The psychology of marketing: what is it and how can it influence consumer behaviour?

Marketing is much more than writing a few tweets or blog posts. The key to a successful marketing campaign is understanding the psychology of your customers.

You need to know how they think, and why. That way you’ll be able to create compelling content that will engage your audience, and hopefully convert into sales.

Here are the key principles of psychology you need to know to upgrade your marketing from mediocre to flipping marvellous.

  1. Reciprocity

You know when someone smiles at you, you find yourself smiling in return? Or a friend offers to have your dog/child/hamster over the weekend, you feel obliged to return the favour? That’s reciprocity.

You can use this principle in your marketing, by giving your customers something that will make them feel good – for free. If they think they are getting something of value, without spending a penny, chances are they will be loyal to you and buy from you in the long run.

This could be as simple as free content, such as a blog, vlog or podcast. Or you could give away branded merchandise to a bunch of influencers on social media, who would then be more likely to reciprocate by mentioning you in their feed.

  1. Social proof

The theory with social proof is that people are drawn to a product or service they know others already like and trust. We all do it – whether it’s checking out restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor, or asking #Twittereventing followers which cross-country boots to wear.

When it comes to content marketing, social proof works when people can see that their peers have an opinion on something. This could be a review, endorsement, or share.

You can offer incentives to your current customers to like and share your posts, such as a discount on their next purchase. Or you can reach out to social media influencers, in the hope they will endorse your brand.

  1. FOMO

Fear of missing out (FOMO), can be a powerful tool in your marketing campaign. Also known as scarcity, it’s when your customer realises there are only three saddle pads left in hot pink – and they just have to have it!

Why? Because if we think we can’t have something, we psychologically start wanting it more (it even works in relationships. Those that play hard to get, are so much more appealing, right?)

We are not suggesting you lie about your quantity of stock, but wording such as ‘due to popular demand we have limited stock available’ will get your customers chomping at the bit.

  1. Loss aversion

It has been proven by various studies that losing something is psychologically twice as powerful as being given something. This is why when we sign up for a free trial of a product or service, we often end up paying for it.

The best way to apply loss aversion to your content marketing is to work out what makes your audience tick, and what they don’t want to lose. Your content needs to show them why your service or product will help them from losing that important thing. This can be anything from time and money to their horse’s health and fitness.

Once you have found out your customer’s pain points, you can come up with ways to alleviate these concerns – with weekly newsletters, risk-free trials and money-back guarantees. The psychology is, once they’ve signed up they won’t want to lose the benefits.

  1. Paradox of Choice

These days, we tend to think that choice equals freedom. But have you ever stood in the aisle of your local supermarket, unable to make a decision about which washing powder to buy? One of the reasons for Aldi’s success – and lower prices – is they have less choice.

This is known as the paradox of choice, which was popularised by psychologist Barry Schwartz. The theory is that having more options makes it harder to make a decision.

The same is true of marketing – studies have shown that offering people a smaller selection of items can result in more conversions. Keep your content clear and concise and don’t overwhelm them. If you want them to take action, make the CTA (call to action) simple, and avoid giving them too many options.

When selling your product or services, you can sell less but offer more, by tailoring your customer’s experience and offering related items before purchase. For example, if someone is buying jodhpurs from your website, offer them a matching belt at a reduced rate.

  1. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Have you noticed when you’re thinking of buying a new car, you suddenly see that model everywhere? This is known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or frequency illusion. It occurs when the brain is exposed to a new piece of information and then notices it everywhere.

There are two reasons for this phenomenon:
  1. Selective attention – your brain subconsciously seeks out more information on the subject.
  2. Confirmation bias – every time you see something related to the subject, your brain tells you it’s proof of how popular it is.

For marketing purposes, it is a matter of getting information out there through multiple channels at the same time, so your customers start seeing your brand on a regular basis. Pushing paid adverts and using Google’s retargeting feature will help your brand be the one they think of when making purchasing decisions.

By understanding the motivating forces behind consumer behaviour, you can increase consumer engagement and satisfaction, which will ultimately lead to better brand recognition and more sales.

Stuck for ideas for your marketing? Get in touch to find out how we can help you make impact with your audience and achieve real results.