Thursday, February 13, 2014

Psychology is Marketing's Best Friend

psychological puppets
Think back to the last time you bought something. It doesn't matter what it was and it doesn't matter if you bought it because you needed it or if you just wanted it. You likely bought it because, on a sub-conscious level, you had to. There may have been other choices available, but they didn't really have a chance.

No, you weren't forced to buy something against your will. But you were psychologically influenced to buy what you did, even before you thought about buying it. Smart companies now use common psychological and emotional triggers that we all have when planning all elements of their marketing strategy to exert that kind of influence.

Everything from the company name to their logo to the product name to the colors, shape, packaging, weight, materials, texture, advertising message, fonts, models in the ads, background music, time of day, merchandising, store section, shelf space, shelf arrangement, price, and so on, and so on have been systematically evaluated and focus group tested in minute detail to determine what your perception and reaction will be, both consciously and sub-consciously, to all of those elements.

It isn't a 100% fool proof system of course. But the more of those elements that are set correctly, the higher the chance they will produce the desired mental response from the targeted customer and will then manipulate them into buying the company's product. We're going to leave aside the morals of doing that for another time.

Now, because the big companies do it does that mean you have to spend a ton of money doing your own research and testing to find all the right emotional triggers to most effectively sell your product? No, you don't. There's no need to re-invent the wheel when there's bound to be some mega corporation that already spent big bucks doing most of the testing and research for you. Just find a different type of product that is successfully being marketed to the same demographic audience you want to sell to and copy what the other company is doing to sell their product with your own version of the same marketing strategy.

Don't copy what is being done in exact detail obviously. Just do your best to be a similar, but subtle difference to that big money success. Then when your prospective customer sees your ad or your product, it will somehow feel already familiar to them in some way, even if they have never actually seen or heard anything about it before.

similar marketing
Following a similar marketing strategy gives you several benefits besides just saving you money. First is the psychological power of repetition. It's a known fact that the more someone sees something, the more likely they are to favor or trust in it. You won't get the full power of course because your product or brand and all its marketing elements can't be an exact copy of the big company's. But you can get some of it simply because your marketing is somehow familiar to the customer and they'll feel like they have seen it before. This is why generic brand breakfast cereals use packaging similar to the name brand ones they are a direct copy of. If it can work for them then it can work for you, even when your product is totally different.

Then there is the power of subliminal messaging. Subliminal means that you see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, or touch it but you're not consciously aware of it. If you've never had a conscious experience with a product or any of its marketing before and you happen upon it briefly in passing then you're not likely to even notice it, either consciously or sub-consciously. But if you have some level of familiarity with it previously and are exposed to the marketing or the product briefly in some way, then you're more likely to notice it and engage with it if you have an actual need or desire for the product.

Lastly, there is the power of persuasion. Products that are groundbreakingly new, meaning there's never been anything else like it, are typically shunned by all but the serial early adopter. However, if the product seems somehow familiar sub-consciously, even if it's actuality radically different than anything else like it, then more people will be less afraid to try it. This is generally why we tend to see the slow evolution of a product over time instead of significant and sudden changes.

Taking advantage of time-tested and proven psychological concepts like the ones above in your marketing efforts can easily make a big difference in the success of your business and/or the acceptance of your products. If there's any non-business field of study that has the highest potential for benefit to the average business owner or marketing professional then psychology surely has to be it.