Marketing Psychology: 6 Marketing Principles That Influence Consumer Behaviour

Marketing psychology is the reason that you bought that thing that you didn’t need.

It’s the reason that you spend much more on items that you could buy for half the price elsewhere.

Marketing psychology is the reason that brands can add enormous margins and still sell their products like hot cakes.

Anybody involved in marketing, advertising or business needs to know the psychological difference that can be made by tiny, often unnoticeable, triggers.

Imagine if you were able to increase your subscribe rate, just by adjusting your button, wording or colour.

Imagine if you were able to ramp up lead generation into your sales pipeline, purely by adding one line of copy.

These are just a few examples of the potential effects of marketing psychology, because when you can predict and adjust your consumer’s behaviour, you can create a very profitable customer journey.

Marketing Psychology Definition:

Marketing psychology is the process of adding proven psychological principles into marketing materials, tactics and strategies, in order to influence a prospects opinion of a brand’s appearance or offers.

Marketing Psychology & Recurring Patterns of Behaviour

psychological tips for conversion rate

As marketers, it’s important to look out for recurring patterns of consumer behaviour, analyse why they occurred and implement the findings into your marketing strategies.

This means: testing > analysing > implementing.

But we don’t always need to use our own findings. Many of the principles that will improve your marketing performance can be found in previous psychological studies.

I’ve rounded up some of my favourite marketing psychology principles that can add those all-important extra %’s onto your performance.

Priming

Priming as a marketing psychology principle is one of my favourites. It’s a true example of the power of subtle changes in your marketing materials.

Priming focusses on subconscious reactions that we cannot control and how they impact our conscious decision-making process.

priming example marketing psychology

Think of priming as a marketing psychology principle, like this:

Stimulus (created by your marketing efforts) -> subconscious reaction -> conscious thought -> decision

This is a much-simplified example of how priming can affect consumer behaviour.

A great example of how you can use priming for marketing psychology are things like:

  • Music
  • Colours
  • Specific wording

For instance, if you owned a travel company and wanted to sell more beach holidays, you could use blue and yellow as the predominant colours in your marketing materials.

Or if you wanted to sell more French wine in your restaurant, you could play French music while your patrons eat.

The key to priming is being able to predict the subconscious reactions that are associated with your marketing stimuli.

The success of this marketing psychology principle will be your eye for detail. Analyse all the components of your communications at every touch point with your prospects.

Prime them for the decision that you’d like them to make.

Scarcity

As far as marketing psychology goes, this is one of the most recognisable (from a marketer’s perspective) and commonly used tactics.

The reason for this is clear – it really does have a big influence on consumer behaviour, particularly their buying decisions.

Scarcity, as a marketing psychology principle, focusses on the strategy of threatening to take away a prospect’s freedom of choice.

scarcity marketing few items left

This is because when something is seen as rare, hard to obtain or soon to disappear forever, we perceive it to be much more valuable and desirable.

For example, consider this example of two identical products:

  • Product A costs £9.99 and it can be purchased at any time, by anyone
  • Product B costs £24.99 but it can only be purchased one day of the week and is limited to just one sale per customer.

Product B, although being identical to Product A, is able to sell at a much higher margin than Product A because it uses the marketing psychology principle of scarcity.

By restricting sales to just one day of the week and restricting the number that can be bought, Product B would be viewed as a much more desirable product by consumers.

A great example of this is the mad scramble for products that takes place every year on Black Friday.

Customers go mad for these products because the low prices are only available for one day, before being taken away by retailers.

The choice to buy at these prices is effectively taken away from the consumer.

Scarcity as a marketing psychology principle, can also be used by:

  • Reducing the amount of stock you hold (and informing customers of stock levels e.g. only 5 left in stock)
  • Creating limited time offer deals (that end on a specific date)
  • Creating limited time offer products
  • Staggering prices for your products, that gradually increase over time
  • Telling customers to order early in the day so they can receive next day delivery
  • Limited time bonuses

These are just a few examples of the way marketers employ scarcity tactics in their strategies.

If you want to drive sales over a short stretch of time, scarcity could be the marketing psychology principle for you.

Social Proof

An idea becomes more correct when more people believe in it – or so the theory of social proof states.

As a marketing psychology principle, this theory can have a big influence on the way your brand is perceived, as well as your target consumer’s behaviour.

The principle of social proof is based on the idea that when you see others doing something, you’re much more likely to want to do that thing yourself.

As marketing psychology goes, this proves that we often trust the decision of the group over our own individual view.

For example, what type of social media post are you more likely to click on:

  • A post with 1,321 likes, 211 comments and 42 shares
  • A post with 1 likes, 0 comments and 0 shares

It’s impossible for us to judge the value of a social media post’s content purely on the opinions of others, and yet, most of us do.

Who are you more likely to trust and follow:

  • A fitness brand with 1 million followers
  • A fitness brand with 59 followers

The principle of social proof is easily transferred to other stages of your digital marketing efforts, particularly on buying/purchase pages.

Modern day landing pages are stacked with the following types of social proof:

  • Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Customer/subscriber counts (e.g. join 12,00 other customers)
  • ‘Expert’ opinion
  • Proof badges (e.g. awards, as featured in…)
  • Proof pop-ups (detailing when and where the last customer purchased from your brand)
  • Videos featuring target market using a product

^A testimonial video from Einstein Marketer’s EMC marketing event^

If you’re selling online or aiming to influence a prospect to make a desired action, social proof is a great way to encourage them to join others.

Show how popular and widely received you are at every opportunity with marketing psychology – it has a big impact on your target customer.

Goal Dilution

We’ve all heard the old analogies about the importance of focus – the theory of goal dilution proves it.

But goal dilution isn’t quite as simple as boiling down your marketing efforts to just one message. It means much more than that.

Think of it like this, the more singular and focussed something is, the better we believe it to be at that trait.

For example, let’s pretend that you own two shops:

  • Shop A only sells bikes
  • Shop B sells bikes, car parts and camping equipment.

Both of these shops sell the exact same brand of bikes, and yet, Shop A will be perceived as having better bikes, because it has not diluted its products.

If you wanted to buy a bike in this situation, you’d be much more likely to go straight to Shop A.

A clear historical example of this is the battle of the search engines.

When the internet was still a burgeoning force and we all had to connect to our telephone lines for dial up service, a battle was waging between Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves and AOL.

And as we know all these years later, Google ran out the clear winners and now (kinda) own the internet.

There are several reasons for this, but looking back, one of the biggest reasons for this was their ability to NOT dilute their goals.

When search engines were coming into prominence, every other website tried to boost their popularity by adding more features to their homepages, ‘Ask Jeeves’ included a ‘May I Suggest:’ menu and the occasional ad, ‘MSN, ‘AOL’ and ’Yahoo!’ linked out to 100’s of news items.

yahoo goal dilution psychology

Google on the other hand, featured nothing on their homepage except for a search bar, and it’s been the same ever since.

google goal dilution search engine

And although they offer tons of other services, we still associate Google as a search engine – and nothing else.

If you’re selling multiple types of products/services, it might be worth focusing all your efforts on one in line with the marketing psychology principle of goal dilution.

Rejection Then Retreat

How can being rejected increase your chances of having your offer accepted and bought by your prospects?

The marketing psychology tactic of rejection then retreat, actually states that being rejected in the first instance can dramatically increase your chances of being accepted later on.

There are several psychological reasons and a lot of evidence that backs this up, but without getting too technical or drowning ourselves in theory, let’s take a closer look at another example.

influence robert cialdini marketing psychology

I first discovered this book in Dr Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence and in this book he uses the example of a scout knocking on his door to sell cookies to demonstrate the theory.

In the first instance, the boy offers him a $5 ticket to a scout’s social event. The idea of having to attend an event, adjust his calendar and pay $5 for the privilege led to him turning down the offer.

The scout then followed this rejection by offering some $1 chocolate bars.

At this point, the Dr.accepted the offer and handed over the money.

This all sounds fairly innocuous, until you realise that Cialdini doesn’t actually like chocolate.

It wasn’t  the offer or the product that encouraged him to make the purchase, it was because the scout had lowered his demands having already been rejected.

This tactic, known as rejection then retreat, is a commonly used negotiating tool, with parties regularly opening negotiations by demanding things that they’d never expect to get.

rejection then retreat psychology offer

The act of retreating shows that you’re willing to come closer to what your prospect wants, which can encourage them to accept an offer that they’d otherwise reject out of hand.

In the digital world, this means tactics like:

  • Listing your most expensive products first
  • Promotion of premium products first, followed by basic offers
  • Re-marketing materials offering discounts on a product that prospects have already seen
  • Exit intent pop-ups offering cheaper alternatives
  • Listing premium services beside those of cheaper alternatives

When it comes to maximising customer value, this marketing psychology principle can make a big difference to your average order spend.

Rejection then retreat will help adjust your customer’s perceived value of your product/service, before showing them a lower cost (similar looking) version.

Loss Aversion

Marketing psychology isn’t only used to influence consumer behaviour to take your offers, it can be used to make them stick with your brand.

Loss aversion is a particularly relevant marketing psychology tactic for brands that offer subscription services, but it can also be used to make a big impact on your sales copy and marketing language.

The theory of loss aversion is based on the idea that the pain of losing is twice as painful as the joy of gaining.

loss aversion copy language

For example, think about your favourite item of clothing. What monetary value would you put on it? Would you exchange it for a newer, different item?

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you overvalue that item of clothing (because let’s face it, it’s just a second hand item of clothing) and you would be very reluctant to let it go, even for something of more value.

The idea of loss aversion is particularly prominent when people come to sell their second hand goods. Items are often re-listed at lower prices because sellers initially value them at higher than their true value.

ebay overpriced item loss aversion theory

Loss aversion is regularly used by subscription services, who charge monthly premiums for access to their products – this is almost always done by offering a free trial.

When you trial a product for 30 days, it start to feel like yours. You can customise it, implement all of its features and really personalise your experience.

By the time the 30 days is up, you don’t feel like you’re going to buy something, you feel like you’re going to lose something if you don’t make the buying decision – providing businesses who employ these tactics with sky high conversion rates from trialists to buyers.

free trial loss aversion

If you’re in the subscription/membership business, this is definitely the marketing psychology priniciple for you.

Another very powerful way that brands can use loss aversion is in their marketing copy/language.

This means wording offers to make consumers feel like they already own your product/service. For example:

  1. Replace ‘gains’ with ‘Don’t lose!’ e.g. ‘You’d lose out on…’ instead of ‘gain this…’
  2. Use language like ‘imagine’ to put your prospects in the mindset of having what you offer.

This marketing psychology principle allows marketers to effectively double the psychological and perceived value of their products/services.

Use loss aversion to make prospects feel like they’re already invested in your product/service – and keep on reminding them of it!

Conclusion

Marketing psychology should play a large role in all your digital marketing campaigns and strategies.

By analysing your consumer behaviour, prospect’s predicted decision making patterns and implementing them into your marketing materials, you can effectively increase your conversion rates.

Within the 6 marketing psychology principles in this post, there is at least 1 that aligns perfectly with your brand, business, content or offer.

Really analyse your current performance and see where and how you can implement one of these marketing psychology principles.

Want more marketing strategies, advice or guides? Check out one of our most popular ever digital marketing guides:

Director of Content at Einstein Marketer
Josh is an award winning content marketer and the Director of Content at Einstein Marketer, previously working as a content manager, freelance copywriter and marketer. He writes, edits, proofs and strategises content for Einstein Marketer's agency and their clients, sharing the most successful tactics and strategies with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

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