Imagine this…

The hot summer air is cooling, the leaves are turning yellow, and you’re moving your jackets to the front of your closet. 

Fall is around the corner.

You hop in the car and drive to your neighborhood Starbucks. Rolling down the window at the drive-thru, you utter the words that Starbucks employees will hear 28 million times in the next ~3 months.

“I’ll have the pumpkin spiced latte, please.”

Known by fanatics as simply a “PSL”, this iconic drink is a massive cash-generator for Starbucks. It’s estimated 500 million PSLs have been poured since their debut in 2003.

The smiling barista hands you a squash-flavored drink and you take your first sip.

How does it taste?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re exploring Taste – how our weakest sense can influence decision-making and drive brand loyalty.

Let’s get into it.

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The Psychology of Taste 🧠

Humans need food to survive. And for most of human history, food was scarce, so we evolved to have intense cravings for calorie-dense, glucose-rich foods.

When you’re hungry, it’s hard to think of anything else.

Ya know those famous Snickers ads, “You’re not you when you’re hungry”? There’s some real truth to that.

Yet while the average person spends a huge amount of time thinking about, preparing, and eating food, you may be surprised to learn that… 

Taste is actually your weakest sense.

What tastes “good” is hugely influenced by what we see and the context of the situation.

One study found that wine experts could be tricked into thinking they were drinking red wine when it’s really white wine with red food coloring.

Another study sought to answer: “Can People Distinguish Pâté from Dog Food?” The conclusion? They can’t.

Because taste is driven by perception and heavily tied to emotions, it can easily be influenced—something Starbucks capitalizes on every year with the return of PSLs.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐

Taste is a form of sensory marketing, which engages the 5 senses to appeal to buyers on an emotional level.

People ‘think with their stomach’ more than they know.

Your buyers’ sense of taste influences how they feel about brands and how they make decisions.

And this doesn’t just go for food businesses.

For instance, if you host a corporate event and serve caviar… prospective buyers may see your brand as sophisticated.

If you serve pufferfish (which can be poisonous if prepared incorrectly) buyers may think of your team as risk-takers.

And, if you serve nothing and it’s nearing lunchtime, prospects may hurry out of your door before they even hear your pitch. Studies show that hungry people are impatient. 

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Offer Tasty Freebies

Use free samples to draw people in. Car dealerships use hotdogs and hamburgers to get people onto their lot. Trade show booths offer colorful snacks to draw people in. Grocery stores give away free samples to boost sales 2000%. Buyers love freebies and you’ll love how freebies can activate reciprocity.

Wine and Dine Customers, Strategically

Use taste as an extension of your branding to carefully frame your product in your buyer’s mind. What do you think of when you see a Red Bull can? X-games, people backflipping motorbikes, or breaking the record for highest skydive *ever* come to mind.

Buyers associate Red Bull with the most daring athletes and by drinking it they get to have a taste (pun intended) of what it’s like to be one of those athletes.

Don’t Do Business Hungry

People make impulsive decisions when they’re hungry. You don’t want people rushing out of a sales pitch or leaving your store when their stomach starts growling. There’s a reason why IKEA has a restaurant on-site. They know that hungry shoppers don’t impulse buy plant holders—they leave.

The Short of It 💥

Taste is a game of perception. Your buyers don’t taste what’s on their plate—they taste what they think they should taste.

Understanding taste can help you to strongly position your products, draw people to your store or event, and help you strategically place the timing of your sales pitch. 

Even if you’re not selling consumable products—don’t overlook adding taste to your marketing strategy.




Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

There are a few ways I can help:

  1. Get explosive clarity about what works with buyers by learning how to conduct 1:1 Clarity Calls (2000+ happy students)
  2. *NEW* Learn how to mine online reviews from real buyers to generate ideas and copy that converts (250+ happy students)
  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one buyer psychology tip delivered to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

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