Feeling sad?  Then going out and buying your favourite brand will make you feel better; it’s a dose of retail therapy that works.  That’s the finding of a new new study (in press) in the Journal of Consumer Psychology from researchers at the University of Michigan.  

The finding is summed up in the title - The benefits of retail therapy: Making purchase decisions reduces residual sadness – and three experiments demonstrated how shopping restores a sense personal control over one’s environment and this reduces sadness.

The psychology is simple – we feel sad when we’re not getting a positive return on investment for our efforts – in love, life or work; we feel we’re no longer in control of the outcomes of our efforts.  Sadness is simply your mind telling you to stop and think – perhaps investing in that person, job or activity is not such a good thing? Retail therapy – buying a brand we love  can help restore our sense of control over outcomes, putting us back in control of our lives, and this restores a positive emotional state.

Bottom line for brands is that AUTONOMY and CONTROL are key value propositions.  Sell people control, you sell them happiness.