Psychology in Marketing


Content marketing is not about words but about minds. Grabbing attention, engaging users, telling stories, creating relationships – that happens in our minds, even if it starts on a screen.

So understanding how our minds work will help our words work better. Some of the most successful international brands use subtle psychology in their marketing and advertising. Tricks? Not really. Just clever insights into how customers think and feel.

Here are three proven psychology concepts that you can use in content marketing. Know some more? Leave a comment below.

unnamed1. Everyone does it

“Billions and Billions Served” says McDonald’s on their giant M signs and other advertising. Why is that an effective slogan?

This is the concept of social influence: people’s behavior is influenced by their perceptions of what is “normal” or “typical.” The dance floor is empty so you don’t feel like dancing. The dance floor is full so you dance. The classic study on this behavior is Robert Cialdini’s experiment on changing towels in hotels.

“We’re getting it done for over 40,000,000 people world wide,” proclaims file-sharing service on their home page. Amazon says, “Sell on Amazon and reach hundreds of millions of Amazon customers.”

The concept that content marketers can incorporate into their messages is, “Everyone does it, so you should do it too.” Give it a try – so many brands do – and you’ll likely find an instant jump in conversion just from changing a few words.

2. Nobody’s perfect

And people are suspicious of perfection. Hence the rise of user-generated review sites such as TripAdvisor (more on that below). We want the whole story, warts and all.

Social scientist Gerd Bohner has shown that acknowledging the drawbacks of a product may be more persuasive than trying to hide them, particularly if there is a clear link between the drawbacks you admit and the benefits you wish to promote.

Like those signs in restaurants: “Please be patient if your food takes time to arrive; everything here is made from scratch and freshly prepared.” Fresh food takes time – it makes sense, right?

Are you brave enough to admit your own flaws? Your customers will appreciate your honesty, understand your business more deeply and trust you more.

3. What people say…

unnamed-1…holds more sway than what you say about yourself.

User reviews and testimonials are one of the most powerful psychological techniques in online marketing.

Amazon’s Product Ads has a whole tab for “What People Say” – case studies and testimonials backing up the claims they make about how wonderful they are.

I booked a hotel just this morning on, where a TripAdvisor user review feed is embedded at the top of each page before the hotel description.

The psychology behind why people bother to write reviews has a lot to do with relationships, loyalty and a sense of community as this Tnooz article explains.

The psychology behind why people like to read reviews is simple: a mix between social influence (point 1 above – do others like it?) and the desire for an authentic picture of a product’s benefits and flaws (point 2).

So take some advice on getting the most out of online reviews from Laurel Reese, then incorporate them into your marketing and watch conversions jump.

The bottom line

Simple psychology concepts, when integrated into content marketing, can have a marked effect on the persuasiveness of your content. You don’t need a PhD or a $20 million advertising budget. Get yourself a pop psychology book like Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, test out a few concepts in your marketing campaigns and watch what it does to your customer engagement and website analytics.

Monica G. – Content Strategist 

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