Marketing Psychology: How You Can Use Commitment and Consistency Principles To Increase Sales

Psychology plays a critical role in marketing and design.

After all, design influences consumer behavior.

There are powerful psychology principles in play behind successful product design. Similarly, smart designers, marketers, and business owners leverage psychology to create custom company logos that influence purchasing decisions.

Even simple lines can be powerful psychologically, as we pointed out in our complete guide on creating a unique and powerful brand identity.

Marketers and business owners who understand psychology have an unfair advantage.

But you don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to apply principles of psychology to your marketing.

For example, you can easily leverage the principles of commitment and consistency to increase loyalty and sales.

The best way to earn the loyalty of customers and prospects is to make them commit to something.

That’s because people prefer to be loyal and consistent with a choice they previously made.

This happens because we use mental shortcuts to simplify the way we make decisions. And because we make so many decisions every day, we subconsciously (and sometimes, consciously) look for ways to reduce the number of decisions we have to make.

Dr. Cialdini, author of, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion writes:

Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.

As a psychological principle, commitment and consistency refer to the choices people make to believe more strongly in the decisions we’ve already made in order to avoid cognitive dissonance (a situation where you have conflicting beliefs or behaviors).

Here are some effective ways marketers, businesses, and even politicians leverage the principles of commitment and consistency to increase loyalty and improve their bottom line.

Foot in the Door: Political Brands

FITD was first studied by Stanford psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser in 1966.

The premise is simple: someone will agree to a larger request after they have first agreed to a smaller request.

Recently we reviewed the Best and Worst Political Branding of the 2020 Democratic Primary Race. While the candidates may differ in nearly every other way — they all use Foot In The Door marketing techniques.

Consider Pete Buttigieg’s homepage.

Visitors are only asked to supply their e-mail or phone numbers from the main page to stay up to date on campaign news.

After agreeing to that small step, “team members” will receive increasingly larger requests.

Share this e-mail. Donate $10 to the campaign. Purchase campaign swag. Attend a Rally. Volunteer. Vote.

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What started as an e-mail share, blossomed into a fully committed community member.

Businesses can use this strategy too. For example, in our guide on how to start a business, we talked about ways you can leverage your early customers and fans:

Reward those early fans with special treats – access to special events, promotions, or discounts are always great, but even a handwritten thank you card can go a long way in turning a fan into a lifelong follower.

Home Try Ons

Stitch Fix may be the culprit to empty dressing rooms in retail stores across the country.

Boasting 3.1 million active clients (as of 6/2019),  Stitch Fix has had radical success since opening it’s virtual doors in 2011.

Offering virtual fashion styling services that deliver clothing and accessories to the client’s door, the company relies on commitment and consistency tactics in their marketing toolbox.

Here is how it works: clients are sent a bag of clothes to try, with the option to keep and purchase whatever they like.

What’s the catch?

A $20 styling fee investment. Clients pay a $20 styling fee which can be recouped when used toward the purchase of any item sent to them.

And to take things even a step further, Stitch Fix rewards customers with an additional 25% discount (on top of the recouped $25) if they purchase the entire shipment.

With a bag full of clothes at their doorstep and investment already made, prospects feel the pressure to keep items sent to them.

And it’s working.

In 2017, Stitch Fix reported 86% of their customers are repeat buyers.

Cross-Selling – Apple

Cross-selling has come a long way from, “Do you want fries with that?”.

Often incorrectly confused with the term upselling (selling of a different, high-end product), cross-selling is selling items in addition to the item already in hand.

Cross-selling has a greater chance of follow-through because the consumer has already purchased or committed to one product in their shopping cart.

Let’s say a customer has decided to purchase a new iPhone. After selecting which iPhone is right for them (with some shiny upselling techniques), they are greeted with AppleCare warranty options, accessories that are designed for the chosen iPhone, and lastly other products Apple offers that integrate seamlessly with iPhones.

Wishlists – Amazon

As of 2018, Amazon was responsible for 49% of e-commerce sales in the U.S. That number equates to 5% of all retail sales in the country.

One of the many tools this e-commerce Goliath uses is wish lists. With more than 12 million products available, wish lists allow customers to create and organize lists of products they desire and/or intend to buy.

Amazon allows customers to create multiple lists and share them with others and on social media. Price drop alerts sent to customers are also integrated into this well-oiled machine.

When a customer puts an item in a wish list — psychologically they are committing to purchase it at a later time.

Wish lists serve as a midpoint between forgetting about an item in a shopping cart and completing a purchase.

The reach they provide goes beyond just improving the customer experience.

Wishlists provide an inside look into consumer preferences, drive customer engagement and reduce shopping cart abandonment.

A benefit: wish lists require a customer account or profile to be set up, which in turn adds their e-mail (assuming they opt-in) to future marketing drip campaigns.

Free Trials – Google Music

Free trials are another way to leverage commitment and consistency principles.

Google offers a 4 month free trial to new users of its music streaming platform.

Google acutely knows that if you invest 4 months into streaming music on their platform (which can include building personalized playlists, radio stations), you are much more likely to continue the service.

Google Music has a reported 15million monthly subscribers.


People are creatures of habit.  Our commitment to a choice fuels choice. The self-imposed pressure to stick with a decision can be a driving force for action.

The psychological principles of commitment and consistency translate well into marketing tactics. Use these tactics to gain new customers and keep current ones.

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