Psychological advertising strategies in Digital Marketing and Content Marketing

Psychological advertising strategies in Digital Marketing

How Psychology Affects Ad Copy

Do apes window shop? Do pigeons not choose a product because of a bad review? Do camels need to see a brand’s logo? If not, why do we? Why do people make the purchasing decisions they do? The relatively new field of marketing psychology has arisen out of questions like these, the purchasing ones not the camel, and seeks to give marketers insights into not only how are decision made, but how people differentiate between competing products and how much information they actually need. Not convinced that psychology actually plays a role in marketing strategy? Well, are you more likely to buy food when you’re full or hungry? Think back to the last time you went to Ikea.

Where did you see the ad for cheap hotdogs? It was about three-quarters of the way through the store, when you’ve expended enough energy walking around to be hungry again and just need a little psychological push to finish your journey. Consumer behavior is a wide-ranging discipline seeking to understand everything from the mindset of early tech adopters to how items on a shelf can best be positioned for maximum exposure. So how do we find out what makes people tick?Research, research, research. For several decades, countless studies, of varying degrees of morality, have been launched to help explain what the heck are we thinking when we read an ad?Do people respond better to larger fonts or smaller fonts? At what point do people simply tune out what you’re trying to sell them? There are literally thousands of questions whose answers should matter to you.

Yet, the field of consumer behavior is still in its awkward teenage years. Every successful company has at some point used psychological marketing concepts in their ad copy. If you’re not trying to understand how people think and act they way they do, you’re basically just hoping your ads will work because you’re a better writer than Mark Twain. In the next few videos, we’ll discuss a few psychological triggers that you can introduce into your own copy to help influence a reader’s decision-making process.

Psychological advertising strategies in Digital Marketing

Psychological Triggers: Priming

– Even people unfamiliar with marketing psychology, have probably heard of the concept of priming. In a nutshell, it’s using a stimulus to affect a later stimulus. Now what does that mean and what the heck does it have to do with writing effective ad copy? The best way to think of priming is the process of planting a seed for later action. In the most famous experiment involving priming psychologists found that people were faster to recognize words when similar or related words were given first. For example, subjects who saw the word nurse recognized the word doctor faster than an unrelated term like, bread.

As you can probably tell by this far in the article, I’m not a brain specialist. Heck, you give me a Rubix cube, five minutes later I’ll hand you back a broken Rubix cube. But priming kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? It taps into our memories, our sensory perception, and allows your brain to group things together. Now how does this relate to ad copy? For you, there’re two ways you can use priming to your advantage. The first way, is by priming readers with conditions or a situation. Say you’re selling sunscreen, If I’m reading your ad in the Pacific North West during winter, when it’s rainy every single day, it probably won’t appeal to me, right? Well, what if I use this sunny day as a background image? What if I introduce my ad with, right now in Costa Rica, Jim is getting burned.

Even mentioning this sunny place, helps prime the reader to receive my message. With the use of a sunny image, and the words Costa Rica, you’ve already helped them picture a situation where they would need sunscreen. Sure you might not be Jim, but in the right situation, you could be. You can also prime readers for your ads by using what’s called, homophone priming. It’s related to stimulus priming, but you’re actually using the sound of words to set up the reader for action. Using our sunscreen example, if I have a call to action that says buy now, I can use homophone priming earlier on by using a phrase like, bye, bye, rainy days.

Bye, as in goodbye, sounds the same as buy now. So you’ll actually influence the reader without them knowing it. The key to priming is to think of both the initial stimulus and the ultimate action stimulus. Now is priming guaranteed to work? Of course not, it’s a gentle suggestion, not a forceful push. And if you use it too much, it can disrupt your flow. Priming is one psychological trigger that I personally use whenever applicable, but I reserve it for when it’s appropriate.


Psychological Triggers: Social Proof

Conformity. While everyone has their own needs and wants, in most situations, we tend to act the exact same, if not very similar. The power of conformity can pay off for ad copy writers when it comes time to making purchase decisions. By mentioning that other people have conformed to or purchased what you’re offering, you’re tapping into that herd mentality that people are so famous for. Simply put, people place greater trust in something they see or hear other people have done. Let’s think of a real world marketing example. How many times have you driven by McDonald’s and seen a sign similar to, Over five billion burgers served, or, Billions and billions of burgers served?

Wow, that’s pretty impressive, right? Now, what if that said, over six burgers sold, or over 13 burgers sold? So how would this apply to what you’re doing? Does this mean I can simply make up a number and use it? Not at all. If you’re selling all new line of fashion scarves and you say, Over six billion scarves sold, you’re gonna get a lot of skeptical people. So the first part of using social proof your ad copy is for it to be honest and believable. Sure, you can round up or project a little bit,but don’t pull a number out of your head and say, the bigger the better, ’cause that never works.

If you have low sales or customer numbers, then perhaps social proof shouldn’t be used in that ad.If not many people have taken advantage of what you’re offering, then that could raise the question of, why not? So using social proof in this case could actually hurt. Our second feature, however, is that social proof needs to be relevant to the reader. If I’m featuring an ad in AARP magazine, I’ll want to say, Over 50,000 retired people trust my heart medicine. This allows the reader to say, wow, that’s a lot of people just like me, I need heart medicine. I was once a part of an experiment that tested this exact concept, where we tested a US only website using over one million customers versus over one million Americans, and no surprise, the version that said over one million Americans blew the other out of the water, wasn’t even close.

But that led us to think even more granular. What if we said, over X-number of Californians, and targeted people in California? Would that do better or worse? I’m sorry to tell you that that version actually performed worse than Americans. Why? Perhaps it’s the assumption that we thought people would identify themselves as Californians as opposed to Americans, or perhaps it could be that people want relevance, but they don’t want too much relevance. So, social proof should be believable and relevant. Let’s add one more condition.

Social proof should be used as a way to reduce anxiety or doubt in a potential user. If I am offering you a code for 10% off, and all you’re asking me to do is to click this button and get a code, the level of risk is pretty low for the reader. However, if you want to give someone a free book, but you need to give your address and phone number and all your personal information, that’s getting a little risky. You want me to give my personal information for a book? I’m not too sure of that.What’s that? Over 35,000 people just like me have already signed up today? Well, if that many people have done it, I guess it must be trustworthy.

Used correctly, social proof can be one of the biggest tools you’ll ever use in an ad campaign and push it to new heights. Remember, keep it believable, relevant, and only used when there is the potential of doubt or risk. Whether you lead with it or whether it’s a minor call-out should be directly related to the level of risk the customer is going to feel. Just like I tested the exact number, don’t hesitate to test out different positions and let the data tell you what will work best with your audience.


Psychological Triggers: Price

Think back to your last purchase. Was it a coffee? Was it a movie ticket? Whatever it was, do you remember the price? I’ve run hundreds of experiments that involve pricing, and I can most assuredly tell you that changing the way a price is presented in an ad does indeed matter,and many times it can be the single biggest factor between a new customer and a lost sale. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Mike, I don’t set the price of the thing I’m selling. “I just sell it.” Well, that’s not entirely true, is it? If I offer you a chair for $100 plus free shipping versus a chair for $90 plus $10 shipping, they both still equal out to $100, right? But in the minds of the prospect, that’s two entirely different price constructs.

Now, maybe you don’t have that much leeway in your organization. You can’t necessarily just change price presentation, but there are still other tactics you can use to manipulate the perception of how the price is perceived, and, while it might sound weird, price really is all about perception. It’s not an absolute term. So let’s examine a few tactics we can use to make your price seem lower in an ad without actually changing a thing. The first tactic I like to call pennies a day. In a study, researcher John Gourville discovered that simply mentioning the divided time of price results in a lower overall perception of that price, without leaving out the actual price.

Woah! What does this mean? How can you use it in an ad? What I suggest is simply introducing a lower divided price of what you’re offering. In the above $100 chair example, sure you could mention it’s $100, but why not start your ad description with, “For just $3 a day you can relax “in your favorite new chair.” The price hasn’t changed, but you’ve made the $100 less scary, and, therefore, more appealing. On to our second tactic, this one revolves around time.

No matter the price of your product or service, for some customers it’s just gonna be too much. In the human brain, fairly or unfairly, we associate price with pain. If the joy or utility is equal or outweighs the pain, we’re more receptive to a potential purchase. So how can you shift the conversation in your ad away from that pain? I suggest the focus on how the product or service relates to time. Researchers Mogilner and Aaker theorize that time increases focus on product experience.

So reinforcing the relationship between time, as opposed to the monetary investment, can make the decision a more desirable one. Okay, so let’s talk about how you can use that. What you want to do is focus on the time benefits someone can spend with your product as opposed to its affordability. Let’s use the chair example again. If you write, “Our chair is budget friendly.” That doesn’t work quite as well as, “Think of how comfortable you’ll be all day!” I know what you’re thinking.

“Mike, that sounds like a distraction.” That’s because it is. If you can distract the user from the price, yet still have them register the price, you’re starting off on the right foot. For our third and final tactic, it might surprise you and it might seem a little counter-intuitive. Just introduce a bigger number before your price. Yes, really. That is a real tactic that works. In two separate studies, researchers found that simply exposing subjects to a higher number at some point before the price led subjects to perceive that price as smaller.

So how can you use this tactic? Just put a number larger than your price somewhere in the ad.Anywhere. Say, if you’re selling a pack of pencils for $2, in your ad present it as a pack of six pencils as opposed to just a pack. Now these three tactics: divided cost, which we’ll call pennies a day,time benefit and higher price mention might apply to your next project, but even if not there’re countless others. No matter what tactics you take, make sure you address the presentation of the price and how it relates to the user’s perception of pain.

Your customer’s thinking about the price and so should you.


Impact Of Loss Aversion And The Endowment Effect

– [Voiceover] Have you ever found money on the sidewalk? Pretty cool isn’t it? Conversely, have you ever put money in your pocket and then reached for it when you’re at the store and it’s simply not there? Two different sides of the same coin. Which one would you rather? To find free money or avoid having lost money? After much study, we can definitively say that loss aversion is real. Simply put, losing money is more painful, more than gaining money is great. In marketing, this can present itself in several ways.

Rational humans are worried they’ll be left out from group decisions, that the grazing herd will leave them alone without the protection of others. Yes, the thought that we might make the wrong decision and be excluded from society is a strong evolutionary trait that can be seen in ads everywhere. Heck, some ads even say, “Don’t be left out.” Not exactly the most subtle approach, but it does work. For me, however, FOMO is an inherent concern, but also a pretty negative way to create an ad. There’s another tactic, however, I’ve found quite effective.

Using the Endowment Effect, which states that people place a higher value on an item simply because they own it, tends to work well. If you have a coffee mug in your cupboard that cost $4,then a rational human would sell that coffee mug to me for $4.25, right? Whatever your price, you would still want more than the original value. Why? Because it’s your mug. Maximizing on the endowment effect then is a simple matter of how you present the thing you’re offering. Present it as something the customer already owns, they just need to take an action and you’ll release it to them.

Think of the last time you bought movie tickets or airplane tickets. Surely you saw a message saying they would hold your tickets for the next two minutes or so. So wait, it’s already mine? Even though I haven’t paid? How nice of you. Loss aversion is a real concern that taps into the deep insecurities of the human condition. Luckily, tactics like the endowment effect can help you overcome it. To figure out how you can best use it, put yourself in the mind of a customer who is on the fence about buying a product or service. What are they scared of? Your ad should always aim to address a pain point, whether that pain is related to their financial life, working life, or personal life.

Think about how you can turn that pain into a joyful experience, and your ad has a great chance of resonating with your target audience.


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