6 Psychology Concepts Every Marketer Needs to Know

6 Psychology Concepts Every Marketer Needs to Know

Last updated on July 1, 2016 by Dusti Arab in Conversion Rate Optimization
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Manipulating, influencing, persuading – these are the kinds of words associated with marketing.

The thing is that these words actually represent much more. They are psychology concepts, and that means when you're creating an advertising campaign, what you're really doing is tapping into the science running someone else's subconscious.

Basically, that makes you a superhero. High-five!

So let's assume you use your powers for good.

Do you really understand the full weight of what you are capable of doing with something as simple-sounding as creating a sales page? At your fingertips, you've got the ability to guide someone to making a decision and even a purchase by pulling the right psychological triggers. Do you know what they are and how to use them?

Yeah, you'e busy. I get it – and no problem. I've gone through and analyzed dozens of social and behavioral psychology studies and simplified them here for you into six core, scientifically-proven concepts that will make you a better marketer.

1. Avoiding losing what we have already is more important to us than gaining something new

Given how focused on chasing the next big milestone most of us are, you might be surprised to learn that when it comes to getting something new or protecting what we already have, we would much rather not lose what we currently have. This is the loss aversion principle at work, and it's why security products sell as well as they do. We want to feel more safe, so we do our best to protect what we have.

Another interesting addition to this idea is that we also give more value to that which we already have. This is due to the endowment effect. Therefore, we attribute more value to (for instance) the money we already have in our bank than future money we might make if we switch jobs or start a company.

This concept at work:

Geiko just wants to help you save money, and while their familiar gecko is also a symbol for trust and familiarity, it's the copy here that really does the magic. Why? Because we work hard for the money that's in our bank accounts. We don't want to spend more money than we have to, so the loss aversion principle is at work here on two counts. The focus of the ad is on saving money (i.e. preventing the loss of excess money) and so is the product. Insurance is all about protecting what you've already worked so hard for, and that's what almost all insurance branding is focused on – trust, reliability, and security.

Screenshot 2015-06-24 at 10.22.42 AM

2. Repetition has a huge impact on what we think about something

Annoyed you've seen an irritating ad 100 times? Too bad. Because it's going to keep happening because it works. Thanks to the mere exposure theory, the more familiar we are with something, the more likely we are to see that as a preferable option. Yes, in fact, broadcasting the same message over and over again does still work (although perhaps not to the extent it used to because we have so many more options available.)

Additionally, after being thoroughly bombarded with the same message, we begin to be effected by the frequency illusion. Have you ever felt like you just keep seeing something everywhere? It's not just you, it turns out. This is the frequency illusion at work, and it reinforces the repeated messages internally. Essentially, after a certain amount of messages have been received, our subconscious takes over and does the work of advertising firms for them. Think that's mildly terrifying? It gets even better.

Believe it or not, the theory translates to how much we like other people, too. The pretentiously-named propinquity effect simply states that we prefer people we have more exposure to. This is why work or college relationships often blossom into something more substantial. You're more likely to end up with someone you've spent some time with than a total stranger. It's not rocket science, but it does have some profound implications.

This concept at work:

Rather than show you repetition at work (which seems a little redundant) I think it's more valuable to note this as an industry trend. Don't get me wrong – repetition has been a key part of advertising campaigns for as long as advertising has been a thing. The difference now is that we have the internet, and those repeated messages are on our computers, phones, and tablets across programs and platforms retargeting and remarketing. You can read more about retargeting and remarketing here and get some solid tips on how to start implementing it.

Additionally, this is part of why guest posting, social media, and email lists are so effective. By showing up everywhere with the same message, you not only tap all of these principles, but you fulfill a desire humans crave – consistency.

3. We want to be like everyone else, and we like what's familiar

Hey, it turns out humans act like sheep by default! It's hard to stand out, and we'd really to just be liked by our peers.

That's because of the conformity and social influence principle, which you might know better as the idea for "keeping up with the Joneses." We also don't like to go back on what we said before, whether or not we know we're wrong. So when your mom won't admit she's made a mistake, now you know why. It's an instinct to go with what you held to be true before – this is the consistency principle at work.

Thanks to the persuasion principle of social proof, we tend to choose the same things other people we respect choose. And once we've given someone one "yes" – for instance, giving them our email in exchange for an ebook – it makes it much easier for them to get us to give them another yes. Think the Kirby dealer who manages to get in your door – enter the acquiescence effect.

4. We like important and pretty people (and we can't help it)

This is probably the most unfair concept on here, because it's not something we have much control over. But instinctively, and thanks to evolutionary processes no amount of political correctness can shake, we like traditionally attractive people. And what's worse/better depending on who you are, that makes us trust them. This is the authority principle, one of the core principles of persuasion.

The way attractiveness ties into how we grant authority and trust to others is also perpetuated by the halo effect. Especially when it comes to celebrities, we tend to think they are happier, smarter, etc. simply because they are pretty and have a perceived authority level.

Also worth noting, curves are scientifically better than edges. Humans prefer them. So, ladies? I'm just saying. You've got an unfair advantage.

This concept at work:

Celebrity endorsements, anyone?

5. We like the people we help more than the people who help us

You think you like getting favors and special treatment? Try doing it for someone else.

Seriously. It sounds crazy, but we actually like helping people more than receiving help ourselves. This is the Ben Franklin effect at work, and it's the reason we volunteer. We like the feeling of helping someone else. Part of the reason this is so fascinating is because when someone else helps us, we feel compelled to return the favor.

This is one of Robert Cialdini's persuasion principles – reciprocity. You can easily see where you could trigger a positive chain reaction here. Give someone something for free, and they'll give you their email. Keep sending them useful, relevant information, and they will keep wanting to give back, too (so make sure you do things like ask for reviews and testimonials).

This concept in action:

Warby Parker's marketing efforts are always phenomenal, but the thought put into their "one for one" landing page is really something to behold. The story being told here "begins with you" when you decide purchase glasses, enabling them to give glasses to someone in need. You're giving something to someone else from the moment you purchase a pair of glasses. And since you don't know exactly who is getting that pair of glasses, chances are your rose-colored glasses are going to be pointed straight to Warby Parker.

Screenshot 2015-06-24 at 10.32.44 AM

6. We're not as in control as we think we are

In The Social Animal, NYT bestselling author David Brooks spends the better part of the book surveying hundreds of studies that essentially point to one clear, unsettling conclusion – our subconscious is making most of the calls. We think we are choosing something or making a rational decision, but the reality is there are so many unconscious factors at play that we can't even acknowledge them all. It's impossible for us to because we have so many conscious decisions we make from moment to moment.

From priming to the decoy effect to clustering, there are so many subtle, almost basic seeming ways for us to effect how someone else makes a decision. And that is a powerful thing.

Are there any psychology concepts I missed that you'd like to see covered? Comment below, and I'll start researching and analyzing to get you the best, most up-to-date information available.

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