What Compels People to Buy?

Good question. Is there an easy answer? If you wanted to buy a car, what kind of car would you buy? Will it be a Porsche, BMW, or Honda? Will you get a V8 or V4? There you have it – choices and more choices. This is why there really isn’t a simple answer. Why do you think that one person is willing to buy a $10,000 car, while another person may choose to buy a $2000 car?  Why would someone invest thousands of dollars on an informational product, while someone else may only spend $20 or $30 for the same information? You may not realize this, but there are deep reasons for people to buy products and services.

Someone had written at one time regarding the four conscious levels that influence people to buy and what to buy. These levels are as follows:

  • Function
  • Feeling
  • Identity
  • Image

You may not understand it now, but people buy certain products based on the four levels of conscious thought. Here are those levels below.


The object of function is to appease a person by what the product or service will do for them in a practical, functional sense. In other words, they buy the product or service for what it can do for them (purpose). For example, you buy a pen because it allows you to write your thoughts down on paper. You buy a car because it allows you to get where you are going quickly. In a sense, people by products or services for what that product or service will do for them.

If you ever took a course in copywriting, you were told to keep features, advantages, and benefits in your mind. These are vital for you to remember as they are part of the writing process, especially when writing a sales letter.

When speaking of features, keep in mind what the term features means. For those that don’t know, features refers to a product as to what it contains or does. In other words, the product’s technical specs, ingredients, functions, or components. Features can also refer to or highlight a particular part of a service someone presents. For example, if you buy a stereo system, you do so because it allows you to hear your favorite music. You bought your cell phone because it may allow you to access your e-mail.

When it comes to advantages, this is how you view the product or service. The product may contain something you like or need that another product doesn’t have. Or, the product may do something that you like and that you didn’t have access to before. the same goes with services.  It’s obvious that if you can have a car with greater speed, you would rather have that than one that is economical and less speed.

Benefits is another point to remember. I already told you what features was. Well, benefits is what the features provide. Example of this is when you go to buy a car. You see a sports car. The feature is that is has a large engine. The benefit is that it can goes 0-60 in 5.2 seconds (something like that). Do you get the idea? Anytime you gain from your purchase, you have received a benefit of it.


 It is interesting that when people buy, they do so based on a feeling they have. For instance, if a woman looks at the mirror and notices a few pounds, and she reads about a weight loss product, she will quickly buy it, to help her lose those extra pounds. She doesn’t want to be fat. She wanted the feeling associated with having a slim body, as compared to having a fat body. This is true regarding services as well. When a person wants to hire someone to perform a service, the person doing the hiring, looks at the service provider as fulfilling a need or feeling. Take a man that hires a cable guy to install cable TV. He wants the service because of the feeling he will get when he can watch his football games with his friends.

A person’s feelings can influence the way that person makes purchases. When looking to buy a new car, you may feel like a small economical car would suit you. Whereas, your friend may feel that a big car, or a sports car would do him better. In the end, the person’s feelings does have an impact as to making purchases.


Identity is another reason for buying something. Identity is how we look at ourselves in our own minds. If you think of yourself as a rich man, even if you aren’t, you will carry yourself like one. If you think of yourself as a poor man, you will carry yourself as one. Basically, identity is how you look at and think of yourself. Someone said identity is considered self-image. That is a good way of looking at it. People often put labels on themselves. If you play golf, you may label yourself as a golfer. If you play baseball, you may consider yourself as a baseball player.

When it comes to identity, keep this one thought in your mind. When people buy something, whether it be products or services, they do so with one objective – it reinforces or strengthens the way they look at themselves. If you look at yourself as someone like the “Fonz” on Happy Days, you will no doubt buy something that makes you look like or act like that character.

As you write copy, you have to remember that identity is considered a self-image. It is an image you have created for yourself in your own mind. This presents a challenge. Creating a self-image doesn’t mean it is the true image of who you are. It is only an image or picture. One day, you may think of yourself as King Tut, while another day you may look at yourself as a Rollerblade expert. 


You may think image is the same as identity. However, image is how people view us. It is what people see when looking at us. If you think of yourself a a golfer, you may act like a golfer. But your friend may not consider you a golfer and have an image of you as something else. People will buy certain products, so they can give off to others a certain image. If you went out and bought a fancy sports car, you may think of yourself as a cool guy. Others may look at you as a someone with status, money, and power. I was always told that perception is everything. The bottom line is that identity is how you may think of yourself, whereas, image is how others perceive you.

Other Tidbits

If you ever went with shopping with someone, you will notice one thing. In most cases, they won’t tell you what they want to buy. They will just go into the store, look around, find it, and go buy it. Rarely, will someone go into a dress store and tell the salesperson she wants a flashy looking dress for a medium-size body that will bring out her inner beauty so she can pick up guys at a party. That just doesn’t happen. The point I am making is that there is often deeper desire or reasons for why people buy products or services.

What I talked about in this post is important. You also have to look at the deep inner reason for why purchases are made. The way you can do this, is when creating sales copy, provide benefits that will attack these inner reasons. You can ask yourself what benefit will attract a potential customer to my offer? Does the benefit you provide bring up feelings for your potential customer?

The next time you buy a product or service,  see someone buy, or are thinking about selling a product or service yourself, think about what you read here. It may help in your efforts to make money.