Adopting consumer electric vehicles based on their emotional benefits…the case of Ghana

Adopting consumer electric vehicles based on their emotional benefits…the case of Ghana

The expression that “we buy on emotion and justify with logic” has intuitively made sense to some people, but rationally not made sense to others. Prof. Gerald Zaltman, a Harvard professor, indicated that purchase decisions are subconscious and hence compelled by unconscious urges, with emotion being the biggest. According to Prof. Zaltman, “Emotion is what really drives the purchasing behaviours, and also decision-making in general”. This phenomenon and years of research has caused products and services to be designed to satisfy the desires or wants of customers while appealing to their emotional side.

To show how powerful this is, neuroscientists at the University of Arizona conducted some studies and found that people make decisions to accept or reject something based on the part of the brain that is active. For instance, during negotiations when a person’s anterior insula – a part of the brain involved in negative emotions including anger and disgust – becomes more active, he/she will reject an offer. Interestingly, research by Antonio Damasio – a neurologist, found that people whose brains are damaged in the area that generates emotions are incapable of making decisions. Without the ability to make decisions, a customer cannot adopt a product or service.

Marketers are aware of this; and although features of a product are significant in selling the product, marketers also sell the lifestyle and feeling that comes with acquiring a product. For example, luxury goods producers target customers’ feelings of self-worth, acceptance and status in the world to sell their product. Sports brands appeal to customers’ need for adventure and glory through the act of competition. Toothpaste brands such as Pepsodent and Close-up are marketed to appeal to different emotions of customers. To find out what those emotions are, just pay close attention to their marketing campaigns.

As a product, Electric Vehicles (EVs) are no exception. Brands such as Tesla, Aspark Owl, Bollinger, BMW’s electric vehicles, Rivian etc., are considered high-end brands. This is mostly because of their quality and high price-tag. However, EVs have become popular in this century due to environmental concerns and how unsustainable conventional vehicles that use fossil fuels are.

But to achieve higher global market penetration and consumer adoption, manufacturers and promoters of EVs cannot solely base their products-marketing on only the environmental sustainability advantage of EVs. This is because consumers must be made to realise other key benefits of adopting EVs. It is important to determine whether beyond the functional use of EVs, such as mobility, consumers will adopt EVs because of non-functional benefits such as emotional satisfaction, societal recognition and brand recognition.

In the case of Ghana, research conducted by DONE BY US – a management consultancy firm based in Ghana – examined factors which influence adoption of EVs in Africa, using Ghana as a case-study. One question that the research sought to answer was: what non-functional or secondary benefit of EVs influence consumers to adopt them? I find this question significant because in addition to the primary function of EVs, which is mobility, it is necessary to determine whether African consumers consider EV as a luxury item. At least, this will help Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) of EVs to build and position their EV products appropriately to achieve a higher adoption rate in Africa.

Before we look at findings from the research conducted by DONE BY US, let’s briefly discuss what non-functional benefits are. Generally, a product’s value proposition is an expression made up of the functional, emotional and self-expressive benefits which the product delivers[1].

Functional benefits are attributes of a product which fulfil consumers’ needs by delivering what the product was developed to accomplish[2]. For instance, a watch’s functional benefit is to show time while a vehicle’s functional benefit is to move people, goods and infrastructure from one point to another. Self-expressiveness has to do with a consumer’s self-image – and this is expressed when the consumer is using the product. For instance the classiness that comes with driving a luxury vehicle or travelling in a private jet.

Emotional benefits are experiences consumers feel when purchasing and using a product – these emotions can either be positive or negative. It is argued that every product delivers some form of emotional or self-expressive benefits in addition to its functional benefits. So, definitely, it can be agreed that EVs carry non-functional benefits. But how exactly will consumers in Ghana react to this?

In Ghana’s case, using a sample size of 400 based on records which show that about 2 million vehicles are registered in Ghana and vehicle importation for the past 10 years have been approximately 100,000 vehicles annually, data was collected from 434 respondents who have either owned or driven a car for some time. Using Brand Recognition, Societal Recognition and Emotional Satisfaction as variables, the study found that these variables are not relevant to Ghanaian consumers when adopting EVs; thus, as at now, Ghanaians are not influenced by these non-functional attributes – brand recognition, societal recognition and emotional satisfaction. Also, Ghanaians are of the view that EVs are not necessarily luxury items and they do not increase social value and capital.

Although people buy based on emotion and justify with logic, the findings show otherwise. This is not surprising, because as of now the average Ghanaian consumer is not well versed and exposed to EVs. Speaking at the 1st E-mobility Conference and Exhibition Workshop in Accra in September this year, the Energy Minister indicated that Ghana is currently in the process of developing an E-mobility policy. Without an active policy to drive the E-mobility agenda as well as a thriving E-mobility eco-system, adoption of EVs in Ghana will be low; leading to less informed customers/users and therefore hindering business research and what can be known about consumers.

[1] Aaker, D. A. (2012) Building strong brands. Simon and Schuster

[2] London School of Public Relations (2018) ‘Branding’. London. Available at:

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