Across radio, print, web TV, and mobile, marketers invest advertising dollars, creative energy and time into targeted messages meant to trigger an emotional response among consumers. For their efforts, marketers hope they may improve the general sentiment towards their brand, convince new audiences to buy their product and encourage existing customers to complete repeat purchases. Their success, of course, is contingent on their ability to influence customer behaviours which makes doing marketing an exercise in consumer psychology.
The influential role of emotion in consumer behaviour is well documented:
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences), rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).
- Advertising research reveals that the consumer’s emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on their reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content — by a factor of 3-to-1 for television commercials and 2-to-1 for print ads.
- Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales.
- Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.
Emotions are the primary reason why consumers prefer brand-name products. After all, many of the products we buy are available as generic and store brands with the same ingredients and at cheaper prices.
Advertising companies use psychological tactics to get buyers to fall for their trap and buy their goods or service. So, it makes us curious: what truly influences buyer’s decisions in today’s message-cluttered world? Here are three techniques marketing agencies use to influence human behaviour.
Some call it subliminal advertising, some just call it influence. I like to call it priming. Priming happens when you are exposed to one stimulus, and it affects how you respond to another stimulus. Here is an example o
Imagine an advertisement for a gel that elevates joint pain. This ad shows middle aged people experiencing lower back pain symptoms, having difficulty with activities requiring manual dexterity, etc. At the conscious level, this ad will be most effective when viewed by people experiencing the exact symptoms described; indeed, advertisers try to target examples that resonate with the maximum number of viewers. One can also speculate, though, that there’s also priming effect happening. As all viewers watch the images of struggling middle age actors, they will identify in some tiny way with what’s on the screen. To the extent that the message resonates with these viewers (e.g., showing images of youthful vigour returning after using the pain relief gel), the company may be effectively reaching a wider market than middle aged people with back or joint pain.
What’s this got to do with marketing? Well, lots. Using subtle priming techniques, you could help your website visitors remember key information about your brand and maybe even influence their buying behaviour. If you give customers or visitors a favourable impression of you and your business, they will keep coming back. There is a reason that supermarkets have flowers in the front of the store. Flowers have a positive association that reminds people of freshness. This is something consumers see every day that they don’t even notice. The goal of priming is to influence the person, in this case the consumer to start thinking about the product in a certain way and to keep them coming back to a website or place.
The next technique advertising agencies use is social proof. Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour in a given situation. Everyone wants to be a part of the “in-crowd.” People follow the leader. No one is dancing at a wedding until the first group of people do, and then everyone joins in. If you hear that people are camping out overnight to get the latest I-Phone, that makes more people want to get that it. The restaurant that if fully booked for months on end is the restaurant people want to check out.
Social proof influences our actions. Social proof makes things easier to buy because it builds trust. An example of how social proof works is with social sharing and follow buttons that display the number of followers your accounts have or the number of shares a piece of content has. People see that others have already shared your content so they feel more confident in sharing it themselves because they trust the content is quality. Word of mouth is a great marketing tool. Most people who get a recommendation from a friend or family member will trust that recommendation.
I was at Dion Weird recently at the Blue Carpet Sale looking at the Mac Book Air 13 and talking to an Apple sales representative. I wasn’t 100 percent sold on buying this because of the price so I said “I’m going to shop around.” The sales rep quickly said “well that’s the last in stock at that sale price,” like the world was going to end. Scarcity is part of a simple principle called supply and demand. The more rare the opportunity, content, or product is, the more valuable it is. This sales rep wanted me to buy the Mac Book Air they had in stock because it would be the best price and me saving a R1000.
Companies use scarcity to get customers to buy all the time. On Take a lot do you ever notice Shop our amazing deals every day and get up to 60% off. Fast …” That’s a psychological technique that makes buyers want an item even more than normal. Everyone wants the last one. A tip to consumers would be don’t lose sleep over not getting the last of any product or brand. There are deals every day online through various website. Don’t be deceived.
These three tactics are used every day by companies, so the next time you’re shopping, take a look around and ask yourself “why am I buying that?” You might be surprised at the answer.