Have you ever read reviews online before making a purchase? Maybe you’ve followed a brand on social media because you appreciated the jokes and memes they posted. Or perhaps you couldn’t resist the newest product created by your favorite online retailer.
If any of these scenarios have applied to you, congratulations: You’ve been the recipient of marketing psychology.
From social proof to humor to novelty, there are several principles that fall into this field, which uses psychology to create more effective marketing campaigns. Marketing psychology is something you can’t overlook if you’re trying to create a campaign that converts.
Wondering how to put this practice into play? Here are 15 tactics of marketing psychology that you can use to sway consumer decisions in your favor.
What is Marketing Psychology?
Marketing psychology is a fairly self-explanatory term — it refers to incorporating principles of psychology into your marketing. With marketing psychology, you strategically plan out your marketing to influence consumer decisions and behavior.
Some people even work as marketing psychologists, coming up with marketing strategies that are based on psychological research. The more you know about human behaviors, thoughts and actions, the more effective your marketing will be.
Don’t get us wrong: You don’t have to be a psychologist to use psychology in marketing. Anyone can incorporate marketing psychology into their strategy.
At the end of the day, it’s all about putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience to figure out how they think and what they want — which is something that any good marketing strategy should already include.
Why is Marketing Psychology Important?
Marketing psychology can be hugely effective in helping you drive more sales and see better results from your marketing campaigns. Whether your customers realize it or not, there’s a lot of psychology that goes on when they’re making a purchasing decision.
If you know what’s happening behind the scenes, you’ll be able to craft marketing tactics and campaigns that work to your advantage in helping consumers make a purchase. And in the long-term, your business will see more sales and better results.
15 Marketing Psychology Principles that Influence Consumer Behavior
Psychology is behind all human behavior. It only makes sense that, whether we consciously realize it or not, psychology also drives consumer decisions — and, as a result, marketers can strategically use psychology to encourage the decisions they want.
But what does marketing psychology actually look like in practice? There are dozens of principles of marketing psychology that come into play.
From using key phrasing to elicit an emotional response to leveraging the principle of scarcity and promoting novel products, there are a myriad of ways you can use marketing psychology to move people along the buying journey.
Here are 10 tactics that influence consumer behavior — including how they work, and real-life examples from brands online.
1. Color Psychology
Color psychology plays a major role in marketing and branding strategies.
Color influences our behavior and our decision-making. One study showed that people make up their mind about a product within 90 seconds of first interacting with it — and well over half of their assessment is based on color alone.
We associate different colors with different emotions or concepts — red often represents energy, strength or passion, while orange can make us feel enthusiastic, creative and successful.
However, it’s important to note that our view of colors is informed by our culture, our life experiences and the context. So, make sure you consider your target audience’s demographic and your marketing campaign’s context before choosing which colors to use.
Victoria’s Secret uses various shades of pink in its logo and branding.
A quick glance at the brand’s Instagram feed reveals photos and graphics covered in pink and red. The color pink is often associated with femininity, and it also can symbolize health, youth and love. These are all great associations for a lingerie brand.
Unsure where to start with color psychology? Use Samandishe’s content creation platform to customize our free templates, creating social media content that’s on-brand and visually attractive.
As humans, when we receive something, we want to offer something in return — that’s the idea behind the principle of reciprocity.
Reciprocity helps us build stronger relationships — both in “real life,” and in business-customer relationships. When you offer something valuable to your customers or leads, they will want to do something to help your business.
Put this into practice by giving something away, like an ebook, a coupon, reward points, a free course or even a product. Don’t put any expectations with this gift. Your customers shouldn’t feel obligated to return the gesture — they should feel as if they’re getting the better end of the deal.
You don’t have to give away something big. Even sharing helpful information will endear you to your customers. For instance, Atlassian regularly cross-promotes its newest blog posts on social media, giving relevant tips and advice to its followers.
3. Key Phrasing and Messaging
Messaging is a big part of marketing psychology. Your brand’s messaging consists of the words, phrases and language you use to communicate with customers. When used strategically (and paired with other aspects of marketing psychology, such as color), messaging can evoke emotions that will help lead your customers to a purchase.
Emotions play a bigger role in buying decisions than you might think. “Retail therapy” isn’t just a joke — this phenomenon is actually science-backed. What’s more, some experts say that as many as 95% of purchasing decisions are emotional. So, by using key messaging to produce desired emotions in your customers, you can boost your sales.
Find out what motivates your customers. Greed? Fear? Joy? Curiosity? Use messaging that evokes that emotional response. Below, Target uses the words “best,” “top-selling,” and “glowing” to communicate value to an audience of nervous parents who want the best for their child.
4. Focusing Effect
The focusing effect refers to the way humans make decisions: Our brains focus on limited factors when we’re making a decision. Even if we know a lot of useful information that could help us make a choice, we emphasize the most distinct or sensational information that’s available in our memory. Often, we rely on the first piece of information we received, too.
What does this mean for you as a marketer? Answer: You want to direct your customer’s attention to where you want it the most. Marketers often select a few key factors about a product and push those features for all they’re worth, getting across to consumers that the product will make their life better.
Once you’ve figured out what feature or selling point casts your product in the best light, you need to ensure this feature is highly obvious — the first thing your customers see or hear.
Crate & Barrel emphasizes that these spatulas and utensils are made of white silicone and wood. When you click into the product, you see a couple hundred additional words describing the product and listing its features. Chances are, though, most people will only skim over this copy. The part that will stick in their head is the product name — white silicone and wood utensils.
And for those few consumers who do carefully read every word of the product description, they’ll discover that really, this description is simply repeating what the product name already said in fewer words. Crate & Barrel is using the focusing effect to direct customers to the biggest selling point of this product: It’s crafted from silicone and wood.
5. Social Proof
Social proof is a psychological principle that describes how we look at the actions and behaviors of others to figure out what we should do. Have you ever purchased a product that a celebrity endorsed because you wanted to be more like them? (No shame — we’ve been there, too.) If so, you’ve fallen prey to social proof.
Social proof is the reason why customer reviews or testimonials are so effective. Adding testimonials to a website increases conversions by 34%. And today, your customers expect reviews and recommendations on brands: Shoppers expect an average of 112 reviews per product when they search online.
How can you get social proof? Having an industry expert recommend your product, getting customer reviews, or receiving an official certification from an authority figure or body are all forms of social proof. Try implementing influencer marketing into your marketing strategy, or asking your current customers for reviews.
Once you have social proof in hand, get it out there by displaying the testimonials on your website or re-posting celebrity or influencer endorsements on social media. Here, influencer Jen Lauren partnered with LesserEvil Snacks to promote their new flavors. Jen’s followers are now highly likely to recognize, trust and even make a purchase from the brand.
According to the principle of scarcity, people consider a scarce object to be more valuable than an object that exists in abundance. When there’s a chance we might not be able to get something, that makes us want it even more. By utilizing scarcity, you can spur people into a decision, making them act immediately.
Sometimes you might use rarity scarcity, using a phrase like “limited edition” or simply “rare” (see the Hydroflask product description below.)
Another type of scarcity is urgency scarcity; think “limited time offer” or “temporary discount.” And exclusivity scarcity takes place when a limited number of people are able to purchase the product (this often looks like upping the price.)
Authority can be defined as the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior. We think someone has authority if their experience, education and/or reputation can lead us to trust them — to believe that the information they provide is credible, and that we can feel comfortable using them.
You can build your brand’s authority by conducting and sharing original industry research; hosting events; creating how-to content; or holding webinars or online courses to teach others.
Bottom line: The best and easiest way to establish authority is to regularly put out high-quality, valuable content that solves the problems of your target audience.
Take a look at these blog posts published by pet retailer Chewy. The posts draw heavily from original interviews with a veterinarian to outline the benefits, risks and FAQ’s that pet parents need to know.
These posts give you the feeling that Chewy knows what it’s talking about — and when the posts eventually plug pineapple- and potato-flavored dog treats, you’re more likely to click that “Purchase Here” CTA.
The idea behind novelty is simple: People are more likely to buy products that are marked as “new.” We’re interested in things that are new and unknown, making us eager to try out the latest and greatest. New products might make our lives more convenient, or help us feel like we’ve achieved a certain social status.
On Old Navy’s website, new products are marked with a simple line of text reading, “Hi, I’m New.” It’s a cute and effective way to introduce customers to a new product they might love. You can drive purchasing decisions by creating a section for new products on your website and sharing some of those products individually on social media.
Humor is a form of marketing psychology that helps build positive relationships and generate positive feelings around your brand. A well-executed joke is also memorable, helping you and your product linger in consumers’ minds. Over half of consumers are more likely to remember an advertisement if it’s funny.
However, using humor correctly, sensitively and appropriately can be trickier than you might think. It’s important to do your research before you post a sarcastic joke or silly comment.
While you can’t please everyone, you want to do your best to ensure that you don’t offend anybody and that your joke won’t be taken the wrong way. Any humor you use should also keep your target demographic in mind.
HelloFresh regularly posts funny memes on its Instagram account. Each one is food-related, catering to a target audience that likes tasty, convenient meals. And here, HelloFresh plugs one of its dishes at the same time it gives followers a New Year’s laugh.
10. Fitts’s Law
Fitts’s law states that the time it takes someone to choose an object depends on how far they are from the object, and the size of the object.
A large object that’s close to your starting position or related objects that are close together take the shortest time to select. Small objects that are further from your starting position or related objects that are far away from each other take the longest time to select.
This predictive model is often applied to interactions between humans and computers. This law can also be applied to UX design, helping your webpage or other graphic design be as easy as possible to navigate. For instance, you want your CTA button to be large and easy to click on — such as this example from Macy’s.
Creating a good user experience is key for online shoppers, 88% of whom would not return to a website after having a bad user experience. And it’s key for boosting your sales, too.
When we’re evaluating two or more options, we often subconsciously use anchors to make our decision. Anchors are pieces of information that we are intentionally or unintentionally exposed to. They become reference points that we use for comparison.
By using anchoring in your marketing, you can strategically expose consumers to the information you want them to know so they’ll make the decision you want them to make.
If you’re creating a sale on your website, set an anchor by showing the original price of a product. Then list the sale price right next to it (like Sephora does in red below). This will lead people to use the initial price as their anchor — and that will lead them to believe they’re getting a pretty darn good deal.
The principle of unity plays on the innate desire that people have to be part of something and to belong. Think about the different categories you use to define yourself. Maybe you’re Asian-American, a mother and a marketer.
You might identify with different political or religious affiliations, be a proud alum of a certain college or simply sort yourself into a category based on the passions or hobbies you love to pursue.
Whatever groups you consider yourself to be a part of, you feel a kinship with other members of those groups. And that’s where unity comes in — with shared identities.
Unity in marketing can look as simple as inviting people to join your email list with carefully-crafted copy. Smile encourages website visitors to subscribe to the blog and join a club of 30,000+ entrepreneurs who are ahead of the game. Or you might create an entire campaign based around this idea of fostering a community and encouraging people to join the group.
13. Just Imagine
Help your customers use their imaginations to think about how they could use your product. The key to utilizing this marketing psychology principle is to think about the lifestyle your target audience wants to lead. Then, create content that showcases how your product will lead to that dream lifestyle.
Teva regularly posts high-quality user-generated content on its Instagram account, helping followers envision how they, too, could use Teva products to make their outdoor adventures even better.
14. Fresh Start
There’s nothing we love more than a fresh start. And your job is to convince your customers that your product is exactly what they need to start over with a blank slate — whether or not it’s January 1st.
New Year’s marketing campaigns or posts, like the one from Gymshark shown below, are a great example of the Fresh Start effect. But you don’t have to share this type of content at the start of the year for it to be effective.
Try sharing a campaign based around a new season (whether a season of the year, a season of life or a sports season), new month or even a new week. Or leverage events like birthdays to convince people that now is the best time to begin again. Temporal landmarks, significant events in time that create a clear divide from the past, can be almost anything you make them be.
15. IKEA Effect
The IKEA Effect refers to the concept of consumers placing a high value on products they helped create. If you’ve ever assembled a piece of furniture from IKEA, you’ve probably felt satisfaction and joy every time you walk through the room and see the piece of furniture sitting there.
Similarly, consumers tend to place additional value and meaning on a product if they at least partially created it themselves. Allow your customers to have a hand in the process by offering some interactive product experiences, like this personalized bracelet from Myka that lets you choose the material, the chain length and inscription font.
In its simplest form, the IKEA Effect might look like letting customers choose the color or exact style of a product. (We think this is true for marketers, too — if you create marketing content yourself with an easy-to-use platform like Samandishe, you’ll have greater satisfaction at the end of a successful campaign.)
Using Marketing Psychology to Get Ahead
Understanding the psychology of marketing can help you create tailored, more effective content that your audience loves. Hopefully, reading through these principles of marketing psychology will get your creative juices flowing.
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