Understanding the principle of liking and knowing how to use it in your marketing and on your website can give you an unfair advantage over the competition.
Marketing Psychology: 21 Key Principles of Human Behavior
Smart marketers incorporate one or more psychological principles into marketing campaigns and marketing strategy, content marketing, and sales strategy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the important principles and theories that can supercharge your marketing and influence people to buy your products or services.
What is marketing psychology?
Marketing psychology, sometimes called 'Neuromarketing', applies neuropsychology to content, marketing, and sales as a way to influence purchasing decisions.
For many decades, researchers have studied how people cognitively respond to marketing. In fact, it’s well-established today that people have sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective responses to marketing. Understanding these responses helps marketers create more efficient and effective digital marketing and traditional marketing strategies and campaigns, helps you find more potential customers, and creates more successful product launches.
Put differently: if you know how and why people think and act the way they do, you can improve your marketing.
And, a better understanding of human cognition and behavior also helps marketers and designers create stronger brand identities for companies.
How does marketing psychology improve marketing?
Marketers, entrepreneurs, and business owners assume that most people make decisions by conducting research and then weighing the options. As a result, every marketing campaign is structured around that outcome. But, that’s not how most people make decisions. People frequently act illogically, making their behavior difficult to predict. And, they rarely take the time to learn the full facts before taking action, as often evident on social media.
Marketing psychology can give smart marketers and business owners a competitive advantage, by optimizing marketing strategies and tactics in ways that intentionally and proactively influence the psychology and people’s behaviors and decisions to identity more potential customers.
Psychology and marketing: 21 important principles of psychology
Action paralysis principle
People commonly second guess their own behavior, especially if they’re not sure how their decision will impact them or people close to them. This is called the action paralysis principle.
If you’re trying to trigger someone into action, clearly emphasize that their action will make a difference. For example, instead of just saying 'buy now', you can say 'buy now and improve your health today.' The lesson here is that whenever your customers or prospective customers have reason to question their decisions, provide a good reason for them to convert or make a purchase.
The anchoring effect is the principle that people tend to unconsciously latch onto the first fact they hear, basing their decision-making on that fact ... whether it’s accurate or not. This phenomenon is called anchoring.
The anchoring effect can work for you or against you. It’s one of the most important effects in cognitive psychology. When anchoring works for you, it becomes easier to market your company’s products or services. When anchoring works against you, it’s increasingly difficult to do so.
A 'call-to-action' (CTA) is a marketing term for any statement designed to prompt an immediate response or to encourage an immediate sale or other type of conversion. Such CTAs could include, for example, a request for people to subscribe to your newsletter, download your free e-book, sign up for your service, or purchase your product. The CTA is the simple act of requesting a prospect to act. And it provides the motivation prospects need to convert.
Color psychology is the study of hues as a way to understand, predict, and influence human behavior. Color has a deep and often subconscious effect on our behavior. In marketing and branding, color is often used to persuade or influence us. In fact, research shows that anticipating your customers’ reaction to a color and its relationship to your brand is more important than the actual color itself.
Commitment and Consistency
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). This is clearly evident in conversations on social media, on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And, it’s also present in free trials because once we start using a product and invest time, we often tend to believe that the product helps us.
The decoy effect (also called the asymmetrical dominance effect) is a cognitive bias that occurs when people change their preference between two options when a third, asymmetrically dominated option is presented. Put differently: when there is a third important choice (the decoy), a consumer is more likely to choose the more expensive of the first two options. The decoy effect is specially powerful in digital marketing when it comes to pricing.
Emotional marketing refers to marketing and advertising that primarily uses emotional appeals to make your customers and prospective customers notice, remember, share, and buy your company’s products or services. The psychology of persuasion in emotional marketing is very powerful. There are many different emotions but eight primary ones: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.
Framing is the act of manipulating context to make consumers more receptive to your product or service. Our brains take in all outside information and then filter to determine which bits are important. This means that context is just as important to the decision-making process as your product or service itself.
When we look at the world, our minds strive to make sense of what we see. The gestalt principles describe the different ways that our minds perceive that order. Among other things, the gestalt principles describe when and how our minds see different visual elements as being part of a greater whole. There are ten primary Gestalt principles: simplicity, figure-ground, proximity, similarity, common fate, symmetry, continuity, closure, common region, and element connectedness.
Information gap theory
The information-gap theory posits that when someone has a gap in their knowledge on a topic they care about, they will take action to find out what they want to know.
Marketers use the information-gap theory in content and social media marketing. For example, headlines such as 'How to do something', 'The secret to XYZ', or 'What you must know about...' are all used to excite our curiosity and make us want to learn more about the topic.
Law of least effort
Most people are inherently lazy, and if not lazy, want to do things efficiently. They want to take the path of least effort or resistance. This is called the law of least effort.
There are many ways you can use the law of least effort in marketing. For example, people who want to order from a restaurant or to make a reservation will often look for a phone number but will give up if they can’t easily find it prominently displayed on the landing page. If you operate a restaurant, put your phone number in the top right corner of every page on your site. And if you want people to email you instead of calling, make your email address highly visible instead.
We like people who are similar to us, who pay us compliments, and who cooperate with us towards mutual goals. This is the psychological liking principle.
Consider Apple stores. It is no coincidence that this high-end, high-tech store is staffed with reps in jeans and a t-shirt instead of traditional suits and ties. Apple uses the liking principle to its advantage. This strategy says: I am a human being and I am like you. I am casual and approachable. My products are for you.
Research shows that successful reps are 10x more likely to use collaborative words like 'us,' 'we,' and 'our'. Why? Because people are drawn to a sense of belonging - they crave social proof. Prove to your client that you are 'one of them' too, and you will gain their trust (and their business).
This works even for celebrities. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian are not like typical people who follow her, but she does have a substantial amount of credibility from her followers in certain market segments, including cosmetics. In fact, celebrities often use they key elements of social psychology to gain a bigger audience and more influence.
Loss aversion refers to the tendency of people to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Studies show that loss aversion is twice as powerful psychologically as the acquisition of something. Just the idea of a loss is enough to create a strong reaction. Loss aversion is a powerful motivator in all aspects of life, including consumer behavior.
Mere exposure theory
According to the mere exposure theory, repetition creates familiarity and familiarity is good. Mere exposure theory posits that the more people see something, the more they will like it. Apparently, the simple act of repeated exposure automatically triggers an increased positive association in our brains.
Paradox of choice
As the number of choices increases, we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates us and creates confusion and distress.
You can reduce the paradox of choice by removing the mental friction caused by presenting too many choices. Focus your call to action on the single most valuable request you can make. Consider: what is your business’s most valuable call to action? That’s the one to feature.
If you have multiple pricing tiers, be careful not to present too many different choices - instead of picking one, people are more likely to simply move on. The best practice is to have no more than 3 or 4 pricing tiers.
Priming is the process of presenting someone with a word, image (or sentence) that prepares them to be more receptive to a particular point of view. Priming can influence action as well as thought.
It’s possible to prime someone to say 'Yes.' This specific form of priming is often called the 'Foot-in-Door' method. Don’t let the pushy visual of a foot blocking your door fool you. Foot-in-Door technique can be executed respectfully and with subtlety.
But, what is it?
Foot-in-Door is the technique of priming consumers with small asks (such as signing up for a free e-letter) to prepare them to be more receptive to larger asks (like buying a subscription to a paid newsletter).
Prime your customers to say 'Yes' by building a relationship of small asks early on. For example, you can ask that customers share comments on social media, read blog posts, attend free webinars or download an ebook as other useful examples of small asks that can prime them to say 'Yes' later, when it counts.
People feel an obligation to do something for you when you’ve done something for them. This is known as the reciprocity principle.
For example, you should avoid the urge to push for a quick sale – nurture the relationship instead.
Ever have a salesperson work so hard for your sale, only to disappear as soon as you have signed on the dotted line?
Don’t be that business.
Gaining a single sale is a short-ended achievement. Investing in a client’s experience and relationship with your business can yield consistent sales and the probability of the client sharing your business with others. Continue to nurture the relationship by offering first-time customer discounts and communicating with your e-mail list about upcoming sales and promotions.
People’s attention is drawn to the thing that is the most relevant to them at that moment. The salience principle is seen in things like the ubiquitous up-sell during the checkout process on a website.
People tend to take the path of least resistance and seek out the most important (or salient) thing for them when they arrive on a website. Designers can take advantage of this by knowing what people are looking for and then arranging the page to group similar things close to that primary goal.
Scarcity marketing is a marketing technique based on the principle that people want what is difficult to get.
Scarcity marketing thrives on a members-only attitude.
These days most families have an Xbox, but few have the Xbox Elite edition. All Tesla owners drive a Tesla, but few drive the Performance versions of their Model 3, Model S, or Model X. The days of iPhones being only for the elite are gone, but only a small number of people have the highly coveted Red iPhone XR.
This is a form of exclusivity scarcity, which states that the item may not be short on supply, but instead only an elite few are able to acquire it. Scarcity is an effective strategy for brands to create a strong buzz on social media.
Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people are unable to determine the proper behavior and instead, assume that people around them know more about the current situation and behave like the other people. Simply put: we want to know what others are watching, buying, wearing, and experiencing — and this social proof ultimately influences our decisions to do the same.
The urgency principle relates to our fear-of-missing-out (FOMO). When something is urgent, people are more likely to act on it. This holds true even fit he sense of urgency is artificially created (such as an expiring sale).
The buying process is rarely linear. People use many devices, search across different sites, and compare products and services from different vendors. And, for many products, the process to actually purchase a process takes some time - often days, weeks or months.
The problem with long-tail purchasing decisions is that people may never come back to your site. So, smart companies add elements into the proces that create urgency.
What are the core principles of marketing psychology?
There are many important principles, theories, and concepts used in marketing psychology. These include:
- the principle of reciprocity
- information-gap theory
- social proof theory
- and loss aversion marketing
You can research each of these principles, plus dozens of other key principles of marketing psychology, via the links below.
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