The Psychology of Marketing

November 20, 2018

Psychology in marketing strategies

If you’re even slightly well versed in the practices of marketing strategies then whether you’re aware of it or not, most of what you know will in some way be influenced by psychology and the study of human behaviour.

If you look at some of the most famous stories from marketing and PR, such as the “new coke” conspiracy or Henry Ford’s famous quote “Any customer can have any car painted any colour he wants, so long as it is black”, they’re all based in some way in basic psychological theory.

Marketing and PR are, after all, a simple exercise in influencing. Influencing somebody to do something, to buy something or think something isn’t even particularly difficult if you know the basics, it becomes more difficult when you’re trying to influence somebody more than thousands of others at the same time.

So on the assumption you’re trying to influence somebody let’s talk about the most well known methods that you’ll be able to recognise in every day advertising and marketing.

Psychology in a marketing plan

In a study titled “Using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels”, Goldstein, Cialdini and Griskevicius proved, in 2008, that the way you word things is incredibly important in getting people to do what you want them to. The best way to construct that wording, they found, was in a way that suggested you weren’t conforming to social norms, or that you were in a minority of people. Using the wording “75% of hotel guests in this hotel reuse their towels” saw participation in the scheme increase by 15%.

Simply put, a great way to motivate people is to prominently let them know that other people like them have already done the same thing. Think of it this way; if I said to you “Please download our app today”, vs “Join 10,000 others just like you by downloading our app”, which would you find more appealing?

Another concept often employed is ‘Random reward schedule’. Loyalty cards for restaurants and shops can work very effectively if, for example, you know you’ll get a free drink for every 5 that you buy. It encourages brand loyalty and a long term association. However, counterintuitively, it’s not the most effective way of doing it, according to a psychologist called B.F. Skinner.

What you’ll actually find is that by randomly rewarding your customers with incentives and freebies you’re more likely to associate the product with prizes in the long term. Rather than inspiring a sense of urgency, a loyalty card with set rewards allows the customer to know that they’ll get their reward at a scheduled point regardless of what they do. Random incentives create a sense of urgency.

Famous examples of Random Reward Schedules are the McDonalds Monopoly game, and the £5 reward with Walker’s crisps, where random bags of crisps were filled with £5 and £10 notes.

Used in various types of marketing, psychology is an extremely effective technique when planning a marketing strategy.

Our final but probably most significant technique, one which you’ll now be on the look out for wherever you look, is priming. In a study by Mandel and Johnson they found that something as subtle as the background colour of a website can influence consumer behaviour. When they set the background of a website to green with faded pictures of pennies they found that users spent more time looking at the pricing information, and when they used calming or comforting colours like blue with clouds, users shopping for cars spent more time looking at the information on ride comfort.

In the end, the small details matter when you’re planning for marketing. Small priming techniques where you set somebody up for product association can make a big difference in terms of lead conversion.

Written by
Emma Henson

Emma works with CUE Marketing to run the in-house team day to day and implement the Marketing & PR strategies across the board for all clients. Prior to this, Emma has over five years experience in the Retail, Leisure and Property sector working as Account Manager on various schemes and Business Development Manager for previous agencies.