Taking Advantage of Brain Quirks in Marketing

Marketing is not a guessing game. At least, with smart marketing, you have to take advantage of psychological phenomenon in subtle ways, in some ways taking advantage of blind spots beyond people’s conscious awareness in order to increase the likelihood of success. If you’ve been relying on hit and miss tactics in the past, you might want to keep the following brain facts in mind for the next time you draw up another marketing plan:

The Brain Loves Answers, Even Ones That Don’t Make Sense

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer once conducted a study where she had a student attempt to cut in line for the copier. The study had her trying to cut in three different scenarios, with the first one only having her ask for permission to cut in line, while the second one had her do the same while also giving a valid reason why she needs to cut in line (because she’s in a rush.) The third one had her giving a reason that isn’t really valid (because she needs to make copies.) The result was that both the valid reason and non-valid ones had as much as 40% more favorable results than not giving a reason. The study posited that people just want to know the reason, even if it doesn’t really make sense.

In marketing, you can apply this to mean that people love answers, so don’t keep them in the dark. They just want every question to be answered, to the point where sometimes an answer that they don’t agree is much better than being left hanging.

Give Fewer Options

Most people are under the impression that they’re going to get more sales if they present as many options as they can, as this would allow them top give something to everyone. However, studies have pointed out that when people are less likely to buy something if they are overwhelmed with choices. This is called option paralysis, where the mental processing required to assess and make a decision is overloaded by having way too many options. In marketing, you have to give as few options as possible in order to maximize sales. 3 choices seems to be the sweet spot.

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Fear of Loss is Stronger Than Excitement Over Gains

People’s fear of losing something is stronger than the excitement of gaining something, even if they have more to gain than lose. For instance, a study done where a group of teachers where given $4 thousand upfront and told that it will be returned if the students didn’t show any improvements, while another group of teachers were promised $8 thousand after the grades came in if the students showed improvement. The students of the teachers given money upfront got higher grades. In marketing, you have to remember to present products or services as if the customers are losing out on something instead of pushing it as something they can gain.

Finally, Scarcity is Key

People’s perceptions and decisions will change if they know that something is scarce. It becomes more attractive and they become prone to irrational decisions. This is why marketers tend to see spikes in sales when they pull out the “for a limited time only” card. As mentioned above, the fear of losing something is very strong, and scarcity plays on this by making people feel like they could be losing out on something – in a lot of cases, they don’t even care what that something is. They don’t want to lose the opportunity.

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