Five Gifts Psychology Gave to Marketing

Psychology has provided plenty of theoretical and practical uses for marketing and advertising for as long as people have been buying things from businesses. Probably one of the most commonly used tactics is known as “charm pricing”, or the power of the number nine. The research is quite documented, that compared to “round” numbered prices, prices ending in “9” outperform sales upwards of 25%. Other popular examples include using sex in advertising, exaggerating pricing on luxury items to manipulate perceived value, and the use of puppies, kittens, and babies in advertising campaigns. Some of the more complex gifts from psychology are very interesting and sophisticated, and showcase exactly how psychology offers much more to marketing than just research about colors and typeface!

1. Neuromarketing – Neuromarketing is a relatively new field of market research that essentially borrows from the field of neuroscience and applies those research techniques to marketing scenarios. Neuromarketing studies capture and analyze electrophysiological activity in the brain (and elsewhere) while participants are exposed to advertisements and products, to see what parts of the brain are related to making buying decisions, and then to iterate marketing campaigns and/or product development based on the way the brain processes this information. The neuromarketing concept is based on theories of cognitive psychology that thinking (over 90%) including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness.

2. Behavioral economics – Building off of cognitive psychology, behavioral economics takes a deep dive into studying the competition between two distinct decision-making systems in the brain, one that uses heuristics (short-cuts) to make decisions on the fly (almost reflexively) and which is mostly associate with short-term memory. And another that takes longer to react, but yet also has a more long-term focus and is associated with the ability to strategize and plan out for the possibilities of how various scenarios play out. The field discusses many of the implications for making buying decisions when taking these cognitive systems into account.

3. Social influence – Social influence is an area of psychology that covers a wide range of phenomena, with the science of persuasion falling square into sales and marketing applications. Studies in the area of social influence have explained many of the reasons why we’re more likely to commit to certain brands and products, and make recommendations to friends and family members.

4. Brand archetypes – In marketing, the concept of branding is a fundamental one. Brand archetypes allow organizations to capture the essence of human personalityand, when used in advertising and marketing, create differentiation. Differentiation is so important in building loyalty and beating out your competition in the market. I think one of the most obvious and (still one of the most entertaining) examples of this is Apple’s famous “Get a Mac”campaign, where characters played by Justin Long and John Hodgman epitomize the human embodiments of Mac and PCs at the time.

5. Gamification – A topic near and dear to my heart, this is all about motivation and the experience of fun. Psychology focuses heavily on human motivation and has recently established a formal sub-field that looks specifically at “fun”, or positive psychology. Gamification allows marketers to tap into sustaining mechanisms of building engagement and loyalty through carefully adding game design elements to many facets of product development and consumer insights.



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