Marketing Matters: Psychology

Psychology is a fascinating field and by no means one I would claim to be an expert in. I am however a firm believer that every marketeer, no matter what field they are in, should have a grounding in psychology. Some appreciation is helpful and there are many good books and courses to give you an introduction.

My own book, Digital Marketing Strategy, is used on some consumer psychology courses at universities around the world. There is no chapter on the subject but I do allude to these key considerations and how they apply to your strategy throughout.

Let’s take a moment to look at some of the key psychology related principles that should be understood by all marketeers.

Cognitive bias

One key skill for a marketeer is to be able to understand and interpret data. The success of a tactic, campaign or day to day activity such as website traffic can only be understood through analysing data. However we have a habit as humans of looking for patterns – it’s what has enabled us to survive. These patterns can however be misleading if we apply our own bias to them. We have a habit of looking for patterns based on what we expect and therefore finding trends that are not there or are at least misleading. It’s essential to be very conscious of this to ensure it doesn’t affect your decision making.


Gamification has been talked about in marketing for several years now. The name is misleading as it is not about making games but more about taking the successful principles of gaming and bringing them into your model. For example “Your profile is 80% complete” is a great technique to encourage people to finish the job. Most people don’t like have something incomplete hanging around. That means they may be willing to part with data in exchange for this completion. Gamification plays to these needs. It’s not about tricking or manipulating people so use it wisely.


Loyalty is the dream. Some believe in reality it doesn’t exist but I don’t. There are many circumstances where some people will stay if they feel you have done enough for them that they owe you their loyalty. This can be difficult to achieve and so understanding these people – who they are, what motivates them, how you reach them, how they like to communicate – can create loyalty opportunities through meaningful rewards. And rewards doesn’t have to mean gifts.


Conversion rate optimisation is a science. But beyond the signals that help us improve UX we need to understand the mindsets of the users. What was their intent when arriving into the journey? Do we have separate journeys for Paid Search (intent heavy) vs social media (research heavy) where the former is about simplicity and speed and the latter is about information and supportive messaging? Both need to ensure the help messaging and error messaging is clear and well signposted – if not this can be enormous factor in creating annoyance from someone who just wants to buy something.

Content engagement

To understand content marketing you must understand you audience. Your strategy must be tailored to the people you’re speaking to. Not just the subjects but how it is written, where it is distributed, the call to action. It is not just about business goals (as too many content strategies still are), it is about consumer needs. Think about why the individual would interrupt their day for your content. What value does it add to their life? Think inside the brain of the reader.

Brand resonance

Branding of course plays heavily on psychology. Every person is a brand and every brand is like a person. Each has a personality, a look, a voice, a message. First impressions are important and so consistency, clarity, simplicity and beauty are vital. Also the experience you offer forms opinions that are much harder to undo than first impressions. Building genuine relationships with your customers and creating a brand that can operate like a person to be a friend of your customers can be a real differentiator today.

There is more on branding and optimizing your strategy in my book, Digital Marketing Strategy.

Buy Digital Marketing Strategy by Simon Kingsnorth