Marketing psychology is now the foundation of many successful businesses. Most leading company’s marketing departments have at this point hired, consulted, or created a team devoted to conducting marketing psychology research. But what is marketing psychology?


For example, have you ever asked yourself: Why does Apple’s marketing strategy work so well? The answer in part comes down to their approach and understanding of marketing psychology. By this we mean, Apple’s marketing team uses psychology to influence the minds and motives of their target market to ensure they gain market share and share of wallet.


Unlike many of its competitors, Apple knows what their customers want and what makes their customers feel good. In fact, they have studied their customers so well, that they know what triggers to pull to get their customers to desire their products – even when their products are substantially more expensive than their competitors.


So, how does psychology relate to marketing, then? The aim of marketing campaigns or strategies is to stimulate a customer to make a decision that will benefit a business or organisation. For instance, Apple creates glossy and elegant marketing ads that promote the convenience of their products and also shows customers how cool Apple products are.


Have you ever wished to read the minds of your customers to know what they’re thinking? Have you ever wanted to discover the best tactic to persuade customers to buy your products?


In this article, we will answer the question, “What is marketing psychology?” We will provide you with a few marketing methods that involve psychological understanding. We will also discuss how psychology is used in marketing. Lastly, we will share with you the six commonly used marketing psychology principles. By the end of this article, you’ll learn how and if psychology has the answers to what you are looking for to drive more profitable sales.



what is marketing psychology


What is Marketing Psychology?


Marketing psychology integrates a scope of psychological theories to a company’s marketing, content, and sales strategy. It is also a way of observing patterns in humans and evaluating how it relates to their buying behaviours by understanding cognitive biases. As consumers, people are irrational, and decision-making is hugely influenced by these cognitive biases.


Marketing psychology will determine your competitive advantage in the market and let a company get an entire picture of the customers. Therefore, marketing psychology applies conceptual knowledge to the marketing field.


Marketing Methods that Require Psychological Understanding


Marketing teams use some of the top techniques that involve the psychology of the human mind.  Below are a few methods that are commonly used in the industry:


  • Marketing campaigns that appeal to emotions — The aim of these types of campaigns is to tap into the emotions of a person and encourage a customer to buy a product or service according to his/her feelings.


  • Marketing strategies that provide exclusivity — These types of campaigns advertise a specific product/service as exclusive. It feeds the competitive drive of customers to have exclusive ownership of the most elite products available. People who are inspired by exclusivity are more than willing to spend the money just to feel like they are a part of the crowd.


  • Using fear and doubt in marketing — These tactics are used in marketing to let customers feel fearful or worried about not buying a specific product or service. The focus is on the consequences of not buying the goods, instead of the benefits of having it.


What is marketing psychology and how is it used?


Nowadays, marketers use psychology more than ever before because there are various types of marketing strategies to make and customise. For instance, there’s a certain team of the marketing field that takes care of social media marketing. Particularly, this type of marketing depends on an understanding of human psychology and behaviour.


Marketers should know what encourages customers to get attracted to a brand within the realm of social media. Also, what will stimulate them to buy goods and services from the business. Understanding psychology, marketing trends and customer data are vital to all types of marketing strategies.


6 Commonly Used Marketing Psychology Principles


Understanding some fundamental theories of psychology can make your marketing successful because the right people are identifying with it (and probably converting on it also).


To help you convince, captivate, and convert more customers with your marketing, it’s important to discover what is marketing psychology. Let’s take a look at 6 common marketing psychology principles marketers use:


1. Reciprocity


This theory is based on the notion that if a business or a brand does something good for a customer, the latter will likely return the favour, and have greater cooperation in the future. In other words, providing added value to your new customers means you are starting a new relationship with them.


The concept of reciprocity principle is very straightforward. If a person does something for you, you basically want to do something for him in return. For example, if you’ve got yourself a mint along with your bill at a restaurant, that’s reciprocity.


When a waiter brings a check to the customer without a mint, the customer will tip the waiter accordingly (based on the perceptions of the service provided). One mint, the tip may jump up more than 3 per cent and two mints may mean increase it further to about 20%.


There are several ways of how a business can utilise reciprocity. You don’t have to be a very big and successful company to implement it. You can give away stuff like a sweatshirt, a tote bag, an exclusive e-book, a free desktop background, etc. Even simple things like a handwritten note can go a long way in demonstrating reciprocity. Remember though to offer the giveaways first before you asking for something in return.


2. Scarcity


This principle demonstrates that people put more value on the things that are difficult to obtain. In other words, the scarcer the product is, the more valuable it is. Customers get anxious that they will miss out the offer, therefore, leaving them no choice. Have you tried buying an airline ticket online and noticed a prompt that says, “Only 2 seats left for this fare” That’s scarcity theory using “limited product offering”.  Seeing that there are only 2 tickets left, you’re more likely to make a quick decision in buying the ticket, compared to if were still 200+ tickets left at the promo price.


Some other ways where marketers use this concept are:


  • Exclusive access – Brands can make their product offering appear exclusive and premium when it comes to upgraded memberships. Like VIP access to a special feature or service and getting access to something that isn’t available to everybody. This strategy lets customers feel as if they are in possession of something rare or scarce. Thus, giving them a feeling of being special.


  • Black Friday sales – Retailers have somehow managed to build a sense of scarcity on excessively discounted, popular items, particularly during the holiday shopping season.


3. Social proof


This type of marketing psychology principle believes that humans have confidence on products when they recognise other people who can validate their value. Meaning, it is the “me too” effect.


Robert Cialdini, professor and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, says that when a person doesn’t know what to do, he/she will seek advice on what needs to be done.


Social proof marketing calls on the convincing powers of celebrities, experts, and customer feedback or reviews as a way to increase customers’ trust in the product/service.


Other types of social proofing you can use in promoting your business:


  • Get a celebrity endorser. Celebrities and social media bloggers have the biggest influence because of their large social media followings. Enlist A-list celebrities for a launch, or simply gift your product to a famous media blogger, hoping your product gets featured on their social media accounts.


  • Use an expert. Followers will listen to an expert’s recommendation especially if they have that specific need.


  • Let users rate you. Allow customers to rate or provide a review or feedback. May it be a Google review or an excellent rating on the app store, the truth is, many potential customers use these reviews and ratings as a guide for the real performance of your company.


  • Certification. Whether it’s a health rating, a TripAdvisor rating, or the popular blue tick on Instagram, official accreditation or certification is the easiest way to provide your first-time customers with a peace of mind.


4. Loss Aversion


This principle in marketing points out that people prefer to avoid losses than acquiring gains. Simply put, when a person has something, he/she does not want to lose it. Certainly, people don’t like to lose what they have already gained.


Marketing teams use loss aversion marketing regularly. Tell me, how many “last chance to take advantage of the offer” emails have you gotten in your inbox? Though loss aversion is an effective marketing strategy, if not done the right way, it can have a harmful effect. Remember that some customers might get annoyed with this style of marketing if they’re being flooded with emails.


Some ways of implementing loss aversion marketing strategies include:


  • Limited resource. One way to attract customers into buying a product is to tell them of the scarcity of your item.


  • Offering something free with purchase. It can be free shipping, a discount code or voucher, or free gift wrapping. The thought of losing a free gift can mostly serve as a basis in persuading your customers to buy a product.


  • Trial offers. Research shows that people value the things they own more than those that they don’t. Therefore, by giving customers a sample product, they get the opportunity to own it. You are letting them feel the loss of not having ownership of that product.


5. Decoy Effect


The decoy effect is a situation where customers tend to change their preferences between two given options when provided a third option that’s asymmetrically dominated.  However, when there are only two choices, customers make decisions based on their personal preferences. When presented with another strategical decoy option, customers are more likely to select the more expensive product of the two original choices.


To better understand the concept, let’s use the National Geographic experiment as an example:


National Geographic made an experiment to see how the decoy effect affects consumers’ decision to buy a large popcorn instead of a small or medium one.


First, they offered a group of customers a small bucket of popcorn for $3 and a large one for $7.


The result showed that most of the consumers opted to buy the small popcorn (due to their personal needs at that time).


Then they offered the second group three options: a small bucket of popcorn for $3, a medium bucket of popcorn for $6.5 (the decoy) and a large one for $7.


The result indicated that more consumers chose the large bucket of popcorn because they saw the value in the large popcorn for only $0.5.


The experiment revealed that the large bucket of popcorn asymmetrically dominated the medium bucket. Meaning, the decoy effect convinced customers to choose the expensive option.


what is marketing psychology


6. Anchoring


Why do you think it’s hard to resist a sale at a clothing store? Oftentimes, the reason is anchoring. Customers base their decisions on the first information they get.


For example, if your favourite store normally sells jeans for $60, then you find it on sale for $30, for sure you’ll be elated. You’ll certainly think that you got a very good deal on those jeans. However, if your friend typically buys jeans priced $25, she won’t be nearly as joyful as you are.


Marketers should know the importance of anchoring especially if they are running a sale. During a sale, clearly provide the initial price of the item (“setting the anchor”). Then put the sale price right next to the item on sale. Putting the percentage that the customer saves from the item is also helpful.


It may be enticing to try and use all the marketing psychology strategies above, however, it’s best to think first about the business you are into, what best suits your existing techniques and what data says about your customer base.




  • One essential part of a great marketer is understanding how and also why people think and behave the way they do. Understanding some of the basic elements of psychology and knowing how those principles affect how people think, feel, and act will enable you to better connect with people, influence their behaviour, and see better business results.


  • Psychology plays an essential role in the marketing mix; therefore, marketing teams should have a firm understanding of human behaviour to be successful.


  • Why does the marketing strategy work so well? Apple’s marketing team uses psychology to influence the minds and motives of their target market. They know what their customers want and what makes their customers feel good. Thus, they also know that their customers will buy their high-priced products because they know their customers feel a need to have the latest Apple products.


  • Marketers need to determine the customer segment, what they want, and what encourages them to make a purchase in order to successfully do their job. Surely, it would be difficult to create captivating content marketing in the first place if you don’t know why it would be convincing to the target market.


  • While marketers are certainly not psychologists, they definitely use various psychologically-based studies regarding human behaviour to effectively communicate with prospective customers and improve conversions on a daily basis.




In conclusion, leveraging marketing psychology is the best way to have your brand stand out from competitors. It will also help you determine the most engaging way to interact with your customers.


Marketing psychology will give you a competitive edge in the digital market. Also, understanding consumer behaviour will allow you to get closer to your customers and give them elevated shopping experiences.


This comprehensive marketing psychology list is just the tip of the iceberg when we talk about consumer psychology and marketing. It’s up to you to look for a balance between them that enables you to keep a solid brand image. While at the same time developing products, creating experiences, and campaigns that your customers will love continuously.


Behind every great marketing strategy is a fundamental knowledge of human behaviour. Thus, understanding how people think, decide and behave will give you a big advantage.


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