As consumers, we exert free will and believe in our ability to make informed decisions. As content marketers, we appreciate how advertising strategies and social marketing influence consumers’ purchasing behaviors and decisions. But how do we develop the right content marketing strategies and tactics to effectively influence consumers? Enter the world of consumer psychology, which studies thought processes, emotional reactions, reasoning, and selection between various competing alternatives (e.g., brands, products, retailers), according to Consumer Psychologist. Competitive companies use consumer psychology to understand the conscious and unconscious factors influencing consumer-purchasing behaviors. They harness that power to successfully develop and adapt their content marketing strategies and campaigns.
Even they don’t know
Research into the unconscious mind demonstrates that people eat faster when they hear energetic music and walk slower when a store uses small floor tiles. Advertisements during movie previews are less effective when people munch on popcorn. As for the cherry on top? Consumer psychology research reveals that a strawberry placed on top of a cake leads people to believe it has fewer calories than it does.
What we see
Review this eBay screenshot to see all the visual prompts to guide consumer purchasing. Words such as “free” and “limited quantity” are used to entice bidders.
Studies demonstrate that the visual aspect of a product is the primary influencing factor to taking an action. Subconscious judgments are made within the first minute and a half, with up to 90% of the judgments based on color. The influence of color is complicated. Red is often presented as an action- oriented color and used to encourage consumers to make decisive purchasing choices. A Psychology Today experiment attempted to determine how the color of an online button would influence the number of completed health applications. Users who clicked the red button had a 34% greater sign-up rate than those with a green button. However, the red-button consumers progressed quickly through the information and forms, suggesting more impulsive decision-making behavior.
How we feel
Science tells us that consumers rely more on personal feelings and experiences than on static information such as brand facts and features when making brand decisions. Scientists found that the emotional response to a television commercial is three times more effective on someone’s purchase decision than the spot’s actual content. In print ads, that emotion-to-content effectiveness was two to one. It is the brand’s likability and emotional connection with the consumer that lead to brand loyalty above and beyond the product’s attributes and features.
What our bodies reveal
Technological advances are pushing the field of consumer psychology forward in exciting new ways using innovative neuromarketing techniques. Researchers can now monitor and study consumers’ cognitive and affective responses to various marketing stimuli. Glasses can track eye movement to evaluate how well signs or products grab consumers’ attention. A consumer’s excited or anxious response to stimuli also can be detected by galvanic-skin-response systems that measure bodily secretion of sweat. In addition, researchers can measure the brain’s reaction using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
How we buy
Consumer behavior in supermarkets demonstrates that consumers make decisions regarding food much more quickly than larger purchases like a house or a car. Thus, food-product marketing strategies aim to be short, concise, and eye-catching. Instead of poring over a busy, wordy food-product package (or bypassing it altogether), consumers are reassured by a simply packaged product because the visual marketing matches their buying-behavior process. So why do we choose certain alternatives when presented with multiple options? It’s the theory of relative thinking, where decision-making is influenced by the context, including presentation of alternatives. Consider this supermarket scenario: Product A has a shelf price of $6, but a shelf tag offers a special – $4 after $2 rebate. Competitor Product B has a shelf price of $3 but no additional tags or signage. Most consumers will buy A because they perceive it is a better deal. Conversely, if only the final costs were shown, most consumers would choose B because they see it as the less expensive.
Who we think we are
The concept and influence of social identity – how we identify ourselves (e.g., young, old, conservative, liberal, environmentalist, capitalist) – influence our receptivity to and level of persuasion by marketing campaigns. Effective marketing must be memorable, but what is memorable to one consumer is forgotten by another. Therefore, persuasive and memorable marketing strategies are most effective when targeted to “self-identity” or one’s “social identity.” For example, a marketer for a blood-pressure drug that targets middle-age adults will be more successful using a spokesperson of similar age. The targeted audience identifies socially with the spokesperson more than it would with a teenager. In fact, marketing campaigns that poorly match the level of social identity can lead to “unmemorable” marketing attempts or, even worse, negative reception by consumers as the same self-identity research shows.
What we said
Customer feedback is a direct channel that allows content marketers to understand consumer psychology. Collecting and analyzing this data allow content marketers to fine-tune strategies based on conscious factors influencing consumer-purchasing behaviors. Yet customer feedback is often riddled with emotional reactions of consumers who had a negative brand experience. Emotionally charged consumers are the ones motivated to leave unprompted feedback (e.g., through a survey online or social media accounts). Companies will be at their own peril if they make strategic decisions based on the loud voices of a few.
Advances in consumer psychology research will grow in their contribution to content marketing. As consumer experiences become more and more targeted, companies may be able to use what they have learned from consumer psychology to know what we want to buy before we are even aware, with our choices being coaxed and steered at a subconscious level. Want to know more about the science and the art of content marketing? Check out the diverse CMW sessions available through our Video on Demand portal.
Cover image by George Hodan, Publicdomainpictures.net, via pixabay