3 Marketing Lessons from Psychology

When you think about it, nowhere do psychology and real-world application intersect more clearly than in the world of marketing. Marketing is centered around studying, assessing, and predicting human behavior. How, then, can you bring more psychology into your marketing? Here is a look at three marketing lessons that are based in human psychology.

Give, and you shall receive.

Many psychological experiments have proven that people, fundamentally, feel obligated to give something in return when they receive something. An experiment conducted at Cornell University in 1971, for example, partnered up subjects with partners (who were secretly research assistants) for an “art appreciation exercise.” In the experiment, the partner would leave the room for a moment, sometimes coming back with a soft drink for the subject, and sometimes not. At the end of the art appreciation exercise, the partner would ask the subject if they wanted to buy raffle tickets from him. As you may have guessed, those who received a soft drink during the experiment were much more likely to purchase raffle tickets than those who hadn’t received one.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? Basically, consumers are much more likely to purchase from you if you give them something of value first. That something of value often takes the form of rich, valuable content in today’s digital world, but it might also take the form of a free promo product.

Cut their losses.

Psychological studies have also found that people tend to have what is called loss aversion. In others, people feel more strongly the negative effects of a loss than they do the positive effects of a gain. If you were to win $1,000 tomorrow, for example, you’d probably be pretty happy—but that level of happiness is probably not as high as the level of unhappiness you would feel if you were to lose $1,000 tomorrow.

Because people are more afraid of what they can lose than they are excited about what they can gain, it’s important as a marketer to minimize risk for your consumers. Offer them a free trial, free shipping and returns, a rebate—anything to make that initial purchase feel low-risk.

Breed conformity.

Psychology tells us that humans are a social species and feel safety in numbers. They have a tendency to want to fit in and to conform to the current flow of things. One popular psychological experiment, for example, will have a group of people answering obvious multiple choice questions together, but where an “undercover majority” is purposely selecting a certain wrong answer to each question. This causes participants who would normally select the obvious right answer to select the wrong answer in order to fit in.

Because people have a tendency to conform, you as a marketer must be able to provide “social proof” of your brand in order to entice other consumers. Actively work on growing your social media presence so that your follower counts and customer testimonial counts themselves will speak for your brand.

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