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Consumers Crave the Familiar When Experiencing Fear, Researchers Suggest

  • Researchers suggest that evolutionary psychology drivers consumer patterns during situations like the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Experiment tests how consumer buying habits are affected after reading stories about contagious or non-contagious diseases
  • Study suggests that marketing tactics should emphasize familiar products and services during distressing times

Many products carry a certain nostalgic or comforting quality that endears them to consumers. People regularly reminisce about beloved items that have been discontinued, and several brands have capitalized on these emotions by reintroducing retro designs or briefly reintroducing bygone products to the market.

A recent study finds that evolutionary psychology plays an even more prominent role in our love for familiar things during stressful times. Researchers suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified feelings of fear and disgust, causing people to favor the comfort of things they know and trust.

In addition to large-scale empirical analyses of available data, researchers conducted experiments to see how volunteers’ buying habits changed after they read about contagious or non-contagious diseases. Those who read about contagious diseases sought out familiar brands, which researchers credited to a subconscious effort to gain control over an uncertain situation.

The authors of the study suggest that companies may want to hold off on pushing new products during situations such as the pandemic, instead focusing their marketing strategy on items that have already gained a substantial audience.


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