The Power of Emotion in Decision Making: Moving from WHAT to WHY

Understanding the emotional factors behind decision-making is crucial for businesses to connect with their target audience.

Decision-making is a critical process that can determine the success or failure of an organization. While we often assume that our choices are based on facts and rationality, research has revealed a fascinating truth: a significant 95% of our decisions are driven by emotions rather than objective data. This article explores the profound impact of emotions on decision-making and highlights the importance of focusing on the “why” behind our products or services.

Understanding the Emotional Decision-Making Paradigm:

Contrary to popular belief, humans are not purely rational beings. Emotions play a significant role in shaping our thoughts, perceptions, and subsequent actions. This emotional decision-making paradigm is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history, where emotions were crucial for survival and adaptation. Today, these emotional drivers continue to shape our choices, even in the realm of business.

The BMW Example:

To illustrate the power of emotions in decision-making, let’s consider the case of purchasing a BMW. While some might argue that the decision to buy a BMW is based solely on its technical specifications, research suggests otherwise. People don’t buy BMWs just because they have 500 horsepower; they buy them because they want to experience the exhilaration of driving really fast. The emotional desire for thrill, excitement, and the feeling of being in control are the true drivers behind the decision to purchase a BMW.

The Shift from WHAT to WHY:

Understanding the emotional factors behind decision-making is crucial for businesses to connect with their target audience. Instead of solely focusing on the “what” of their products or services, successful companies emphasize the “why” behind what they do. By articulating the purpose, values, and the problem they solve for their customers, businesses can tap into the emotional drivers that influence decision-making.

The Power of Emotional Connection:

When businesses effectively communicate their “why,” they create a powerful emotional connection with their customers. People don’t just buy based on the features or functionalities of a product; they buy based on how it can help them and fulfill their emotional needs. By understanding the emotions and desires of their target audience, businesses can tailor their messaging and marketing efforts to resonate on a deeper level, leading to increased customer engagement, loyalty, and sales.

Building Trust and Loyalty:

Emotional connections built through a strong “why” can foster trust and loyalty among customers. When people feel a genuine connection to a brand or business, they are more likely to become repeat customers and advocates. By consistently delivering on their promises and aligning their actions with their purpose, businesses can cultivate long-term relationships that are based on trust, authenticity, and shared values.

Embracing Emotional Intelligence:

Emotional intelligence, the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions, is a valuable skill for business leaders and decision-makers. By incorporating emotional intelligence into the decision-making process, leaders can better understand the emotional implications of their choices. This allows for more empathetic decision-making, which takes into account the emotional needs and desires of customers and employees. By leveraging emotional intelligence, businesses can create a positive work environment, foster strong customer relationships, and make informed decisions that resonate with their target audience.

While facts and data certainly play a role in decision-making, research has shown that emotions are the driving force behind a significant 95% of our choices. The example of purchasing a BMW illustrates how the desire for exhilaration and thrill outweighs the focus on technical specifications.

By shifting the focus from the “what” to the “why,” businesses can tap into the power of emotions and create a deeper connection with their target audience. By embracing emotional intelligence and understanding the emotional factors behind decision-making, businesses can thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape and build lasting relationships with their customers.


– Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York, NY: Putnam.
– Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York, NY: Portfolio.

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