As a business leader or a marketing professional, you’ve probably heard about the power of psychology in advertising. While psychology explores human nature, emotions, and behavior, advertising can influence human behavior and lead to certain buying decisions. It makes sense that the two overlap so much!
But some of those marketing psychology principles can be confusing, and they don’t always touch on practical (and non-manipulative) ways to encourage customers to buy from you. And you shouldn’t have to worry about ineffective or questionable marketing methods when using psychology to persuade customers.
Keep reading to learn about psychology in advertising — and four ways you can ethically use it to help you grow your business.
Using psychology in advertising can help you learn how your target audience processes information, what gets their attention amid a sea of marketing messages, and what persuades them to buy. There are two ways that people process information, and you can use either (or both) based on your target audience(s) and the tone you’d like your brand to convey:
This is the “thinking” or “fact-based” way of processing information. When customers use logic and reason to buy based on features or problem-solving ability, they’re employing the Consumer Processing Model.
If your target audience is more logic-based, and your product or service doesn’t need an overly emotional hook, use the CPM. You can do this by highlighting product features or service benefits, or by explaining how you can help your customer solve a serious problem or need.
For example, if your business sells headache medication, the CPM can help you highlight the benefits (quick and lasting pain relief) that solve a problem (a painful headache). Your customers probably don’t need to see a funny commercial with a talking pill bottle to be convinced that buying your product would help them. Thus, a logic-based processing model works well for your brand.
This is the “feeling” or “emotions-based” information processing method. If your prospects lean on their feelings to make a buying decision, they’re using the Hedonic Experiential Model — even if they back up their decision with facts later.
If your ideal customers are more emotions-based, and if they might need an emotional “nudge” to buy from you, try the HEM. You can use humor, fear, excitement, nostalgia, or another strong sentiment to help customers form an emotional connection with your brand and lead them toward a buying decision. For example,
Let’s say you sell a camera at a high price point. While you could go into the facts and features of the camera (high resolution, gorgeous photos), your target audience might need some more convincing. An emotional ad that shows a couple capturing memories of their children with this camera would evoke the joy and nostalgia that comes from looking at those photos once the children start to grow up. Tugging at your customers’ heartstrings in this way might convince them to see your camera as an investment (not just an expensive product) and buy one to start making their own memories.
Even if your target audience tends to make more logical choices, research shows that no decision is without at least some emotion. If you’re speaking to your headache medicine customers, they may not need to see a sappy or emotional ad, but if they feel good about your company and product, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.
When you’re trying to relate to a prospect (and convince them to make a buying decision), use the logic sandwich:
Because we all make buying decisions based on emotion to some extent, it only makes sense that you want to build a brand that people love (and love to buy from). Many people don’t know this, but the colors you use in your advertising can influence how your prospects feel and what they decide to buy — a phenomenon we call color psychology.
Emotions can be powerful, and certain colors tend to bring up similar feelings for many people. Whether you’d like your brand to come across as playful or serious, calm or fast-paced, using the right colors in your ads can help customers feel a particular emotion and connect with you. This, in turn, makes them more likely to buy from a brand (yours!) that expresses a sentiment they either relate to or want to express themselves.
Below are a few common emotions that people in Western culture tend to associate with certain colors:
Along with color psychology, you can use marketing psychology principles to lead customers toward a buying decision. We mentioned earlier that these tactics can be confusing … but they don’t have to be! We’ll walk you through how each of these principles influences customer behavior, as well as ways to incorporate them into your advertising and marketing strategy.
Let’s focus on three key principles: social proof, scarcity, and reciprocity.
According to the social proof theory, we often make decisions based on others’ behavior and/or feedback because we want to be like them and have a good experience like they’ve had. For example, we’re more likely to buy from a company with positive reviews, lots of active users, and people generally enjoying the brand’s products or services.
Because prospects have no personal experience with your business yet, they may look to past reviews from other customers. That’s good news for you, since 88% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Plus, positive reviews make 72% of customers see a company as more credible — which means they’re more likely to try your product or service so they can have a great experience like their fellow shoppers.
Wondering how to use social proof to attract new shoppers? Ask a current customer who’s left you a positive review if you can share their feedback on your website and/or social media pages. Or, if you’re looking for more feedback in general, you can always ask a happy shopper to review your product or service right after they’ve worked with you.
The principle of scarcity states that we value goods and services more if we think there’s a limited amount of products or time. That means your customers are more likely to buy from you if they think whatever you’re offering is in short supply. Scarcity can create a sense of urgency that might encourage a prospect to purchase something they wouldn’t have otherwise.
You can employ scarcity by running temporary promotions or offering limited products. For example, if you sell patio cushions, you could make a limited number of custom cushions and advertise a sale. Try using language like “while supplies last” to let customers know they should buy a cushion soon to avoid missing out on a great product.
The theory of reciprocity explains why we tend to feel guilty if someone gives us a present, but we have nothing for them; we might even believe we need to give them something in return. When it comes to psychology in advertising, customers often feel as if they “owe” an advertiser something if the business gives them a free product or service.
With free content, such as downloadable PDFs or e-books, you can use reciprocity to offer valuable information in exchange for an email address. Create an initial ad that explains what the customer will receive if they download your PDF or e-book. Once they click on your offer, simply ask for their contact information, and the free content is all theirs. If someone gives you their email address, that means they’re willing to receive any follow-up emails (their “gift” to you) in exchange for relevant and helpful content (your “gift” to them).
By using psychology in advertising, you can show more customers that your product or service may be right for them. Whether you’re encouraging prospects to buy now or book a consultation, the above tactics can help you relate to more shoppers, sell more products or services, and grow your business.
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