Editor’s note: This is a guest post by folks at The School of Communication Arts.
Psychology is a long word, and usually it brings to mind cats in boxes, Freud on a sofa and lots of long, confusing sentences! But psychology affects practically everything we do and every decision we make. You’ve probably been using aspects of psychology without even meaning to – ever tried to persuade someone? Ever tried to out-think an opponent in a debate or a game? Then you’ve been using psychological techniques.
Psychology can help to make the difference between an average advert and a runaway success. But it doesn’t have to be hard to understand. Here are the most important ways to begin getting inside customers’ heads.
There’s a common misconception that if you use certain colours you’re guaranteed success. Research indicates that people respond to colours because of personal preferences, their upbringing and experiences, or even cultural differences. Colours affect our moods so if you don’t use the right combination, you could be sending the wrong message to your customers.
The trick is that you’re not just selling a brand, you’re selling a brand lifestyle, and this is where colour becomes important. What colours are appropriate for your product? Pink, for example, is a bright happy colour, but it’s not appropriate for a financial service, where you want a combination that shows sophistication and professionalism.
For another example, a fresh food business fits well with rustic colours such as green which brings to mind fields and natural plants, or bronze, a colour similar to wood or wicker baskets. These colours are helping the customer become immersed in the brand’s themes. If the customer is responding to brand’s themes, they’re more likely to want to buy your product.
McDonald’s are the champions of colour combination. Whatever you might think of their food, there’s arguably not a person in the world who doesn’t recognise the combination of red and yellow. They’re bright and loud colours which create an upbeat feel to the brand, they imply fun because they’re clown colours – the family-fun feeling – and they’re loud colours which means they stand out on a high street.
This is a crucial aspect of any advertising campaign. It’s important to get the relevant information about your project into an advert, but ultimately, you want to connect to your customers.
The aim with a pun is to be clever, not just funny. House of Fraser found the line between funny and clever with their line: ‘Temptation on every level’. Getting the ‘Oh, I see what you did there’ reaction makes your brand accessible and memorable.
One word wonders
Less is more. If you can champion one main word for your product and use it in lots of different ways, you’re more likely to stick in the minds of customers. Absolut Vodka hit the jackpot on this point. ‘Absolut’ was the word that let their brand expand because the word could work with anything from ‘Absolute Paris’ to ‘absolute magic’. One word that can appeal to multiple audiences meant that Absolut Vodka were importing 4.5 million cases by 2000.
Appeal to emotions
Advertising is not a rational business. In a completely rational world, we would only buy what we absolutely needed. But the art to advertising is convincing your customer that they need this product, as well as just wanting it.
This involves using evidence to support your advertising campaign. ‘You should buy this product because it has been proven to…’ If you can show you’ve tested your product, have had positive feedback, or the product includes benefits backed up by science, your brand becomes more respectful and believable. Humans are psychologically pack animals, and so assurance from a variety of sources – instead of just one voice saying ‘Buy this product please’ – will develop customer trust in your product. It implies that your product really will make them feel better, and that you have their best interests in mind, rather than simply wanting to make a profit.
Psychology of pain
We’re hardwired to avoid pain, mental or physical, and harsh as it may seem, advertising campaigns can benefit from this. On a basic level, if you want people to buy your product, you need to draw attention to why other products aren’t as good, and why the customer’s life will be better with your product than without it. Highlight the painful aspect e.g. weight/complexion/outfit, and then offer customers a solution with your product.
Victoria Secret’s The Perfect Body campaign is a classic example of highlighting customer flaws. However, be wary of going too far with the fear factor. The campaign was not well received, with customers understandably feeling this objectified women’s bodies, and Victoria Secrets changed the title to ‘A Body for Every Body’. However, they still used the psychology of fear, by including slim models in the picture and repeating the word ‘perfect’.
A big part of advertising is appealing to customer ego, and one of the big selling points is exclusivity. If we know we’re getting something that not many other people have, it makes us feel good, feel special. It’s an excellent way of appealing to your customers as individuals.
We learn from a young age that if we do certain things we will be rewarded for it. Rewarding your customers for shopping with you may seem an obvious part of advertising but exclusivity appeals to everyone, and everyone enjoys getting a reward.
Convenience can be made exclusive in advertising. As well as appealing to the mass market e.g. ‘Come to our special event’, you can appeal to the customer’s ego by including a line underneath such as ‘Loyalty card holders can book ahead of the opening date’. Giving customers privileges over other customers not only encourages them to keep shopping with you, it also boosts interest from regular customers. Why can’t they have those privileges too? They can if they spend enough money with you.
Membership is another classic psychology trick. Just like school clubs, or political parties, membership implies the customer is part of the brand, especially when they have access to exclusive member’s events and deals. It’s also a clever way to get your customers to help advertise your brand for you. Rewards can include tote bags, tee shirts or key rings. These are useful items for the customer but can also act as bill board for your brand.
Pandora is a brand that targets the luxury market, and includes a Pandora Club that you can sign up for. Customers are rewarded with advance news, VIP events and exclusive offers, all of which make the customer feel special and not just a regular shopper.
Psychology isn’t magic – we can’t just say the right words and have everyone queuing to buy our products! But it’s not rocket science either. Ultimately, psychology in advertising is about using a variety of techniques to appeal to what the customer wants, and what they like. At the end of the day, you want your message to be that your product will make customers feel better than they would without it.
Author bio: This post was written by folks at The School of Communication Arts – An independent advertising school based in Brixton