Marketing and psychology: a vital interweaving

When it comes to marketing, although it may often seem the complete opposite, the person who should always be at the centre of every thought is the customer as a consumer. What do they want? What do they desire? What do they expect? How can you help them in their decision making? And how can you draw their attention to a new product that could be of interest to them?

It is right there, in that nook between people and marketing, that psychology fits into place, and where, the application of its principles can enable the careful study and identification of consumer behaviour in order to give rise to the marketing strategies that will produce the most effective results, both for the company and the client.

Sounds harder said than done, right?

Although certain choices may seem random or dictated by distant factors, most of the time nothing is left to chance: whether it’s the arrangement of products on a supermarket shelf, or the choice of packaging colours for a new moisturising cream.

But are these conscious or unconscious thoughts? Let’s just say it’s the right mix of the two.

Neuromarketing: how do unconscious choices work?

Let’s begin by clarifying what neuromarketing is specifically. It’s the application of neuroscience to marketing as we know it, and the study of the unconscious processes that tend to lead each of us towards new choices – especially when it comes to purchases – and is therefore something that is done without awareness.

Don’t worry, we’re not about to give you a university lecture on the subject. But, that said, becoming aware of certain mental processes can be a good way to better understanding decisions that seem to have been made by your gut (and not in your head).

Neuromarketing focuses its attention on three macro-processes:

  1. Attention is what allows you to identify the most appealing stimulants to you from the innumerable stimuli being presented to you, allowing you to pinpoint the ones that seem specifically made for you.
  2. Memory is certainly connected to the first point, but more specifically to the memorisation of details and pleasant elements that can take us back in time to a specific choice; a colour, a perfume, an image or a combination of words can often be seared into our unconscious and resurface when we least expect it.
  3. Emotion, through the use of somatic markers, can recall sensations that result in a choice. We can define them as buttons of sort, which, once pressed, release joy and pleasure, but also disgust or nervousness in response to something.

So where does all this lead? The understanding of how external stimuli can lead each person towards one choice rather than another, allows us to clearly study marketing strategies with a specific purpose.

Persuasive marketing: the guiding mechanisms that lead us towards new choices

It’s here that we enter a vast world, full of different elements and impulses, that are not only unconscious, but sometimes even completely evident to us.

We all tend to associate persuasive marketing with advertisements – whether on TV, the web, or on city billboards – with the free samples that companies give out at important events – with product endorsements made by famous people – or with the technique of ‘hurry, while stocks last’ (e.g. “just two pieces left” is a message we often see in eCommerce).

None of those ideas are wrong, but persuasive marketing is so much more than that.

Here is the first point to keep in mind to improve your awareness when purchasing and making choices: this process analyses and acts on the five senses, without neglecting any of them. How?

  • Sight
    Starting from the idea that even the eye wants to be appeased, our eyes tend to be attracted by colours (never by chance) and by contrasts in size (large or small elements). This means that, whether we like it or not, we carefully observe the packaging and design of a product as well as the texts shown on them before arriving at our choices.
  • Taste
    You’re familiar with those famous taste tests, right? Like a sample in a shopping centre, a freebie new product you can try in the comfort of your own home, or even an entrée offered by a restaurant rather than your chosen appetizer. They’re all solutions that allow you to try new food without asking for your commitment then and there to buy it and trust it blindly, allowing your palate to do the rest.
  • Smell
    Very important, and often, something capable of bringing us closer to something or pushing us away from it.
  • Hearing
    Music and its rhythms are often able to positively, or negatively, influence a person. It’s no coincidence that inside most shops you’ll hear a melody playing in the background that suits the types of products on offer (you’ll rarely find hard rock playing while looking at the new Cucinelli [DDV1] collection, right?), the shopping period (for example, Christmas music in December), or the famous jingle of a product (just think of the musical notes and the lyrics that accompany an advertisement: does anything come to mind? How about ‘Crai Crai spesa fantastica[DDV2] ’?).
  • Touch
    A way of testing the quality of a product, whether it’s handling a kiwi to see if it’s too unripe or overly ripe in the middle of a supermarket’s fresh department, or caressing the fabrics in a clothing store to get a sense of the material and to spark some very specific sensations like the freshness of linen or the warmth of cashmere.

Unconscious choices, however, also tend to be influenced by many other factors. Price is definitely one of them, especially when it comes to real psychological pricing.

Although the explanation we are about to offer may seem absurd, most of our minds tend to unconsciously carry out this reasoning. When presented with an inexpensive product, a percentage discount will always seem more convenient than a simple reduction. Does a 20% discount off €30 strike you as more convenient than the idea of the same product costing €6 less? It’s likely that the first option, even though it’s technically identical to the second, will be more appealing. Why? Because twenty will always be bigger than six.

What about when it comes to an expensive product? In those cases, the situation is reversed: for a €3,000 item, a reduction of €600 will seem far more attractive than 20% (off).

Weird, right?

The same goes for the famous 9 test. How many times have you seen €199.99 rather than €200? And how many times have you had the impression that those decimals were more interesting than a rounded price?

Marketing and colours: do they really influence our choices?

We mentioned it towards the beginning of the article, but now it’s time to really face it. Not even colours are left to chance, and the perception we mostly have of them is closely linked both to our own personal experiences and the cultures in which we live.

Each colour represents specific emotions and, consequently, in marketing we tend to associate them with very specific sectors.

Need some examples?

Red is said to represent love, passion, but also courage and strength: it’s no coincidence that we find it across romantic sectors and in food related brands.

Yellow represents happiness, creativity, attention and is commonly encountered in cultural and childhood environments.

And green? Green represents security, hope, ecology, health but also money, which is why it’s so easy to spot it in banking, pharmaceutical or eco-friendly environments.

We could go on like this for every existing colour and get more and more specific, right down to the nuances of every single shade.

Relating to customers in the service sector: no longer marketing, but pure psychology

In the world of work and marketing, psychology doesn’t just impact on the points related to the analysis of choices and purchases, but extends as far as the relationship with customers themselves in helping them feel better understood and listened to, and more satisfied in the face of indecision or doubts. It’s from these shortcomings that low sales, poor loyalty and negative word of mouth usually derive.

So, here are some tips that will help you establish the right level of trust in your relationships with your clients.

  • Always listen to your client
    It sounds trivial, but trust us, it’s not! Listen carefully to your client’s requests and needs. Don’t interrupt your clients and don’t just assume you’ve already understood which request they’re heading towards. 
  • Ask questions and discuss doubts together
    Asking questions will help you both understand each other better, and make the customer feel heard and safe.
    Minimise the use of closed questions and opt instead for open questions which allow your clients to explore their ideas and what they have in mind with you.
    Round up by repeating what you’ve said to each other and any points or agreements that you’ve come to, so that everything is clear for both parties.
  • Accompany them in the direction they want to go in, or help them find their way step by step
    The key phrase here is “don’t force”. Don’t force your client in a direction they don’t want to go in, but rather, help them understand why you’re recommending something different to the idea they already had in mind.
    You can help and direct your clients, but you can’t force them: doing so will only risk you pushing them away.
  • Summarise any decisions made after each meeting or call
    One can’t ever assume that a proposal, change or communication has been received correctly, so be sure to put everything in writing. Write a summary email, include any points in a quotation or contract that needs signing and follow up with a call or meeting to understand whether the client has any doubts or questions.
  • Sincerity above all
    Another phrase that may seem trivial, but we assure you it isn’t. If you can’t help your client, tell them immediately. If what they’re asking for is outside your area of expertise, clarify it and recommend someone you think might be a good fit for the job.
    If the ethics of the work your client would like to commission you for is far from your values, don’t feel obliged to say ‘yes’.

See how psychology is able to apply itself to every little piece of marketing and communication? Take care of your customer in every possible way: you’re there for them, and they’re there for you.

We made it simple

Let's talk about it!

Roma | Catania | Torino | Piacenza
[email protected]

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram