The Psychology of Marketing: Part 2

Whenever I disclose that I studied Psychology, the typical response went along the lines of ‘oh, so you can read my mind then’. As surprising as it may be, this is not the case. But what it does mean is that I gained an insight into why humans behave in a certain way in certain situations. ‘Fascinating’ is the word I’d use to describe Psychology, and recently I’ve been thinking about how it applies to marketing too. So, sit back, ready to discover how psychology can influence your marketing activity.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

First up, have you ever noticed a new product and then suddenly it is everywhere? Yep thought so. That’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in full flow, sometimes called the frequency illusion. It can feel like the universe is playing some sort of trick on you. This happened to me recently. One of my colleagues got a bright orange mini as a hire car. Over the next week, I must have spotted this exact car about 20 times. I mean seriously, where have they all been hiding?!

According to Pacific Standard Magazine, this phenomenon works based on two psychological processes. The first is selective attention. Shockingly, we don’t take in all our surroundings all the time. Instead, we pick out the most important aspects and focus on those, it’s a survival strategy. So, when something catches our attention, it evokes an unconscious response to keep an eye out for it. As a result, we start to notice that thing far more frequently. The second process is confirmation bias. So, once we’ve spotted the object a few times, confirmation bias kicks in. Acting as reinforcement of the overnight importance this object has gained, and hence why you’re seeing it more.

Marketing Application: You need to make sure your company is seen and heard about. Make your marketing consistent and ever so slightly repetitive. This promotes memorable content, which customers and prospects will pick up on. And even if a customer doesn’t need what you have to offer, they may have a friend or acquaintance who does. Word-of-mouth will play into your hand. So, use all your channels to promote the information which is important for your business. Send out an email about your product, then post it on Social Media, and promote in a Paid Ad. The frequency all builds up, increasing the perceived importance at the same time.


Social Influence

Humans evolved as sociable creatures, meant to work as a pack, which is why we place so much importance on what others are doing. Whether you realise or not, it’s likely that social norms have affected you at some point. May that be in your buying habits, or your day to day activities, social influence is forever prominent. Social proof is when an individual looks to others to adopt their behaviours in an attempt to act correctly in a given situation. Cialdini (2001) determined that this effect is more prominent when looking to others whom you like or trust. One experiment which demonstrates this involved a charity door-to-door donation register. Prospective donors were more likely to give when the register consisted of a longer list of names. This likelihood increased further when the prospect knew names already on the register. Essentially, it’s a ‘me too’ response, everyone wants to fit in, and to do so, they want to act correctly. So, they look to others for influence.

Marketing Application: Capitalise on the copycat effect. Show your prospects what others are doing, and how much they trust and favour your company. Tell them what previous customers chose to do when in your leads current predicament. This works well in testimonials and case studies, but can also be effective for reviews. Direct leads to your review page. They can see what other people in a similar situation are doing, making them more likely to jump on the bandwagon – especially if the review is from a respected company.

Social media can be a strong influence on online behaviour too. Using platforms with like and share buttons centre stage will show how many people have done so already, prompting someone who stumbles across your post to share it too.

Emotional Engagement

Decision making is a complex process, often with no clear deciding factor behind it. The reality is, it can all come down to a small section of our brains called the Amygdala. This brain structure governs our emotions, be it fear, sadness, anger, happiness, intrigue or surprise. The list can go on and on. And often, it is this emotional response which sways out decision-making process one way or another. Berger and Milkman (2010) looked at the relationship between emotion and virality of online content. They found that regardless of positive or negative emotion elicited, content which provoked a strong emotional response was more likely to influence an individual’s decision to share the content.

Marketing Application: Create content which strikes an emotional chord. If you can get this in the title or subject line, then great! It will intrigue people to read further. But set the tone of your content so that you leave people feeling a certain way. Images are a great way to increase an emotional response. Be sure to check it is evoking the desired reaction though– show a colleague unfamiliar with the piece as a quality check.

And there you have it, the second instalment of psychologically supported tips and tricks is over. So start utilising all your marketing channels consistently, be it social media, email, or PPC; drive emotion in your posts; and show everyone how your customers are already interacting with you.

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