It’s no secret that marketing is all about emotion. Years of research has gone into working out how best to sell as much of your product as possible to your customers, and there are thousands of different techniques you can use to influence how people feel about the things they buy.
Psychology plays a large role in this, so we thought we would examine just a handful of the psychological tricks marketers use every day.
When you’re running late, your brain tends to kick your prioritisation skills into gear. You’ll start only doing the necessary tasks you need to complete, and you’ll do them a little faster than usual. This is because “fear of missing out”, or FOMO, is a great motivator – you don’t want to be the only one of your friends and family to miss out on something.
Marketers know this, but in today’s mass produced world it can be difficult to create this feeling of urgency. That is why they utilise “limited edition” products. By putting a timescale on items, customers will worry that if they don’t act now, they may miss out.
Cadbury’s do this intentionally every year with their Creme Eggs, which are only sold between New Year’s Day and Easter. Although that is a timespan of about four months, the false scarcity means that Creme Eggs are high sellers throughout, through customers’ fear that they only have a small amount of time to enjoy them.
This is one you may not have noticed growing up, but advertisers of kids’ toys tend to use children in their adverts that are a little older than the target demographic. So an advert for a toy intended for 5-8 year olds will feature 10 year olds.
Why is that? The theory goes that kids will see older kids playing with a toy they want, and associate it with being “cool”, because kids tend to look up to older children. Keep an eye out for this the next time you’re forced to watch Paw Patrol and the adverts come on!
Using older kids in adverts is similar to the trend of “influencers marketing” – the idea that it is more important who is in your advert as opposed to what is being sold. There has been a large surge in this kind of advertising over the past decade with the rise of social media, which has created a whole new generation of influencers with dedicated audiences.
However, the practice is nothing new, as celebrities have long been associated with marketing. An advertising block on TV rarely goes by without at least one celebrity endorsement. This is again linked to people reacting more favourably to a product their favourite celebrities are associated with. “Do you like Beyoncé? Then you’ll love this perfume!”.
Noticing this and trying to pick apart why a certain celebrity has been chosen to be the face of a product is a great way to start thinking about psychology and marketing more in-depth. Next time you see a famous person on a TV advert, ask yourself what qualities the advert is trying to convey about the product it is selling by associating it with that particular celebrity.
Authority is another big factor in marketing. A celebrity’s voice carries weight, but so does that of an “expert”. If a product is recommended by a third party, then it seems to validate everything else said about the product. If something is “scientifically tested by experts”, then that’s a good sign, right?
Well it can be. But what exactly does “tested” mean? And what qualifies someone as an “expert”? There may be a reason why these are kept vague, because if they are left open to interpretation for the customers, they can come to whatever conclusion they want.
For example, if a skincare product has been touted as “dermatologically tested”, that sounds good! The product is safe to use, and won’t cause any side effects. But all that means is it was tested on human skin – it doesn’t say what the test results were!
Finally, we’ll look at something you can explore for yourselves next time you’re doing your weekly shop. Supermarkets put a lot of time and effort into the layout of their store. While this arrangement may sometimes feel random, it is anything but. Several factors govern where products are displayed, and a supermarket has to take all of them into consideration to get the most out of your visit.
You may notice that flowers, fruit and veg are almost always placed at the front of the store, so they are the first thing you encounter when you enter. This welcomes customers to the shop with a nice smell, and the feeling of freshness, that customers will then relate to the rest of the products on sale (the fish counter is usually placed nearby too, to cover up the smell).
Related products are also placed apart from each other, so that you are inclined to walk through the entire building to get everything you want, exposing you to more things you could buy. If you’re shopping for ingredients for a roast dinner for example, the vegetables will often be placed as far away from the meat as possible. This is also why the layout changes so often – in your confusion over everything moving, you’ll have to walk past even more products!
These are just some of the things marketers do to influence consumer psychology. If you’re interested in finding out more, we have a range of courses in both Psychology and Marketing, all of which offer year-long industry placements!