Psychology in Marketing – 5 Unknown Key Concepts to Utilise

Before you start thinking ‘I can’t even wrap my head around marketing complexities, now you’re bringing psychology into the ring?!’

Calm down.

It is actually very important to wrap your head around psychology before you step into the world of marketing. By that, I mean that it is very important to understand what makes people tick and how they operate. Understanding why marketing and psychology go hand-in-hand can take your marketing from good to amazing. Why? Because the right audience is reading and engaging with your content and with this, comes conversion, which is what the point of marketing is, right?

  1. Priming

Have you ever played the word association game? Where on person says a word and the other responds immediately with the first thing that comes to mind?
This is very similar to how priming works. You’re exposed to one concept, or stimulus and this in turn, affects how you respond to other stimulus. For example, a person who sees the word ‘yellow’ would be quicker to recognise the word ‘banana’ due to colour reference. This happens because the two words are closely associated in memory. Additionally, priming can also refer to a technique in psychology used to train and programme a person’s memory in both positive and negative ways.
This is very important in marketing, advertising, sales and basically any scenario where you want to get people to react and think how you want them to.
What’s this got to do with marketing? Lots.
Using subtle priming techniques could help your website visitors remember key information about your brand and even positively influence their buying behaviour. Priming, in short, is making use of the small details. This can range anywhere from having your homepage’s background symbolising money to get people to buy products, to implementing word association to deploy subconscious psychological influences into someone’s mind.

  1. Social Proof

You’ll find that many marketers are already aware of this concept, but it’s just too important to leave out. If you aren’t familiar with it, social proof is the theory that people will follow, trust and adopt the ideologies or actions of a group/company that they like. Have you ever walked into a club or bar and found the dance floor to be completely empty? Many people won’t want to be the first to go and dance, though once people start to fill up the dance floor, more people will feel more comfortable and therefore more inclined to join in. This is also named the “me too” effect.

  1. Reciprocity

The concept of ‘reciprocity’ at its heart, is very simple – if someone does something for you, you feel more inclined to do something for them, repaying the favour.
Getting a mint with your bill at a restaurant is a classic example of reciprocity. The mint plants a seed in your mind that makes you think ‘a mint! How thoughtful’ and the greater the mint quantity (or generosity in general) the more likely you are to tip higher (unless you a sociopath, then you should be more wealthy).
In marketing, there are many ways to take advantage of this concept and it doesn’t mean you have to shower clients in expensive mints 24/7. You can give anything away and the reciprocity will be gracefully acknowledged, branded t-shirts, coffee mugs and even stickers have been reported to be successful reciprocity gestures. Also, the more personal the better, handwritten notes, personalised emails, phone calls, learning someone’s name off-by-heart, all of these things add up and are sure to leave a positive mark.

  1. Decoy Effects

Clever, though sneaky.
In Dan Airley’s Are we in control of our own decisions? He describes an advert in The Economist outlining their latest subscription deals. Here’s what they offered:

  • Online subscription: $59
  • Print subscription: $125
  • Online and print subscription: $125

So, you get the online and print subscription package for the same price as the print subscription? Why? Surely it should be more, no?
After Airley attempted to contact them (and after they failed to get back to him) he ran his own study with 100 MIT students. He offered them the same pricing packages as the above and asked which package they’d buy. The students ended up choosing the combo option, as it clearly looked the best deal, right? But when he removed the option that was essentially redundant, the students opted for the cheapest option.
The middle option acted as a reference as to how good the combo offer really was. Three is better than two, especially in sales as it can severely increase your conversion rate.

  1. Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is exactly what it sounds like – once something has something, they do not want to lose it.
Daniel Kahneman studied this concept and what he found was quite astonishing. His participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing. Then, they were asked to make a choice and given two options:

  • If they were given and object, they could trade their objects
  • If they were given nothing, they could choose one of the two items

The result showed that roughly half the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with chose to stick with them.
What does this mean? People don’t like to lose what they’ve got.
This is used very successfully in limited-time subscriptions, we’ll use Photoshop as an example. Photoshop offers a free trial month for everyone using it for the first time. Once you’ve got used to the set-up, the controls and have begun to feel comfortable with the software, Apple strips it from you and asks you to pay for it to get it back. Loss aversion is a very successful concept and you see it everywhere in the forms of time trials on software, taster packages, demos and other limited time deals.