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6 Psychological Principles for Marketing

When it comes to marketing your business, understanding your customer and having a flashy marketing message paired with sexy collateral is just the tip of the iceberg. To ensure marketing has an effect on your business, you need to dig deeper and tap into why people make the decisions they make.

The growth of your business is determined by a lot of moving parts. Undeniably, your approach to marketing plays a big role in how you appeal to your client base. This includes your website design and how effective your ad campaign is. By incorporating principles of psychology, you can gain a huge advantage in retaining and attracting new business.

No two target audiences are the same, but luckily there are some principles that have withstood the test of time and are applicable to almost any industry. In this article, we will go through six psychological principles that will boost your marketing efforts. We will also look at some real-life examples to better understand how it applies to you and your business in your day-to-day work. Let’s get straight into it!

1. Jakob’s Law

Jakob’s Law hinges on the idea that most users spend a lot of their time on other websites and are familiar with a certain type of layout. They have an expectation of how websites should look like and where they would find certain buttons and options.

When designing your website, it is important to not be overly innovative as it may come off as being misunderstood. A simple example is how we often find the ‘send message’ button on the bottom right of the screen. It would be very confusing for a user to find that button on the top right and creates a learning curve that is not necessary and ends up being time-consuming.

You would want to use your customers’ intuition to your advantage by showing them something they are familiar with and increase their engagement time with your business. Factors that play a huge role in this are the placement of the navigation bars, the layout of the content and images, as well as the call-to-action buttons.

A simple model to remember is the Z-pattern, which is the pattern customers tend to use when scanning a new website. They would start with the company’s logo at the top left corner, followed by the navigation bar which ends with a ‘login’ or ‘sign up’ button. Then, they move to the third touchpoint at the bottom left corner, which gives them more information about the website.

Finally, they look for call to action buttons like ‘add to cart’ or ‘create an account’ at the bottom right of the page. You might have noticed that this pattern is similar to the left-to-right direction we follow when reading Latin languages. It is used by most websites like Facebook, Google and Netflix. It’s easy to understand when looking at the examples below:

2. Social Proof

Social Proof is a marketing principle that builds on the idea that people will follow the herd and willfully trust other people’s judgements. When unsure of the correct choice, people seem to be guided by the behavior of others and make decisions based on how favorable it is to other consumers.

In your business, the advantages of social proof can come in many different ways. One of them is making effective use of testimonials from your existing customers. By ensuring the delivery of exceptional service to one customer, you increase the likelihood of people recommending your services to their family and friends.

Furthermore, including written testimonies on your website or displaying them on the walls of your store will motivate others to jump on the bandwagon and be attracted to your business. Here is an example of Slack displaying the companies they have worked with, and also including a short testimonial from Fox.

Other examples of utilizing social proof include endorsements from a celebrity or a social media influencer, as well as a stamp of approval from a respected industry leader being quoted or photographed as a user of your products or service.

3. Hick’s Law

Hick’s Law is sometimes referred to as the paradox of choice and refers to a somewhat counter-intuitive concept. Many would think that the more services and more products that their company offers, the better off they are.

However, this law refutes that and states that too many choices gives the customer freedom to choose, but also burdens them with the added responsibility of picking the “right” one. Essentially, every additional choice adds time, effort and cognitive stress on the customer, which may turn them off from making a purchase at all.

When applying this to your business, it’s all about making the choice simpler for your customers by providing them with fewer options to choose from.

For example, when designing your website, don’t try to squeeze in as many options as possible on a single page. Instead aim for multiple landing pages, each with a single and specific purpose. In e-commerce, one page could include shopping cart details, then the next page would deal with the delivery process, and then finally finish off by gathering payment details. Industry leaders like Amazon make use of separate landing pages for specific functions, making the process smooth and easy to understand.

4. Principle of least effort

This principle relies on the fact that people will always choose the easiest way to do something. Either out of laziness or wanting to be more efficient, taking the path that requires the least effort or provides the least resistance is more favorable than any alternative.

To apply this principle to your business, all you have to do is essentially make the process of purchasing your product or using your services, as simple as possible. For example, if you’re running a restaurant, and people usually call to make reservations. You would want to make your phone number or a link for ‘reservations’ at the top of your landing page and make it as visible as possible. Quay restaurant shows a good example of this principle in practice by aiming for simplicity in their approach.

Generally, most people have a lot of daily stressors on their minds, so a short and efficient model of going from your landing page to making a final purchase can really increase your conversion rates. You can do this by keeping the language of your website straightforward and easy to understand. This way, your customers don’t get less motivated to purchase by having to go through complex sentences and industry jargon.

Additionally, grouping your items makes them easier to find. This is also less time spent by your customers scrolling through other parts of the website that might not apply to them.

5. Mere Exposure 

Mere Exposure theory is an effect that occurs when people develop favorable opinions towards some things simply because they are familiar with them. The most famous experiment done on mere exposure by psychologist Robert Zajonc. He recruited non-Chinese speakers and showed them Chinese characters repeatedly up to 25 times and asked them to guess their meanings. He found that the more often people saw a particular character, the more likely they were to associate a positive meaning with it due to how familiar it looked.

In marketing, consumers are constantly coming across different types of companies and businesses all competing for their attention. Sometimes, it may seem difficult to stand out and attract potential customers and clients. With the use of this principle, you can make the most of it by generating targeted ads on different sites like Facebook and Google. This way, you can generate leads by building brand awareness, so that people will think of your business when it comes to a time where they might need your services.

Once users are on your website, you can use remarketing tools so they can still see your ads even after leaving your site. Some of the leads might not convert right away. However, since they have already built some sort of familiarity with your business, it increases their likelihood of coming back to use your services.

The simplest real-life example for mere exposure theory is music. At first, when people hear a new song, it is unlikely that they would become die-hard fans from the first day. However, as time goes on and they hear that song frequently on the radio, they might develop a liking to it. After a few listens, they might even start humming to the tune and start playing the song in their own time. Until at some point, they can’t get it out of their heads and they become a fan of the music and the musician.

6. Reciprocity

Reciprocity works on the notion that humans are hard-wired to return favors and reward good deeds that are done for them. People have a tendency to offer something in return when they feel like they have received something of benefit to them from another person.

As a company or a business, you can make good use of this by offering free promotional offers to your customer base. Which may possibly motivate your customers to make more purchases from you. One way of doing this is by providing free informational blog articles about something within your industry and your customers can benefit from.

For instance, if your business focuses on selling health products. Your clients would appreciate articles on topics like healthy recipes or an analysis of different types of diets detailing their advantages and drawbacks.

Companies like Spotify, Apple Music and Netflix make excellent use of this reciprocity model. All these companies work on a subscription-based business model. However, in order to attract new customers, they all provide free trials ranging from 7 days to 30 days, which can be canceled at any time free of charge. These free services they offer pays off in the long term, as it increases the likelihood of someone sticking around and turning into a paying customer.

When planning your marketing campaign, it is beneficial to understand and leverage the human psychology to better suit your goals. Marketing and psychology go hand-in-hand, these principles have been used so often that we don’t even notice them. Of course, it is important to assess which of these work best for your specific needs, but knowing how to integrate them can bring you a step closer to your goals.