10 Important Principles of Marketing Psychology
It’s very hard to create a compelling marketing campaign if you don’t know why it would be compelling to your audience in the first place.
That’s why a key part in successful marketing is knowing how, and why, people behave they way we do.
Understanding some basic ideas of behavioural psychology – around how people think, feel, and behave – can elevate your marketing from good to great, and in turn lead to more conversions.
So, before you begin any marketing campaign there are a few key principles that can help you attract, convince and sell to your audience.
Marketing is all about psychology. Your customers need to have an emotional reaction to your brand in order to buy into it – and keep coming back.
Understanding Basic Human Needs
In 1943, scientist Abraham Maslow, developed the theory now known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy looks like a pyramid with the most basic of human needs (physiological) at the base, and moves upwards through safety needs, belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualisation.
Fundamentally, Maslow’s hierarchy identifies five primary areas of needs experienced by most humans.
The basic needs for human survival are at the base of the pyramid. These include air, water, food, shelter, clothing and reproduction.
This embodies both physical safety, and financial security. For example, a home in a safe neighbourhood and job security with some savings.
This draws on the fact that human beings are ultimately herd animals, with a need for community. Friends, family, clubs and organisations fall within this category.
Once we are part a community, the next step is to feel valued and respected within that community. An example of this would be getting a job so fulfilling our safety needs, finding a community within the workplace (belonging), then receiving a promotion (esteem).
Once all other needs are met, we’ve met our full potential and that’s where self-actualisation comes in. This is the idea of finding purpose in life and leaving a legacy of some sort, and it’s where aspiration marketing comes in.
Using Psychology In Your Marketing
Maslow’s Hierarchy of need is still relevant today. When developing your marketing strategy, it is important to consider the level of need of your audience, and how your product fits in, in order to communicate with them effectively.
To use the example of the car industry, Volkswagen and Volvo have always positioned their branding around the safety provided by their cars and their advertising frequently includes images of families. They target their customers’ safety needs, and to a lesser extent, belonging needs. In contrast, Maserati and Lamborghini’s audience fall into the esteem and self-actualisation categories of the hierarchy of needs.
Priming is the subtle technique of using small details to influence how people think.
Closely intwined with branding, priming involved using subtle cues to leave a subconscious impression on your audience. Think about how Travel Agencies use blue and yellow in their branding and website (sea & sun), or images of happy families from insurance companies (security and safety for your family).
It’s about creating positive associations towards your brand or product, before you try to sell it. Going straight in with a direct sales pitch won’t work here. Use your brand values to stay on message, and promote the positive attributes of your company across your copy and creatives.
If someone is exposed to a stimulus enough times they will naturally develop an affinity towards it, but keep in mind that over exposure can have the opposite effect.
Social proof, also known as social influence, is the concept that consumers will adapt their behaviour based on what other people are doing.
When marketing your brand, social proof ultimately comes down to getting people to like your brand and talk about it.
Consider when you make a purchase on Amazon, would a 10% price difference, or a 3 star vs 4.5 star customer rating influence your purchase decision more? If you chose the customer rating, you’re not alone. Social proof is a very powerful and persuasive marketing tool.
Positive customer reviews and testimonials, media mentions, social media following, and awards and recognition; all contribute to building good social proof.
Check out our article on using social proof to boost sales.
The concept of reciprocity is simple – when a person receives a gift, they’ll want to give something back.
In a well known study, produced by The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers looked at how the offering of mints increased tip giving in restaurants. Diners who were offered a mint with their bill, tipped 3% more than diners who were not given a mint. When two mints were given, tips increased by Ann enormous 14%. Most interestingly though, when the waiter left mints, then returned shortly afterwards with more mints saying ‘for nice people like you…’, tips increased by a whopping 23%!
There are lots of ways to utilise reciprocity in your marketing, and it needn’t cost you much (if any) money. Offering a free ebook download, zoom background, or branded merchandise, or your expertise on something all work well. The key is to offer this freebie before you ask for something in return. Not only will this make your audience more likely to reciprocate, it will present your brand in a positive light and encourage brand loyalty.
“Only 3 left in stock. Order soon!” Seen a message like this? That’s scarcity marketing. When applied properly, scarcity can increase the customer perception of the product’s value.
In 1975, Lee and Adewole Worchel conducted a study on the scarcity effect. They placed 10 cookies in one jar, and 2 cookies (identical to the others) in separate jar. They then asked 200 participants to sample and rate the cookies based on taste and value. The cookies from the two-cookie jar were consistently rated higher!
The reason scarcity marketing tactic are so successful is fear of missing out (FOMO). Think about the frenzy in stores on Black Friday, or the queues outside of an apple store on the night before the launch of a new iPhone. The fear of missing out combined with high perception of product value, equals a very powerful marketing strategy.
Limited time offers, exclusive content, limited editions, and stock counters are all effective techniques.
The decoy, or attraction, effect is used in pricing when one option is included as a ‘decoy’ to encourage customers to choose the more expensive option.
This usually involved having three products for sale at different price points, and the third exists only to make the more expensive of the other two more attractive.
A great example of the decoy effect is demonstrated in an old subscription page of The Economist. Three options were offered for subscription: $59 for electronic only, $125 for print, and $125 for print and electronic.
Compared to the first option of $59, the second $125 option seems expensive. But the third option offering both the other options at the same price seems like a great deal. When this was tested on a group of students, most chose option 3. However, when the second option was removed, most of the students opted for the first, and cheaper, subscription.
Anchoring bias is our tendency to put more weight on the first piece of information offered than anything that comes after – it’s all about first impressions.
When we make decisions, achoring occurs when the first piece of information we recieve influences how we interpret what follows.
Anchoring is frequently used in pricing and it’s a straightforward concept – shoppers will base their decision on the relative value of a product. Simply put, if a product is marked as being priced at £50 but is on sale for £30, it will look like a bargain and be more appealing!
Marketing is all about psychology. Potential customers need to have an emotional reaction to your brand in order to buy into it, and keep coming back to you. Applying the above principles will put you in good stead to grow your brand and revenue.
What Is Social Proof? Think about the last time you went to purchase a household appliance. Most likely, you either went for a brand you know of or had used before and trusted, or perhaps you looked at reviews to compare what was on the market. Both of these are...
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