I happen to be a big fan of brain-based things (I have a Luminosity brain fitness account and everything). That includes why people do the things they do, which doesn’t always have a logical or obvious answer.
The mystery of what causes people to change their minds, make a particular decision, or take certain actions is one that marketers and communicators constantly face. So, to help you out, I’m sharing some of my favorite articles on the psychological factors that cause people to respond in particular ways:
1. 2 Mindhacks to Keep Marketers From Losing Out
This blog post from Search Engine Watch explores the findings of two psychological studies: The Framing Effect and “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.” Basically, it boils down to the ideas that wording matters (this comes up again later) and people tend to value a product more after it is incorporated into their status quo. The post also gives brief guidelines on using these two principles in your ad copy and landing pages.
2. 6 Psychology Studies with Marketing Implications
As the title indicates, this blog post by Brett Langlois, at the time a PR and marketing assistant at Powered by Search, shares the results of six psychological studies. Langlois explains how the findings can be used to refine marketing practices. For example, the third study cited is a framing experiment by Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, which showed that people responded differently to the same problem depending on the wording. The takeaway: context matters significantly. As Langlois put it, “A very slight change in language can have a huge impact on the [customer’s] decision process.”
3. 7 Principles for Changing Behavior from @DanielPink: #SXSWi 2015 Recap
Despite the title, this Search Engine Journal blog post is actually written by Debbie Miller, SEJ’s social media manager. She provides a synopsis of Daniel Pink’s 2015 SXSW session in which he presented seven principles for behavior change. The first principle, “Fear Can Be Good For Business,” startled me at first but I realized that fear (of losing out, not keeping up with the Joneses, etc.) is indeed a powerful motivator when used correctly. Actually the examples that Pink shares are much more dramatic than the ones that came to my mind. It’s a fun read.
4. 12 Secrets of the Human Brain to Use in Your Marketing [Infographic] (Sign in required)
MarketingProfs shares an infographic about how to use psychological principles to enhance marketing. My favorite tip is including an image of a face that is looking at the call to action. That way, everyone seeing your promotion will look where the face is looking. Nice, huh?
5. For the Love of Science – 15 Behavioral Marketing Posts You Shouldn’t Miss
This Unbounce post pretty much did what I’m doing, collected links to posts examining the psychology behind effective marketing and persuasion. He’s divided the posts into three categories: Behavioral Psychology, ECommerce & Marketing; Eye-Tracking & Mouse Movements; and Conversion & Psychology. As you might expect, my favorite is the 15th item, The Psychology of Storytelling: 10 Proven Ways to Create Better Stories (and Why Stories Sell).
6. The Hidden Psychology Of Why Customers Come Back
This TechCrunch blog post discusses three psychological tendencies that influence customers’ future behaviors: We value things more when they require a little elbow grease, we like to be consistent and we hate cognitive dissonance. In short, we may not be rational but we rationalize like nobody’s business!
7. How to Use Psychological Biases to Sell Better and Faster
Hubspot shares 10 psychological biases that relate to decision-making, including an attached sales takeaway designed to help sales reps use these brain quirks to sell better.
8. How to Use Psychology to Build Social Media Campaigns That Resonate
This post from Search Engine Journal examines the ways that social media marketers can deepen their relations with their followers by applying five psychological tactics to social media campaigns.
9. The Psychology of Your Customers
It does not cite scientific studies like the others do, but this post from Social Triggers explains how to get in the heads of four types of hesitating prospects: The Indifferent, The Skeptic, The Worrier, and The Procrastinator. And after it explains how a particular prospect thinks, the post discloses how to win over that individual.
10. “We Are Not Thinking Machines. We Are Feeling Machines That Think.”
The first in a three-part series designed to help public relations catch up with “scientific discoveries in behavioral economics, neuroscience and narrative theory,” this blog post from the Institute for Public Relations explains the studies that have demonstrated that human beings don’t and can’t make decisions solely based on rationale and also that emotions are “a kind of turbo booster” for our memory. It ends with a red box explaining how communicators can use these findings to enhance persuasion or explanations.
If you’re worried that using these psychological principles makes you a manipulative Frank Underwood type, relax. These principles are about getting through to your target audience, not pulling their strings. Just as you wouldn’t pitch a story about a scientific discovery to a political reporter (unless you found a truly relevant), so you don’t want to keep going on about the benefits you offer when what will really move your prospect to the next step is social proof that your offer is tried and true. Once you’ve smoothed the decision-making path for them, your customers are still free to make up their own minds. But if a few don’t choose you, you’ll at least know that you did things right.