Fraser Communications

How to Use Psychology in Marketing and Advertising

Psychology is a powerful tool in marketing and advertising. It's important to understand what makes people visit your website, what makes people come back, and how to tap into those motivations.

Psychology is a complex topic and cannot be surmised in just one article, however, we will go over some basics and provide some tips to help you get started.

Traditional marketing and advertising, like billboards or radio ads, can be successful for one-time sales, but by utilizing psychology and understanding the motivators of your target persona, you can create a long-term relationship with your customers.

Psychology in Advertising

Psychology explores human nature, the psyche, and why people behave the way they do. Advertising explores the art of influencing human behavior to perform certain actions. Psychology experts research and contribute knowledge to make marketing more impactful.

Basic advertising needs to accomplish four things to be successful:

  • Attract a consumer's attention
  • Focus the attention on the message
  • Make the consumer remember the message
  • Cause the consumer to take the desired action

There are several types of psychology that one can implement in a marketing campaign, but let's start by covering some basic principles.

Basic Psychological Principles for Marketing

Understanding the human mind and knowing how to use basic psychological principles is key to successful advertising and branding.

Commitment Principle - When someone commits to a choice, it becomes psychologically harder for them not to follow through with the commitment.

Consistency Principle - If someone believes something consistently, their belief will become stronger over time. This can work well when trying to build customer loyalty as opposed to one sale.

Reciprocation Principle - By giving customers something free, even little things, they'll come back. People tend to repay good deeds.

Social Proofing Principle - People are more likely to buy something if they see others buying that same thing. An example of this includes images of other people who have bought their product in stores or online.

Scarcity Principle - People like to buy things they think are rare. Businesses can create a product that is difficult to get and making it seem more valuable.

There are more principles out there, but these five are a good starting point as you figure out what best suits your business.

It's also important to observe how other advertisers use psychology in their marketing campaigns. Study their advertisements and their models; see what they're doing right or wrong. Are they successful in reaching their target audience and what are the factors that led them to success?

Successful Advertising Campaigns

The following three companies have utilized psychology in their marketing and have been successful at influencing consumer behavior. Study their technique and how it led to more sales.

The rideshare company Uber uses the scarcity principle by urging its customer to get rides during certain hours and drivers to work those hours. This creates a sense of urgency in customers to use the service because they know that their ride will be gone soon due to high demand and drivers are rewarded for working these hours.

The motivation is two-fold: the consumer who needs a ride and the driver who needs more sales.

At Trader Joe’s, you will see social proofing all around with people looking through shelves or asking for help from employees. These scenes are meant to make consumers feel as though this is an easy process because others have succeeded before them. From that emotional response, consumers feel comfortable enough to act.

Apple successfully used the social proof principle when they introduced Ping - a new music service for iTunes. They created this online community where you can follow your favorite artists or bands as well as check out what's trending among others on Ping. The hope was to get consumers familiar with using this site, see how others are using it, then eventually use it themselves.

Analyze what made these and other marketing campaigns so successful as you create your own. Getting to know people's characteristics and how they purchase, affords you greater persuasive influence over them through the media.

Developing Your Marketing Strategy

When developing your strategy, it's important to do research.

Answer these questions:

  • First and foremost, what is your goal?
  • What is the target market? Specifically, who are those you want to convert to clients?
  • In the target market who are your target Personas?
  • What value do they care about most?
  • What are their interests and aspirations?
  • What drives them?

Psychology can help persuade consumers into buying products they wouldn't otherwise buy.

Understanding your target personas' motivations will help tailor your product offerings to what drives them to action.

Persuasion Techniques for Your Target Audience

The more time you spend understanding what drives people, the better equipped you will be as a company to speak directly to their needs.

Psychologist Ernest Dichter spent many years studying human motivations from an advertising perspective. He discovered that consumers either want products because it fulfills some need in their lives or purchases it just because someone else recommended it.

Businesses often assume that people purchase items for reasons like beauty or functionality alone, but these factors only matter when there's no other reason why somebody would buy them.

Different types of ads can be created with the help of psychological tactics such as priming.

Priming means stimulating consumers' memories with specific information about a product. For example, a company that sells outdoor supplies might mention a bear could attack you while camping so you should buy this pepper spray and make it a part of your arsenal.

The bandwagon technique encourages consumers to believe that everyone else but them has already jumped on board with a product leaving them behind.

An emotional response is also very powerful. For example, fun and pleasure are often used in advertising for beer, theme parks, food, and automobiles. Ads that feature love target consumers who want to provide for and take care of loved ones.

People are more likely to buy if they like you which is why one of the most common ways advertising uses persuasion is through celebrity endorsement.

Understand what motivates your prospects to action and create effective ads accordingly.

Tips on Marketing Strategy Application

It's important to know your audience; identify their needs, wants, and desires; and recognize their uniqueness.

Many marketers make the mistake of assuming that all people in a demographic have similar motivations. This couldn't be further from the truth. Dichter found that even within a subset of consumers that share similar demographics, like age or gender, there can still be differences in what motivates them to buy things. Understanding these distinctions can empower your strategy.

Consider where emotion enters into a marketing strategy. Dichter's findings show us how important it is to both understand our customers and ourselves when marketing products or services we want them to purchase.

The direction the target audience is evolving is also important. For example, if we want to reach adolescents, then we will most likely need to conduct digital marketing campaigns. Ads can be targeted to specific demographic or psychographic groups enhancing brand recall and awareness and overall brand affinity. Recognize what works best for your industry.

Take the time to know who you're talking about, because if you don't, how will they?

Common Pitfalls of Advertising Campaigns

Here are some tidbits on what not to do.

  • Don't use too many tactics at once. There can still be differences in what motivates people to purchase. Too many tactics could backfire and make people feel overwhelmed.
  • Don't assume that everyone is motivated to purchase the same products or services in the same way. This can lead to a lot of frustration with ineffective marketing campaigns. Marketers should think about who their primary customers are and how different groups will respond.
  • The stages of the purchase process are different for every person, and this information offers a lot of insight into how to get new customers. Someone who is researching might want more information about the product before purchasing, while someone who's already decided would most likely want an easy way to order that item.

It’s also crucial to take into account the psychology behind sales success. This means understanding how and why consumers make decisions which can vary depending on many things like gender, age, and status.

In recent times, Consumers have become more mindful than ever.

The relationship between companies and consumers has become stronger as technology advances. It has never been easier for individuals to communicate their thoughts on products or services to other people who may not have had the opportunity.


The psychology behind marketing and advertising is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance your campaign. Understanding the interests and aspirations of people will help you create an effective message to ideally connect with their needs.

We make sure to establish strong relations with our customers so they know they’re valued and appreciated by us as well as offer products or services that meet their desires. If you want more information on how this works, contact us today!

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