After 15 years of marriage, you’d think I’d learn what the perfect Christmas gift would be for my wife, Melanie. But this past Sunday, I stood gazing at a Ninja BL610 Professional Blender wondering if I was about to make the same supposed mistake that the poor sap made in that infamous Peloton commercial.


I never realized how much pressure you could have when buying a gift for your wife! Make the wrong choice and you might never live it down. That’s because, in today’s world, it’s not just about the gift — it’s also about the meaning behind the gift. Talk about risky!


If you too are feeling a massive amount of pressure this year to buy “the perfect” Christmas gift (I’ve been told by social media that it can’t be a Peloton), then allow me to give you three behavioral science tricks to use when buying and explaining your gift to your loved one this year. I’m going to use my wife as an example, so feel free to insert your special someone into the article as you read.

Step #1: Start with Goals

Before I start brainstorming gift ideas, I want to consider what my wife is working on in life, or what are her goals. Behavioral psychology is clear that our heart’s desires reside in our personal goals. So the secret to finding the perfect gift is first asking myself, “What significant goals does Melanie have?” And I don’t mean the small, functional goals she talks about. I mean the meaningful ones. In the Peloton ad, many assumed the woman’s goal was to lose weight, or worse, the man’s desire was for her to lose weight. Don’t make this mistake!

Smart fitness home workout biking screen with online classes woman training on stationary bike equipment indoors for biking exercise.


Let me be clear. Losing weight is a functional goal and only a means to something else. Something more important, like maybe feeling more confident. With this more meaningful goal of building confidence, your options increase dramatically. The path to reaching that goal might not be losing weight on an exercise bike. Perhaps it’s new clothes that could spark confidence, or mastering a new skill through something like tennis lessons.

My point is this: if I don’t understand Melanie’s meaningful goals, I run the risk of severely limiting my gift options and then accidentally buying what I think she’ll like, versus something to help reach her bigger goal. So, my first step is to brainstorm key goals Melanie has for herself. Only then should I start to come up with gift ideas that would help her reach those goals.

Step #2: Find the Motivation

Once you have a solid list of ideas, you can use motivational psychology to narrow your options and lower your anxiety. This is contrary to what most people do, which is start pricing out all the options. As a behavioral psychologist and your friend, I say to you: don’t fall into this trap!


If I jump right to pricing, I run the risk of my gift being misinterpreted by Melanie — or even worse, her friends and family. I must first choose a solid rationale to eliminate some options and promote others to the top of the list. And the best way for me to do this is using motivational psychology to discover the emotional purpose behind Melanie reaching her goals.


Let’s go back to the recent Peloton commercial. If the husband determined that his wife was driven by achievement and esteem (two of the nine core motivations) to build her confidence, then buying her a Peloton (achievement) and a selfie stick (esteem) would be perfect gifts. Enough said!


But imagine if the Peloton wife desired to build her confidence (her meaningful goal) by working as part of a team to become more adept at a hobby — belonging and competence — which are two entirely different motivations. If that’s the case, then a Peloton bike could easily be misconstrued as an insult to her body and the poor guy shelled out $2,000 just to land in the doghouse. Ouch.


Step 3: Narrow Your Choices

Once I know the emotional purpose, or motivation, behind Melanie’s goals, then I’m ready to narrow my choices and begin ranking my ideas. While price is a consideration, it’s not the driving factor. Instead, I’m judging every gift idea by its ability to satisfy that purpose and help Melanie achieve her goal.


I’ll eliminate those ideas that don’t fit or can’t be explained after she opens the gift. That’s how I’ll avoid getting that look on Christmas morning (men, you know what I’m talking about). Using this method, I’ll be able to find the perfect gift. Even if I do receive the death glare, I can explain my psychological rationale behind the gift. Hopefully, she’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness and effort I made. Worst case, she’ll have a good story to tell her friends at the spa.


Female massage therapist talking to woman at wellness center

So, about that Ninja BL610 blender…


Need More Guidance?

Behavioral science isn’t just useful for picking the perfect Christmas gift. You can use it in many aspects of life and business, including marketing. Imagine if your messaging made potential customers feel the same way your loved ones feel opening the perfect gift.

Happy couple talking with sales manager

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Topics: Innovation, Marketing to Mindstates, Motivation