always be the best strategy for long-term growth since consumers will often regret their decision later. Research continues to show that people are unable to fully comprehend why they acted so impulsively in past hot-states (Loewenstein, 1996), and decision regret can in turn lead to reduced customer loyalty and satisfaction.

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