If you want to be a great marketer, it’s essential to understand your consumers. The importance of understanding the psychology behind how (and why) people think and act the way they do is something companies often miss when creating their marketing plan. Therefore, if you or your company has struggled in marketing and carrying out successful plans, it might be time to consider some of the key principles of consumer psychology.
Five Important Principles of Consumer Psychology:
- Priming: What differentiates your brand from your competitors? Is it price? Safety? Comfort? Convenience? Priming is a technique that prepares something (or someone) for use or action. In other words, when someone is exposed to one stimulus, it will affect how they respond to another stimulus. Using subtle priming techniques can help your consumers remember key information about your brand, and potentially influence their buying behavior. For example, in a study by Naomi Mandel and Eric J. Johnson, researchers manipulated the background design of a website to see if it’d affect consumers’ product choices. Participants were asked to choose between two products in one category (like a Toyota vs. a Lexus). According to Psychology Today, “They found that visitors who had been primed on money (the website’s background was green with pennies on it) looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. Similarly, consumers who had been primed on comfort looked at comfort information longer than those primed on money.”
- Reciprocity: The concept of reciprocity is simple – when someone does something for you, you will naturally want to do something for them. As a marketer, you can easily get creative with the concept of reciprocity no matter what kind of brand you own, or are working for. For example, some companies give away reusable tote bags with every customer purchase, or mail out hand-written letters to anyone who fits into their target market. On the other hand, if you have a large presence online, you can offer to give away a brand-new ebook or a monthly email containing a series of coupons. Just be sure you’re giving away the free thing before you ask for something in return.
- Scarcity: The concept of scarcity involves the idea that the more rare the opportunity, content, product, or service is, the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of consumers. However, if you want to use this principle, you need to be careful with how you word it. If you approach the scarcity concept by, “there used to be a ton of product/service but due to popular demand there’s only a few left,” consumers will typically respond well. On the other hand, if you approach the concept by, “there are only a few products/services available so get it now,” the principle will, most likely, not be as effective. For example, In 1975, Worchel, Lee, and Adewole conducted a study to see how scarcity affected people’s perception. At the start of the study, they asked people to rate chocolate chip cookies. According to an article by Lanya Olmstead that describes the experiment, “[The researchers] put 10 cookies in one jar, and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received ratings twice as high as the 10 cookie jar even though the cookies were exactly the same.”
- Emotion: Studies have shown that emotional and psychological appeals resonate much more with consumers than feature and function appeals do. For example, Salespeople have long understood the power of emotional appeals. In the 18th century, when the contents of the Anchor Brewery were being auctioned off, the auctioneer said: “We are not here to sell boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
- Perceived Risk: The concept of perceived risk involves the extent to which the consumer is uncertain about the personal consequences of buying, using, or disposing of an offering. Typically, circumstances that cause an increase in perceived risk involve lack of information, newness. high price, and/or complex technology. Furthermore, there are six primary types of perceived risk. These six types include:
- Performance Risk → The possibility that the offering will perform less than expected.
- Financial Risk → The extent to which consumption is perceived to create financial harm.
- Physical Risk → To create physical harm or harm one’s safety.
- Social Risk → To harm one’s social standing.
- Psychological Risk → To harm one’s sense of self and create negative emotions.
- Time Risk → To lead to loss of time. As a marketer, you want to minimize any potential for perceived risk to the best of your ability. In order to do this, it’s important to implement acknowledgement of as many of the six types of perceived risk as as possible, into your marketing plan.