5 ways psychology should influence your marketing

Originally posted January 2019.

Understanding how and why people behave as they do is key to attracting, convincing and converting people with your marketing. It’s not about tricking people into buying your service or product; it’s all about knowing how people behave and marketing yourself respectfully in the most effective way possible.

Here’s five of the top ways psychology should influence the way you market your business:

1. Give and you’ll receive

It won’t be news to you that people love getting freebies. But there’s more to it than that, when you’re generous people are more likely to give back – and that giving back can be exponential. This is called ‘reciprocity’ and is outlined by Robert Cialdini, a psychologist at Arizona State University.

An example of this is when someone passes you in a hallway and says hi, you feel compelled to return their greeting. When you don’t, you notice it and it makes you feel uncomfortable. That’s the rule of reciprocation.

This applies in sales too. According to Cialdini, tips in restaurants increase greatly when a mint is provided with the bill – about 3.3%. If a second mint is given the tips went up 20% over the average. In short, people naturally feel a compulsion to reward generosity.

Even if you don’t get back the moment you’ve given something for free you’re leaving someone with a good feeling about your brand and that means you’re likely to be rewarded further down the line. Whether you offer a free service, product or something extra with a drink or meal, it’s valued and remembered. Plus, isn’t it just nice to give if you can?

2. Embrace your emotions

Studies have shown emotional appeals resonate more with people then functional information or facts.

Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ beautifully highlights this. He focuses on the ‘why’ and says “people don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

He explains that the limbic part of the brain is responsible for feelings such as trust, loyalty, decision making and behaviour. He states that Apple’s ‘why’ is key to their success. Their marketing focuses around the why – “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?”

This is so much more powerful then “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Wanna buy one?”

The why is so much more important than the what, as people want to work and interact with people who believe what they believe.

When you create content think about your why and how you can write emotionally and resonate with an audience. Win hearts and minds.

3. Trust me, I’m family

This is commonly known as the ‘me too’ effect – the theory that people adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. In fact, Neilson reports that the most meaningful form of advertising is recommendations from friends and family: 83% of consumers in 60 countries say they trust these recommendations over any other form of advertising.

Same for marketing; if someone your audience respects is shouting about you then they’re more likely to too.

This is clearly demonstrated by the recent surge in Influencer marketing, with celebrities and local influencers alike being paid big bucks to endorse products. If you know someone who’s an influencer in your industry, drop them a line and ask them to get involved – it’ll work wonders.

4. You want what you can’t have

Another Cialdini concept from the book Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion is ‘scarcity’ – a clever marketing tactic. It focuses on the concept that people want what they can’t have or what is very rare. Rarity means value.

Before Facebook exploded, it was only available to Harvard students. As word got round, more people wanted in and it was opened up to other Ivy league students, then college students. Little by little the Facebook net widened until it became the juggernaut it is now.

This vintage interview with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, highlights his desire to keep his audience as purely college students. Whether this was a clever marketing tactic or a genuine desire to keep a product niche which later changed, is unknown. But by-golly it worked.

Now I’m not saying you necessarily have to make something unavailable to make it desirable, but you could test this theory by making a few of your services or products available on certain days or times or to specific audiences (Instagram exclusive for example) or highlight when you have limited stock and advise customers to get in quick.

5. To have and to hold

Customers attribute a higher value to things they already own.

A study by Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist, demonstrated this theory with participants and the price of mugs. Value doubled for those owning a mug (perceived worth $10) compared to those looking to purchase (willing to pay $5).

Help increase your customers ownership in your product or brand by encouraging suggestions and feedback from your audience – you can do this through email or on social media, by running a poll or competition.

The most important thing to remember? People are complex creatures but once you know the psychology of decision making and buying, your marketing is a lot easier. Go out, try things and learn.

Drop us a line if you’d like to discuss how we could help you to use these approaches in your social media marketing.

Mel is a creative digital marketer who loves working with the public sector, charities and businesses to help them achieve their goals. She's been working in marketing and communications since 2011, and when she's not being a dynamite marketer she loves reading about psychology, travelling, running or hanging out with her daughter Mia.