10 Principles of Marketing Psychology: How to Analyze Customers and Create Persuasive Messages
Dr. Gary Witt
> A summary of the longer article found below <
These 10 short Principles of Marketing Psychology show you how to have more effective, persuasive marketing messages. The more persuasive your message, the more likely you are to get a “Yes.” You’ll find a much more detailed article using these Principles below.
(1) Customers do NOT want what you are selling. People spend money, give time, or vote in order to gain some satisfactions. The product, service, candidate or cause is not what they want to buy. It is only a springboard to produce personal, psychological satisfactions. If you know the satisfactions they want and promise to deliver them, they are much more likely to buy. For example, I vote for a candidate because I hope that when elected she will support policies that I am in favor of.
(2) Customers buy ANTICIPATED satisfactions. Most times we must take a buying action before we get to enjoy the satisfactions we want – we pay for a candy bar before we eat it. So your message must persuade buyers to take a chance on your brand.
(3) Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is all about getting buyers in the right frame of mind to take the next step. Too often inexperience or amateur marketers believe their messages must make the sale. No. A good message is like a shiny fishing lure. The job of the lure is to attract the fish and get him to take the bait. If done correctly, the prospect comes away from the message thinking, “Maybe this would give me what I want.”
(4) A Buyer Motivation Analysis gives you a psychological picture of your customer group. The mistake many marketers make is thinking they somehow “know” their buyers’ wants just because they know their demographics – age, sex, education, income, etc. That’s way too general. Buyers have specific satisfactions they want for each product category, including yours. A 50-year old man may choose a conservative movie, but a sporty car.
(5) Buyer Motivation Analysis works best when you tightly segment your target market. If you were selling blue jeans, would you use the same ad to sell to teenage girls and matronly women? Of course not. Why? Because their desired satisfactions are not the same. You must understand the buying motivations of each individual segment you want to attract.
(6) A Buyer Motivation Analysis has four categories, two Logical and two Emotional. We most often buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic, two totally different types of satisfactions. Logical satisfactions have two categories: Needs and Wants. Needs are satisfactions buyers must believe they will get. Needs are deal-breakers. Wants are not deal-breakers, but they add to the perceived value of the purchase.
Emotional satisfactions also have two categories: Fears and Desires. “Fear satisfactions” mean buyers want to reduce those fears – your job is to show them how your product will do that. Desires often have to do with how you want to feel about yourself (pride in getting a great car deal), satisfactions associated with using the product (adventures in the new car), and how others will feel about you (admiration.) If it isn’t a feeling, it is NOT a fear or desire!
(7) Customers buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic. We don’t like to admit it, but we are emotional beings who want to be seen as logical. We most often buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic. We use logic to select our top choices, then emotion sways the final pick. Why? Because most often there’s little logical difference between your top two.
(8) Good marketing messaging is all about matching. Remember that people don’t want what you are selling. They do want the satisfactions you may be able to provide. You have to prove you can deliver their satisfactions. The role of features in your message is to prove it. Want to go fast and look cool? A Corvette’s features are all the proof you need that it can deliver. The features of an Escalade SUV? Not so much!
(9) Images are critical in good marketing messages. We are visual beings, we want to see images, especially moving images. They attract our attention, and attracting attention is the very first job of any marketing messages. Use images that show the satisfactions buyers want. You want your picture to make a promise or raise a fear.
(10) Continuous buyer research is critical to ongoing success. Constant research is critical. The Internet is the best gift anyone ever gave a marketer. You can do free research with your own customers’ email using a free research site like SurveyMonkey. Remember, while you do want to know what they think about your product and company, you mostly want to know what the logical and emotional satisfactions they are trying to satisfy by buying in your category. Talk to and survey your customers every way you can, then act on those results.
Here is the full article:
10 Principles of Marketing Psychology How to Analyze Customers and Create Persuasive Messages
If you follow these 10 guidelines, you will have more effective persuasive marketing messages in any medium you select. The more persuasive your message, the more likely you are to get a “Yes.”
(1) Customers do NOT want what you are selling. Your product, feature, idea or candidate is just a means to an end, a springboard to deliver satisfactions. People spend money, give time, and vote in order to gain some satisfactions. The product, service, candidate or cause is not what they want. It is only a springboard to produce a personal, psychological satisfaction. If you know the satisfaction they want and promise to deliver it, they are much more likely to buy. For example, I vote for a candidate because I hope that when elected she will support policies that I am in favor of. I hire a lawyer because I hope he will help me get the insurance settlement I want. The candidate and lawyer are only mechanisms for delivering what I really want – and that is what I’m paying for, those anticipated satisfactions.
(2) Customers buy ANTICIPATED satisfactions. When you buy a can of peas at the grocery, you don’t take a can opener to check them out. Based on cues like the brand name, price and label picture, you anticipate that the peas inside will satisfy you without looking at them. Marketers provide carefully chosen cues – words, pictures, numbers – to encourage that belief. A can of peas priced at a dime with a label showing a bowl of light green peas and an unknown brand name is not likely to create confidence that the buyer will get the desired satisfaction, tasty peas. By manipulating the cues buyers use to anticipate satisfaction, you can influence their behavior. Albertson’s did a total makeover of its terrible store brand labels several years ago and saw over a 25% increase in sales just by making the label picture and colors more appealing! Of course, if buyers later determine you fooled them, they won’t buy from you again.
(3) Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is all about getting buyers in the right frame of mind to take the next step. Too often inexperience or amateur marketers (which most small business people are forced to become) believe their marketing messages must make the sale, so the prospect will enter the store with money in hand. That is a flawed approach. It forces the marketer to add too much to the message in hopes of covering all the information and answering all likely objections. When faced with such a “busy” ad, the prospect’s response is often to turn the page, leave the website, scroll on down Facebook, or switch the channel. The cost of reaching that particular prospect has been wasted.
A good marketing message is like a shiny fishing lure. The job of the lure is to attract the fish and get him to take the bait. It is then the fisherman’s job to land the fish. You are NOT the fisherman! In short, the marketer’s entire job (except in situations where no salesperson is available, such as on Amazon) is to get prospects to take the next step. That’s it! Get them to pick up the phone, do more research, drop into the store, ask friends, etc.
If done correctly, the prospect comes away from the message in a positive frame of mind about the product, thinking, “Maybe this would give me what I want. I want to know more.” At the very least, a good message primes the buyer for additional exposures to the product’s messaging, and enhances the product’s image.
Many times, but not always, short messages with powerful promises and supporting proofs do very well. For example, if a high school student who wants to go to medical school starts her research and comes across a college with a 94% acceptance rate to med schools, that is the only information she need to want to take the next step to learn more. Don’t take a chance of confusing the buyer by piling on too much information, using convoluted sentences, or five-dollar words. Keep it simple and clear – here’s how I can satisfy you.
(4) A Buyer Motivation Analysis gives you a psychological picture of your customer group. Just like psychiatrists analyze patients or engineers analyze circuits, marketers should do a psychological analysis of customers. Why? Because buying first takes place in the mind! The mistake many marketers make is thinking they somehow “know” their buyers just because they know their demographics – age, sex, education, income, etc. You may live in a neighborhood with someone who is very similar to you in these categories, but has vastly different motivations about buying, supporting candidates, or joining groups. The best analysis comes from actually asking questions to target customers. Such surveys should be designed by professionals to ferret out desired satisfactions. It is too easy to make mistakes, creating the “garbage in” part of the old saying. (See “Research” below)
Remember that satisfactions you need to identify are NOT general. They are specific to the particular category you care about. A person may feel great to be the first to see a new movie, but you cannot assume the same is true about trying a new laundry detergent or a candy bar. Questions must be carefully focused. If you cannot afford a survey, then you will need to “see through the eyes” of a typical buyer. Do this for each specific segment you target.
For example, blue jeans makers have segments including teen girls, teen boys, working men, etc. Each segment will likely have differences in the satisfactions buyers want. For a teen girl two satisfactions may be “I look and feel sexy.” Chances are a working man does not share those desired satisfactions, so promising to satisfy them is a losing message for him, but a winning message for her!
(5) Buyer Motivation Analysis works best when you tightly segment your target market. Segmentation is a critical marketing concept that inexperienced marketers tend to forget, and that costs them big time. If you were selling blue jeans, would you use the same ad to sell to teenage girls and matronly women? Of course not. Why? Because their desired satisfactions are not the same. “Look sexy, feel sexy and draw admiring looks from both girls and boys” are high-priority satisfactions for teenage girls. And while matronly women may certainly appreciate them, their highest satisfactions center on comfort and a good look without much care. So your ads would be different for each of those segment, stimulating and promising to satisfy the key satisfactions each segment want when they pay for a pair of blue jeans.
In practice, this means you must do a Buyer Motivation Analysis (BMA) for each segment. Begin with all the obvious ones. You’ve got to start somewhere, and the major segments should be obvious to you if you know your market. Once you’ve done a preliminary BMA for a segment, it will be clear if it needs to be further segmented. If the satisfactions are too conflicting (like the jeans example above), you need to segment further.
The key is that your four lists of hot-button needs, wants, fears, and desires are similar enough to attract similar buyers. For example, teenage girls and 20’s women will both highly value looking sexy, feeling sexy and getting admiring looks. Older and younger people of both genders with back pain will highly value “getting their life back” through reduction of that pain.
A message emphasizing satisfactions that don’t ALL resonate with the targeted buyers will get less attention, interest, and sales. The messages can even work to undermine other claims. So that group needs more segmentation. For example, “high quality” and “low price” work against each other because we tend to use price as a way to judge quality. The result is doubt about both the quality and price claims, and strong doubt about overall value.
(6) A Buyer Motivation Analysis has four categories, two Logical and two Emotional. We most often buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic, two totally different types of satisfactions. Good marketing messages are in strong competition with other marketing messages from competing products. So you need both logical and emotional appeals for the best chance of success. Remember, customers don’t know for sure they will be satisfied, they buy on “anticipated satisfaction,” assuming (or hoping) they will be satisfied based on the information they’ve seen. You must control as many of those messages as possible because there are so many elements outside of your control like customer reviews, professional reviews, competing advertising, news stories, etc. Make sure your messages harmonize.
Logical satisfactions have two categories: Needs and Wants. Needs are satisfactions buyers must believe they will get. Needs are deal-breakers. In the car example above, I must believe I will be able to transport my family of 8 in comfort and safety in a new vehicle or I won’t buy it. I anticipate my satisfaction prior to buying. Wants are not deal-breakers, but they add to the perceived value of the purchase. An SUV with additional safety features, like approaching-car-warning, makes me believe my family will be safer, a big added value when comparing it with other SUVs. Something extra you add to a deal has the same effect.
Emotional satisfactions also have two categories: Fears and Desires. There are two types of Fears: Fears of Omission and Fears of Commission. Fears of Omission are basically, “I have a problem, so if I don’t do anything, what might happen?” Think of having a toothache. Fears of Commission are basically, “I’m going to make a choice about what to do to fix my problem, but what if I pick the wrong choice?” We buy so much on the basis of fear, especially the fear of being embarrassed. From insurance to deodorant, we are constantly trying to reduce fears. Obviously, “fear satisfactions” mean buyers want to reduce those fears. I worry about my family’s safety in the old car, so I want to reduce that fear, and thus feel my family is safer, by getting a new SUV. Don’t confuse that feeling with the logical Want of having tires that are rated as “safest.”
Desires are daydreams. We don’t really expect them to come true. Logically we don’t expect to win the lottery, but we still buy a ticket in the hope (emotion) that we might win – after all, “someone’s gonna win, it could be me!” Desires often have to do with how you want to feel about yourself (pride in getting a great car deal), satisfactions associated with using the product (adventures in the new car), and how others will feel about you (admiration.) If you win the lottery, you’ll feel overjoyed. As another example, if you use a new cleaner, you hope to feel proud of the way the kitchen looks. Or you might have the daydream that your mother-in-law or spouse will praise you for how the kitchen looks.
Desires have nothing to do with logic – “a person can always dream, can’t they?” Desires can be a powerful persuasive element in your marketing message. Use it whenever you can.
Remember, fears and desires are feelings, not thoughts. If you can’t express them as feelings, chances are you have not homed in on an Emotional Satisfaction, so dig deeper.
(7) Customers buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic. We don’t like to admit it, but we are emotional beings who want to be seen as logical. We most often buy on Emotion and justify it with Logic. Logic often determines the topmost selections we choose from in any purchase. For example, if the product is way out of my price range, has a terrible fit, isn’t big enough, or can’t be delivered in time, it won’t be included in the final set of choices.
For example, if I need to transport my big family, logical satisfactions weed out all the small car options no matter how much I may want a Miata. But within my final category of possible purchases, features like sexy styling, a “manly” grill, or the smell of real leather may give me more of my anticipated emotional satisfactions (great self-image, exciting adventures, peer approval, etc.) than a small difference in logical satisfactions (better gas mileage of a top Consumer Reports rating.) I just need a couple of “good reasons” to justify the emotional choice I want. So appeal to customers’ emotions and give them a couple of good logical reasons for following their emotions.
(8) Good marketing messaging is all about matching. Remember that people don’t want what you are selling, so they are not initially interested in the features of your product either. But they are interested in gaining the satisfactions you may be able to provide. Once you have reminded them of some satisfactions they may Need, Want or Desire, or an outcome they Fear, the next step in your marketing message is to promise you can deliver what they want. Their reaction? “Prove it.”
And that’s where the Matching Step in marketing psychology comes in. You have to prove you can deliver by showing them some of your features. For example, if my top anticipated satisfactions in buying a new car is to “go fast and look cool,” the Corvette marketing message would show pictures of the Corvette’s sexy, sleek body in motion, data on top speed and acceleration, happy people enjoying the car while others look on admiringly. These messages suggest the buyer, too, will enjoy these same satisfactions with a Corvette. Words would include its acceleration and other performance facts. That’s enough to get me to take the next step – to visit a dealership. Marketing is NOT sales. Marketing is all about getting buyers in the right frame of mind to take the next step.
Note that Corvette buyers don’t have safety or gas mileage or reliability as key satisfactions, so none of those features would be mentioned in the key persuasive messages. You simply pick the features that best “prove” you can deliver their satisfactions and trot them out as proof they will be satisfied if they buy your product/service/idea/candidate. You don’t begin a pitch with features. Features do not sell. Features prove you can deliver satisfactions. If you start with features, you’re asking buyers to figure out what personal satisfactions your features will deliver. NEVER make the buyer remember their desired satisfactions, remind them. It is the marketer’s job to know their key buying satisfactions, and lead with them.
So to recap, in a marketing message Step (1) is to stimulate/remind buyers of the satisfactions they want to have and may be willing/able to purchase. (If they aren’t willing or able to purchase, why are you in front of them?) Step (2) is to promise you can deliver those SPECIFIC satisfactions. Step (3) is to show them features of your product that prove you can deliver what they want to buy.
(9) Images are critical in good marketing messages. Use images that show the satisfactions buyers want. You want your picture to make a promise or raise a fear. We are visual beings, we want to see images, especially moving images. They attract our attention, and attracting attention is the very first job of any marketing messages. Just think of all the advertising that has already tried to get your attention today, and most of it failed, you brushed right by it or paid it no mind. And the cost of every one of those attempted hook-ups with you was wasted money.
All the research shows that the very best way to attract attention is with images, moving or still. The role of the image is two-fold – stop eyeballs and suggest a desired satisfaction. In a print ad for e-Harmony, the matchmaker site, a picture of a happy, ordinary-looking bride and groom suggest that readers, too, can find the happiness they desire with e-Harmony. If the image does this, the reader or viewer will be anxious to read or hear the message. On the other hand, if you simply show your product (remember, people do not want what you are selling), that attraction is far less as it doesn’t show the reader a relevant satisfaction.
A recent ad on TV illustrates this principle, as well as clearly demonstrating the difference between “benefits” and “satisfactions.” The ad is for a wide, inflatable belt that is supposed to help back pain. A picture of the belt itself would have little eyeball-stopping power. And while promising the viewer that back pain will be controlled (the “benefit”) is certainly an important selling point, the real power of this good ad is in the satisfactions they promise as a result of gaining the pain-free benefit! Those satisfactions, what they really want, include the ability to play with grandchildren, go for walks, dance, and “get my life back again.” Fully 80% of this ad’s messages are videos of people enjoying life. Visuals are best at delivering emotional messages, while words are often better at conveying logical messages.
Showing all these happy people doing the things the viewer in pain also wants to do is the proof required to pick up the phone, the next step in the buying process. The belt doesn’t make the sale, it is just the springboard. The Pain-Free promise sure helps, but it doesn’t close the deal. It is the demonstrated satisfactions of other people “just like me” that leads viewers to think, “If it helped them, maybe it could give me back my life, too!” That’s how emotional marketing psychology is used to persuade customers. Note, too, you are not persuading them to buy or even make a commitment, only to take the next step. Your job is to make them imagine your product could be the best answer to their desired satisfactions.
(10) Continuous buyer research is critical to ongoing success. You may not have money to pay a marketing firm to do professional consumer research. You may even have to start by trying to put yourself into the mind of each of your buyer segments. (Hint: Don’t “look at them” and try to figure it out, mentally “get behind them” and look through their eyes at your product/service/idea/candidate.) For example, in 2000 Heinz rolled out green-colored ketchup as a tie-in with the Shrek film. Sales boomed for a while, partly because of the film and product were tied together in Heinz TV ads aimed at kids. But there is another big reason, and you don’t get it until you look through the eyes of kids.
Pre-teen kids drove sales, mothers just complied with their demands. So imagine a dinner table event. Hot dog and French fries night. Green (or later purple or blue) ketchup sets on the table. Johnny grabs it and squirts a big pile on his plate while parents look slightly revolted. He dips his French fry in the green goop, waves it around and puts it in his mouth, watching his parents with glee while they say “Ugh!” Johnny has made his parents disgusted, he made it happen, he is in control of his parents’ reaction. That’s Johnny emotional satisfaction. And it is one which has a short shelf-life, both for him and his parents. Like other novelty items, the satisfactions quickly fade away to nothing after a few repetitions. No “ugh,” no glee, no demand for blue ketchup. Research is a key way to identify both relevant buyer satisfactions and the likelihood of their sustainability.
If you have to do your own research, try very hard to do more than guessing, even guessing based doing your own Buyer Motivation Analysis. The Internet is the best gift anyone ever gave a marketer. You can do free research with your own customers’ email using a free research site like SurveyMonkey. You can read dozens of online articles about how to design good research questions, and SurveyMonkey has a lot of templates you can modify for your product category.
You should also strongly consider periodically doing Focus Groups of about 10 – 12 customers. Before you do, read a lot about how to do it right, and hire someone not associated with your company to run it – people are far more likely to be honest if they are trying not to hurt your feelings! Finally, keep doing research, reaching out to customers in every way you can to get their feedback. Remember, while you do want to know what they think about your product and company, you mostly want to know what the logical and emotional satisfactions they are trying to satisfy by buying in your category. That is also how you retain customers.
Imagine this: you are a new mom or dad, loaded with dozens of cute baby pics on your smartphone. You meet a friend and start showing your baby’s pictures. After two or three, the friend is ready to move on, but you are just getting started! After all, this baby is now the most important thing in your life. Now think of your product or business as your baby. You’re so excited about it, you want to tell everyone all about it. But people don’t want your product any more than they want to see a lot of baby pictures. Customers are far more interested in topics that help or interest them.
In other words, WIIFM? – What’s In It For Me? And the answer to WIIFM? is always “logical and emotional satisfactions.” If you use research and psychology to figure out the most important desired satisfactions for your product category, you have a better chance of selling them than if you just show them “baby pictures” of your product’s features!
The formula to create persuasive marketing messages for customers is simple –
(1) Remind them of a satisfaction(s) they want,
(2) Promise to deliver, then
(3) Use your product’s features to prove you can do it.
(4) Close by asking them to take the next step in the buying process – visit a store, pick up the phone, go to a website, etc.
Of course, this formula is like the recipe for rabbit stew: “Step One: Catch a rabbit.” Here you must first discover the buying motivations of the buyers in each of your segments -- their Needs, Wants, Fears, and Desires – through good, on-going research.
Most marketing should not be designed to sell, but to get customers to take the bait. You determine the best bait through research, trial-and-error, and psychological marketing.
Gary Witt, Ph.D. Marketing Psychology Scottsdale, AZ firstname.lastname@example.org