We will agree that in marketing in order to reach the correct audience the marketers need to be able to answer some basic questions about their audience such as: who is the customer, what do they want, what drives them to make a purchase… These questions remind some of us of psychology, that’s because it is, in some ways at least.

Some marketing strategies are based on psychological theories. This is what we call psychology marketing. In other words, it is: “incorporating a range of psychological principles into content, marketing, and sales strategy to improve their efficiency.”

Psychology is a vast topic, especially in marketing. However, some main principles exist like: Reciprocity Principle, Social Proof Theory, Scarcity Theory, Anchoring Bias… which I will explain more. All of them are based on patterns of human thinking in relation to purchasing habits. To understand how they are used onto customers, you will need a more in depth explanation:

  • Reciprocity principle: “we pay back what we received from others.” In other words, if someone offers you something, you are likely to want to return the favor.
  • Social Proof Theory:” you make decisions based on the behavior of others. ” People copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation
  • Scarcity Theory: “rare items are valuable.” Meaning the less units they are, the more it is estimable.
  • Anchoring Bias: “decision-making is influenced by the first piece of information we get that’s related to that decision.” Humans will orientate their decision according to the first impression they make.

Normally, you should now be able to spot how companies took advantage of those theories and principles and injected them into marketing and advertising.

Now let’s observe how firms have been turning theses abstract ideas into physical benefits for them.

  • Reciprocity principle: Use this principle by offering free content, such as eBooks or samples, you are opening the doors towards a new relationship with them, via contact information usually.
  • Social Proof Theory: Advanced type of word-of-mouth, it acts on the persuasive powers of experts, celebrities and user reviews as a way to increase our trust in the product or service. But also seeing people use and enjoy products from a company, you will tend to be influenced into buying from the same company.
  • Scarcity Theory: consumers fear that they will miss out on an offer, thus speeding up their thought process and creating a pressure to buy.
  • Anchoring Bias: Most widespread is displaying original prices alongside reduced prices during sales. The original price becomes an anchor point for the customer, making the sale seem like a better deal than if the price was shown by itself.

Obviously, those tactics have been used heavily throughout the last decade and raised opposition against some of the strategies used, qualified as manipulative: using facts, arguments and playing with consumers’ emotions in a misleading and deceptive manner.

Photoshopping images and claiming them to be genuine, exaggerated, vague and false claims, concealing hidden costs, green washing techniques, and including political beliefs in advertising are considered manipulative advertising and highly unappreciated by consumers.

In conclusion, psychological marketing is a powerful tool when used correctly but needs to be ethically correct and should not lie and manipulate consumers into purchasing.