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Marketing Psychology: Learn the Principles of Psychology in Marketing

When you are marketing to an existing or potential customer, you want to know what they want and what will attract them. If you do not quickly grab the attention of your customers, someone or something else will. To successfully market, you have to know what your customers think. Knowing how they think helps you understand what drives them to make decisions, especially purchasing decisions.

Once you begin to understand this, you can tune your marketing strategy to match the different personas you want to attract and keep. It is essential to understand that you may have to create various marketing strategies for different customer bases. When you know some of the principles of psychology in marketing, you can create impressive marketing materials geared towards your specific audience.

What is marketing psychology?

Marketing psychology is the act of using research to understand why people think and act the way they do. The way people respond to marketing can be better understood when marketers apply common psychological principles to their strategies. The psychology of marketing gives marketers an understanding of humans to help influence consumer behavior to make purchases or take action in a specific way.

The brain functions in a unique way and creates shortcuts to assist people in decision making. When you can tap into understanding those shortcuts, you are better able to grow your audience. In short, understanding the how and why behind the way people think and act helps you improve your marketing campaigns. In addition, this understanding can help you develop a stronger brand identity.

7 psychological theories in marketing

There are several ideas and psychological theories in marketing that can help marketers better understand their audience. Below, we go over some of the theories related to marketing psychology and explain how they work. By understanding these basic psychological marketing theories, you can optimize many aspects of your campaigns and marketing efforts, from website development to content marketing.

Graphic with a illustrated brain next to the headline "7 psychological theories in marketing"

1. Social proof

The social proof theory explains why social media is so popular. This theory supposes that humans are most trusting of products when they know other people that believe those products are valuable. As a result, humans are more likely to follow the lead of others.

This allows people to feel safe when trying something new and unknown. This is where the power of customer reviews for a product or service comes in. This is illustrated by the fact that 95% of consumers report that both positive and negative reviews impact their purchasing decisions.

Graphic with the text "95% of consumers report that both positive and negative reviews impact their purchasing decisions."

One of the best ways to make the most of social proof is to focus on social media or a social aspect on your website or blog. This can mean including follow buttons and social sharing options on your website or blog pages.

You also want to showcase the number of followers you may have and how often something has been shared. Few people want to be the first one to share or like a post, but if you show them it has been done already, they are more likely to do the same.

It can also be a good idea to capture testimonials and feedback from your current customers and users. Once you have them, advertise them across your website, including landing pages. This allows potential customers to feel reassured by the fact that other people have already had good experiences with your products or services.

2. Loss aversion

Loss aversion is another one of the psychology theories in marketing. This theory refers to those that are so focused on avoiding loss that they are willing not to make gains. Marketing campaigns for this type of consumer are based on a sales strategy where the consumer does not stand a chance of losing. These individuals are so averse to losing anything that they will give up large gains to avoid any loss.

So what does incorporating loss aversion into your marketing campaigns look like? In general, people don’t want to miss out on deals or opportunities. Thus, creating a sense of urgency or time-sensitive situations can allow you to leverage your psychological skills and tap into this marketing concept. For example, you might run a limited time offer or emphasize how limited your inventory is in marketing emails. This can encourage potential customers who don’t want to miss out to make a purchase.

3. Urgency and scarcity

This buyer psychology theory focuses on the idea that consumers place a higher value on items that appear to be limited, scarce, or hard to acquire. If items are easy to access, they may have a lower value for consumers. When an item is scarce, it places a sense of urgency on the consumer to act quickly and make a purchase.

There are a variety of ways to use urgency and scarcity to promote your products. For example, some companies release products in small batches—or “drops”—where inventory is extremely limited. This can motivate buyers to make a purchase as soon as you release your products so that they don’t miss out.

Whether you’re a clothing store or a donut shop, fostering a sense of urgency among your customer base can create motivated buyers. Selling out your inventory and creating a sense of exclusivity can drive people to your brand. However, keep in mind that this model isn’t suited for every brand.

4. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is not a new concept, and it is a simple one. This psychological marketing theory is based on the concept of an item or company doing something good for the consumer and, in return, the consumer doing something good for the company. This may range from buying more products to telling their friends about the product to posting about it on social media.

There are many ways to make reciprocity work for you. For instance, you may provide customers with discount codes, free samples, or small gifts to earn their trust and demonstrate your value. You can also create content—whether through video or blog posts or eBooks—that is valuable to your customers. When you help your customers and give them something they can use, they’re more likely to return the favor and take a desired action such as making a purchase or signing up for your mailing list.

5. Anchoring bias

Anchoring bias is another psychology of marketing theory that you can use to attract decisions based on content marketing. This theory is best applied to determining the price of a product or service. With this theory, consumers often use the first item they see as the point from which they make their decisions. They use this price as their anchor to determine if other prices are better or worse.

A great marketing tactic for those who use anchoring is to show your customers how much they are saving with each purchase. This is especially useful when you offer a subscription plan to your customers. For example, you can show them how much they save by purchasing an annual plan instead of a monthly plan.

Another great way to use anchoring bias to your advantage is to run sales where you display the amount customers are saving on each purchase. When you have an item that typically sells for one price, you can offer it at a sale price and emphasize the dollar amount that customers are saving as a result of the sale. This can be especially effective if the sale is for a limited time, as this creates a sense of urgency as well.

6. Information-gap theory

The information-gap psychology marketing theory is one that is based on a consumer having a gap of information about something of interest to them. When this occurs, they most often take action to find out more and fill the gap in their knowledge. This theory can be a great tool when it comes to social media and digital marketing campaigns.

You probably have seen marketing this theory without even realizing it. Think of any teaser or article you have seen that starts with “How To…” or “The Secret To…”. These are headlines created to catch your attention and draw you in by providing you with relevant information you may not be aware of. They want you to click on the story and fill in your gap of knowledge.

However, you do want to proceed with caution when using this tactic. Do not draw in people with false information. If you present a teaser headline to them, be sure to give them the information you are promising.

7. The Pygmalion effect

The final psychology principle is ideal for customers and employees. The Pygmalion effect is also referred to as the Rosenthal effect. This psychology of marketing theory states that if you believe something about yourself, it will become the truth. The theory further states that if someone else believes something about you, it can also become true.

A great way to approach this strategy is to identify the core values of your brand. You want to ensure that your team of employees knows these core values and always has them at the forefront of their minds. In addition, you want to communicate those values to your consumers to help drive decisions based on purchasing. With this sales strategy, you are providing clear expectations and incorporating your core values into everything you do.

Essentially, the Pygmalion effect is concerned with setting expectations for your customers and advocating for your brand in a meaningful way. Your marketing campaigns should aim to demonstrate how your products or services can enrich or improve the lives of your customers.

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How to leverage marketing psychology for your business

You have probably realized by now that the way people think and act plays a huge role in marketing strategies. Therefore, when establishing your brand identity and creating a marketing campaign, it’s essential to think about the impact of psychology in marketing.

Considering these theories will only help to improve your marketing campaigns and greatly influence customers' purchasing decisions. While you want to dedicate your mission to create the best product or service for your customer, you also want to build relationships and earn trust. You can do this by employing psychological theories in marketing that are tried and true.

One way you can leverage marketing psychology in your campaigns is to consider breaking up your material into small, easy-to-consume chunks. Customers are not able to handle a large amount of information at one time. If you make it smaller and more meaningful, they will pay more attention.

Remember, there are many people that have a loss aversion. You want to show them that they will not lose by interacting with your company. You will need to prove your value to the customer early on and create consistent messaging across multiple communication channels. This helps to build trust with your customers, since they want to see that the message is the same no matter where they are communicating with you. If they see that you are giving one message in one place but a different message in another, this can negatively impact your brand identity and potentially influence your campaigns.

Overall, marketing psychology tactics are most effective when they reach the right audience. Not every buyer psychology theory will apply to every customer. In fact, customers seek out personalized experiences when they shop and communicate with brands. Today, as much as 71% of consumers expect a personalized experience when they interact with a brand.

Graphic: 71% of consumers expect a personalized experience when they interact with a brand.

With this in mind, it’s important to do some experimenting and find what works for your target audience. Incorporate the psychological marketing theories listed above into different campaigns, measure your results, and get feedback from your customers. Through refinement over time, you can marketing psychology work for your business.

How to be responsible when using marketing psychology

When using these strategies, you want to be responsible and avoid manipulating your customers' emotions. To do this, you want to avoid making promises you cannot keep. You must deliver on your promises and not try to attract customers with misleading information. Remember that there is a human on the other side of your marketing strategies.

Ultimately, it is not just about dollars and numbers, but building meaningful and positive relationships with your customers. When used responsibly, psychological marketing tactics can benefit both your brand and the customers you serve. It is essential that you use the strategies that work best for your customers or the potential customers you hope to attract.

Boost your business with psychological marketing techniques

When you are focused on marketing to new and existing customers, you should understand these psychological marketing principles. By understanding the psychology of marketing and human behavior and incorporating psychological theories in marketing into your campaigns, you can connect with your audience and drive sales.

Before you jump in, you want to think carefully about which strategies work best for your organization, your existing customers, and potential customers. Depending on how long you have been in operation, you may have some idea of what has worked for you in the past. You can use that information to determine which strategies to employ moving forward.

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