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June 5, 2017

How to Drive Real Results With 7 Simple Psychological Principles

It’s no secret that you can influence purchase decisions by incorporating certain psychological principles in your marketing.

Luckily, educating yourself about those psychological principles can transform your content marketing and conversions and drive real results.

Take, for example, this advertisement from Patagonia →

It’s uncharacteristic of any brand to say this, but Patagonia did. This one-liner not only earned them a lot of attention, but also helped them make a strong statement against consumerism, earning the favor of their target audience.

If you understand consumer psychology and what makes people tick, you can generate more website traffic, boost conversions and grow your business.

Here are 5 psychological principles that you can use to do just that.

1. Social proof


In 1935, Muzafer Sherif conducted an experiment to study social proof. He placed a red light in a dark room and asked people how much they thought it was moving.

He then repeated the experiment using the same people in groups with new people. Sherif found that the first set of people changed their answers when influenced by the new joinees.

80 years later and social proof is still relevant, as Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2017 clearly shows. People trust opinions/suggestions made by people like themselves over those made by brands and organizations.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Use testimonials and positive experiences shared by customers where it matters most – on your website, and in sales emails, event invites and onboarding emails.
  • Don’t let the challenge of collecting testimonials stop you. Set up alerts for your brand and everything associated with it on social media, because people are more likely to share their experiences on Facebook or Twitter.

2. Novelty


Attraction towards novelty is seen in humans from infancy. One-year-olds are [found]http://psychologydictionary.org/novelty/) to regard new patterns with more curiosity than patterns they have seen before.

With respect to consumer behaviors, it has been observed that attraction arises in favor of fresh alterations, even if there is no dissatisfaction with the current scenario. That’s why people trade in their old iPhones for new ones every year, and Apple releases new models of iPads and Macs every few months.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Repurpose your content into multiple, engaging formats. Blog posts can easily be turned into infographics or slides.

Adam Connell from Blogging Wizard turned his expert roundup blog post, that was performing very well, into an infographic.

The result? 22,000 visits and 1500+ shares.

  • Curate content related to your industry and share it with your audience regularly, so you can stay updated while helping them do the same.

This is why we designed DrumUp to focus on fresh content. It is one of the few content curation apps that favors fresh and undiscovered content over viral and overexposed content.

You could share content curated on an app like this to increase engagement on social media, use it’s suggestions for content inspiration or simply refer to it for the latest trends in your industry.

3. Reciprocity


Dennis Regan tested reciprocity back in 1971. He took test subjects to an art show. Joe would disappear and return with a soda for the test subject, and would later ask him/her to buy raffle tickets.

Subjects who received a soda from Joe bought the tickets irrespective of whether they liked him or not, while the ones who didn’t receive a soda bought tickets only when they seemed to like him.

Give away value for free, before you expect people to subscribe or buy from you. You need courage to offer real value for free. Courage is the secret ingredient missing from most people’s content marketing.

CrazyEgg uses a great ploy to win over website visitors.

Reciprocity is also the not-so-secret key to building a great social media following and developing important relationships (with influential bloggers, experts and influencers). Take an interest in what they do, and share their content before reaching out to them.

4. FOMO


FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, is a part of the theory of scarcity. It states that people tend to attach more value to items they believe are scarce, and lower value to items available easily. That’s why people make impulse buys when stocks are running out.

Ecommerce companies display the number of items available in stock for this very reason. Businesses of all kinds use limited period sales offers to meet sales goals.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Create content resources that are restricted to a specific number of copies or are available for a limited period of time.
  • Use FOMO when marketing your products, services, events and webinars. Webinars have seat numbers limited by the hosting platform and plan you’re using. Make the most of that limitation by advertising it on your landing page and promotions.

5. Decoy Effect


This psychological principle is primarily used in pricing. Most pricing models since the 1920s have been created considering consumer psychology.

Dan Airley discusses the Decoy effect in his well-known TEDTalk, “Are we in control of our own decisions?”

proven psychological principles

In 2009, The Economist introduced new subscription packages. This is what they offered:

  • Online subscription: $59
  • Print subscription: $125
  • Online and print subscription: $125

Wait a minute… The print-only subscription costs exactly the same as the print + online subscription? Why would they do that?

Ariely asked 100 of his students at MIT to choose between the subscriptions, and most of them picked the combination offer. But when he removed the decoy, they picked the Online subscription offer.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • If you want to boost conversions on a landing page by offering two options, you might want to consider adding a third.
  • If you are a Saas business, you can offer different combinations of features at smart prices. You could even indicate what your most popular plan is, if your pricing strategy works out as planned.

Honorable mentions (2 bonuses)


6. Clustering

The short-term memory has limited space, and your audience has to choose to have you in theirs. One way to claim that space as a brand is by making it easy for people to remember you. That’s where clustering comes in.

To cope with the lack of space in the short-term memory, people tend to group similar objects.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • When creating content (blog posts, website copy or emails), organize your content well.Optimize your structure and flow.
  • Keep clustering in mind when designing landing pages, content templates and social media graphics. How can you organize your design to increase memory retention?

Create clear divisions on your landing page, like Basecamp has below. Place information on the left and sign-up on the right. You could use also graphic stories to make your message more memorable.

7. Mystery

Mystery works as a great lure. Use it wisely and wherever you can. Think unconventionally. People love well-told stories because they’re unfolded masterfully, and they have a certain mysterious appeal to them.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Try and add stories to your blog, social media and email marketing content.
  • Create a podcast or blog series that builds anticipation, using suspense to create more demand.

Wrapping Up


This is just an introduction to the basic psychological principles and what you can do with them. The key to boosting conversions and growing your business (apart from building a great product of course) is understanding consumer psychology and incorporating it in your content marketing. This post will give you a great start.

About the Author:

Disha Dinesh is content strategist at DrumUp, a social media management and content marketing platform like Hootsuite, but with varied features. When she’s not writing or wrinkling her eyebrows in thought, she’s foot-tapping to the latest in progressive music.


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