How Brands Can Use Psychology to Improve Marketing Techniques

Knowing your audience means understanding their decision-making

Human behavior and can indicate consumer habits, which brands could integrate into their practices. Getty Images
Headshot of Jennifer Lux

In a saturated world of brand choices, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out and create memorable customer experiences. While there is no doubt that the brand landscape will continue to balloon in coming years, one thing that won’t change is human psychology and the principles that drive our interactions with brands every day. Understanding the way these dynamics impact brand engagement and loyalty can help your brand stand out from the competition.

Here I’ll explore three psychological principles and how you can leverage them to influence your buyers’ relationship with your brand.

Use emotion

We make decisions based on intuition, emotions and a sense of connection to a product, person, value or vision. Sure, we may take into account the pros and cons or features and benefits as we arrive at a decision, but countless studies, including research by behavioral economist George Loewenstein, confirm that up to 90 percent of decisions are based on emotions.

Think back to the last major thing you purchased. For me, it was the iPhone X. I made the decision based on my hope that it would simplify life (goodbye passwords, hello face recognition!), ensure I capture every family memory (thank you, extra storage and 7-megapixel camera) and reduce worry resulting from my natural clumsiness (finally, a waterproof and dust-resistant phone). While the features did align with my needs, my perspective was purely emotional and drove the ultimate decision to buy.

Take a hard look at your brand, products and services, and start to define what emotions they evoke. What pain points do they solve? What are the resulting feelings that your buyers experience during their initial engagement with your brand and all the way through to their purchase and afterward?

If you can truly understand the sentiments that drive buyers’ actions, you can cultivate an engagement strategy to result in those collective emotional triggers along the path to purchase.

Create associations

Human beings can relate to one another’s pain, success and happiness. If you have ever watched someone walk a tightrope, you might feel nervous, anxious and even somewhat exhilarated as you witness them cross. Similarly, if you witness a young child fall and scrape his or her knees, you might feel sadness and fear in your body. Although you aren’t directly experiencing those situations, research shows that the same neurons fire in your own body as you observe them.

On a cellular level, this is due to mirror neurons, which are a type of brain cell that responds equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. These are the empathy neurons, and they play an important role in having confidence in a brand promise and the resulting engagement.

Applying timeless neuropsychology principles will have a lasting impact on your audience’s cumulative experience of your brand.

Mirror neurons are at play when you can demonstrate to your target buyer that your brand can solve problems, create more happiness, make a dream come true or alleviate a major pain point through storytelling, images, video, testimonials, case studies and content.

This video from Airbnb Plus demonstrates this phenomenon by drawing you into the dream of a perfect getaway, addressing many of the pain points of travel and leaving you uplifted and motivated to plan your next adventure. Your buyers can experience your product or service in a similar way with various media—through the eyes of others, with mirror neurons at play—which cultivates reassurance and, ultimately, action.

Cultivate consistency

Consistency creates trust. This is true in both your personal and professional life. You most likely have a friend who is consistently supportive and available, and therefore it’s easy to cultivate trust.

The role of consistency in brand engagement goes beyond trust, though, and the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or the frequency illusion, can contribute to this. This is the illusion that, once you’ve seen something, it seems to appear all around you. Buyers are experiencing your brand online, offline, on social media, through email, via display ads, in search results and possibly even through more traditional means, such as print media and trade shows.

The frequency illusion creates an experience of your brand on several distinct channels with consistent messaging, which coalesces into a reliable brand experience all along the path to purchase. Retargeting is successful because of this concept. Strategic, multi-channel marketing tactics also have roots in this psychological concept. Repetition is essential in learning, too, so consistent taglines and an unchanging brand promise make it easy for your target audience to remember and embrace your product or service.

Beyond marketing, the need for consistency exists for more complex buying decisions as your sales team consults with potential clients. Messaging across platforms, even emails exchanged between buyers and sales team members, must reinforce your brand promise in a repeatable way to maximize brand engagement.

Digital marketing has deep roots in human psychology and behavior. Products, services and buying needs will continue to evolve, yet human behavior will change at a far slower rate. While staying on top of industry trends will always be important to marketers’ success, applying timeless neuropsychology principles will have a lasting impact on your audience’s cumulative experience of your brand.

@jenniferlux11 Jennifer Lux is vp of client experience with LyntonWeb.