We all like thinking we’re in control of our purchasing habits, in charge of the things we purchase, and the amount we spend and where we spend it.
But what if I were to tell you what you think you’re in control of is actually creative and innovative marketers? Marketing in creative ways telling you what to buy, and how much to spend subliminally?
Subliminal, or Psychological manipulation is typically a controversial subject. Especially when it impacts your spending habits.
I'm not here to tell you persuasion is the key to success or to go and manipulate your demographic for profit. This article is designed to educate.
I want to dive into the psychology of marketing. Before doing that, let’s better understand what “Psychology” actually means.
Noun - Source: Cambridge University
“The scientific study of the way the human mind works and how it influences behaviour, or the influence of a particular person's character on their behavior”
Marketing is all around us, on our public transport, at our workplace and even on your underwear. It’s something that our generation has become somewhat conditioned of.
It’s become harder and harder to differentiate between everyday news, and a sponsored segment or publication. Everywhere you look someone is trying to sell something in a unique or creative way.
Falling victim to these tricky marketing strategies is an everyday assurance for most. Although I'm in Australia, and our numbers are significantly lower. It's said Americans are exposed to 4,000-10,000 ads daily.
Companies like the Walt Disney Company have come under fire many times for their studies on persuasive marketing.
“Disney has formulated the ideal execution to turn children into the perfect consumers, a process which stands as a major reason for the mass influence Disney holds today through merchandise, videos, and advertising. ”
As seen in this UCCS Research Paper.
It's a scary concept, The value of this article is not only to show you how you can take advantage. But to become more aware of your purchasing habits and what might have influenced your purchase.
Something catching your eye may be a coincidence, or was it subliminal?
What is the Psychology of Marketing?
I love using this example when explaining how it works. It’s always an eye-opener, that “wow, I never noticed that” moment.
Think of your top 5 favourite takeout restaurants. Shit, think of your top 10 or as many as you can think of.
Think about their logos, their restaurant colour scheme, and their general branding.
Without knowing who you picked. I know their primary branding consist of either red or yellow or a combination of both.
This is no weird coincidence. Red triggers hunger, yellow triggers thirst. With both complementing each other and crossing paths when triggering your subconscious decisions.
Being exposed to these colours and certain shades of these colours can either influence a larger appetite than you thought. Ultimately, this increases your likely-hood of spending more.
Pro tip: Go through the drive through - Walking in exposes you to more colour and smells tailored to increase your order size. You actually spend less going through the drive-through on average.
Colours trigger a subliminal signal straight to the think box they call the brain to persuasively encourage emotion.
Colours control a variety of emotions and psychological feelings unwilling and unbeknown to you. These can be manipulated to subliminally dictate your purchasing behaviour.
Fortunately, for you. There has been plenty of research done around this that you can take advantage of.
In fact, Research found that 90% of snap judgments made about products were colour based.
Brands like Coca Cola have used these strategies for over a century, in fact, their logo has changed numerous times over the past 130 years. Which includes its shade of red. It’s why it’s reported that 94% of the world recognised Coca-Cola’s colour palette.
CocaCola isn’t the only brand who uses colour to build recognizable branding, or the use colour to manipulate consumer behaviour.
Some of the world's leading brands like McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks, Colgate, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have used teams of researchers to pinpoint the best colour palette for their branding.
It's not just branding though, places like Hospitals, Airports and Shopping centers use lack of colour to build neutral emotion and/or represent the feel of cleanliness. Hospitals are not white and bland by chance.
Feeling safe, clean and hygienic is how you want to feel whilst visiting a hospital or medical practice. Whilst also benefiting from the peacefulness and calming effect that white offers.
Another great example in retail is big red sales banners.
Red stands out, it’s impulsive and grabs the eye and everyone loves seeing the word “sale”. It’s also well known in marketing that marketing up before marking downplays a huge part in how a potential customer sees the price tag.
40% off looks great! $9.99 for a shirt is a great deal, but a $9.99 shirt that says it was $24.99 seems like a better deal! Even if it was never $24.99.
Think about your business branding, your retail store or your work environment. Altering the office colours from a darker, neutral palette to light and vibrant colours can increase productivity and workplace happiness.
Improving the palette in a restaurant or retail environment can influence consumer purchasing decisions, or increase average orders.
Using this knowledge ensure your branding falls in line with your target demographic audience.
Typography put simply is how letters appear, whether digital or printed.
Selecting a font has always been about “hey this looks cool” but after reading this, you’ll think twice before choosing a font.
The impact a simple font plays not only for your branding and logo but how your documents look, how people engage with your website.
Think about this: You’re walking down Main Street, New York City you have mere seconds, if not milliseconds to grab the attention of the fast-paced city.
Using a thin font won’t work, it doesn’t stand out, using a bold font won’t work because it blends in with clutter. Using calligraphy won’t work because it’s too hard to read in the short time you have. So what do you use?
The font selection, in this case, is greatly different from a target demographic of your local fresh food market. That's why when you walk into a fresh food store, cursive is used. or when you walk into a record shop more aggressive fonts are used.
Each industry tends to have it’s standard “go tos”, and for the most part, they’re fairly accurate. Looking at what your competition is doing, and what your demographic relates to, and where your marketing is seen.
Typography in marketing allows you to tell a story. To dictate the emotional connection between your marketing and the consumer.
In general, look over your various marketing strategies and do an audit. Web fonts don’t typically look great on print media. Look at what others in your industry are using and consider mixing and blending what already works.
Smells, Scents, and Fragrances
If you have ever been into a display home in a new estate and smelt lavender and beautiful fragrances. Or hop into a new car and said “mmm that new car smell”, then you have been exposed to this form of marketing before.
If you were as fortunate as I am to be born, and still hold all your 5 common senses than like me you have smell, hear, see, touch and taste. We have touched on see using colours and typography, but what about the smell?
Every day you smell hundreds, if not thousands of scents from your local bakery, toilets, candles, flowers right down to that sweet wet road smell. Our nose is a powerful weakness.
Real estate agents commonly use baked goods to sell homes by baking muffins or cookies to make the house smell more like a home, more welcoming.
In order to utilise this for your business, consider using ventilation to waft kitchen scents into a restaurant, or out the roof of the building.
Use candles to make your office smell clean and fresh or subtle fragrances to control behaviour.
Doctors, Dentists, and even schools use this to help settle behaviour, think clearly and influence emotion.
This definitely has a physiological effect that is hard to ignore. I cannot count the times I’ve bought a pie or a muffin simply because it smelt good.
To put it simply, using subliminal marketing strategies is something you can use in your business without too much effort. Big businesses have used researchers for years, bootstrapping off of their success is a strategy that can skyrocket your business.
Wait! I’m not done!
I haven’t even told you how your eyeballs are being sold to advertisers just like us. We build audiences with high accuracy using subliminal marketing tactics.
If you’re not in the marketing game, you may not be aware of the depth or the level of accuracy of custom audiences. We have the tools to can target a very specific niche, demographic or interest intent.
Businesses like Facebook and Google who make up for a massive 60% of marketing have an unbelievable knowledge of you.
They know your search habits, and what you may or may not be interested in.
Not only what you’re interested in but more than likely, your average order sizes, where you have shopped, how much you spend.
They even know your age, your physical location and whether you’re a parent or not.
To add salt to the wound, they use machine learning and algorithmic tools to match your habits with others.
By doing this, they know that if your habits match that of someone else, but someone else is buying something you're not. The likely-hood of you also liking that product is high.
Using this, you can now be served ads for products or services you're interested in before you knew you were interested.
Designing specific audiences can help us push ads directly into your inbox, all over the web, on your news feed and on your favourite youtube videos.
I can now include information in my copy or visual advertising that will make you think I know exactly who you are.
Using this, as you could imagine our ROI is going to be through the roof. Unlike traditional media, picking and choosing where marketing dollars go can maximise returns.
Using my knowledge of colours, behavioural habits, and your interests to tailor ads that are relatable, and subliminal.
Other forms of Subliminal marketing
There are thousands of examples, obviously, I don’t know all of them, nor have the time to go through each of them in depth. But I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites.
Social signals or otherwise known as “social proof” is where a business shows they're a trusted, reputable and reliable brand.
Things like showing 5-star reviews, or how many customers you have. Can allow a customer to picture your business size, and trustworthiness.
Showing your annual turnover or how many people are in your team is a great way to build reliability.
Don’t use negative words
Computing giant Apple is a brand that does this well, it’s in their sales training.
Using words like “no”, “cannot”, “broken”, “sorry”. Leave negative connotations and gives an uncertain feel. You can actually turn customers away by negative wording.
Instead, find solutions and rebuttals to commonly asked questions, or doubt. Using positive alternatives such as “absolutely”, “we can do that”.
Even when being asked questions such as “can this do that”, if the answer is no. A better alternative is “It's not something we have now, but here is what you can do instead”. Leaves the customer not feeling it cannot do something, but feeling like it can.
Stand in the way
By standing in the doorway, or blocking a customer's direct line for the door you can actually influence sales.
This might sound like entrapment, but due to its unknowing nature, the customer doesn’t realise they’re “being blocked” in.
A strategy I learned whilst visiting Bangkok, Thailand. I found myself looking at clothes longer, talking myself into a sale instead of feeling a pushy sales rep.
Try before you buy
Commonly used in car yards, bakeries, and consumable sales.
This strategy works in nearly every industry. Physically handing customers the item or letting them experience it for themselves.
Once an item is in their hand, or behind the wheel or using something it's hard for them to either put it down or leave.
It allows them to sell themselves.
Likewise with food outlets letting you try something knowing you’ll love it and likely buy more. Sampling has worked in the food industry for decades.
This works right through to luxury home sales whereas an agent you should never park in the driveway. Allow the potential buyer to park there or envision their car in the driveway of their new home.
Buy one get one free
One of the oldest tricks in the books. As a consumer you’re getting double for nothing, right?
In more cases than not, you’re paying full price or close to for both. A $10 item is marketed as $18-$20 with a buy one get one free. You feel like you’re getting a really great deal.
Some countries have laws around this kind of strategy. As a general rule, don't mislead customers, but influence their decisions.
Let the customer win
Commonly, no matter the industry, your customers want to feel they’re getting there way. The lowest price, the best deal or just the thrill of having the final say.
Letting the customer ask for a discount, or leaving yourself enough margin to allow for a discount can actually help your conversion rate.
Allowing customers that small win, the bragging rights in the car on the way home goes a long way.
Hopefully, you take something from this article. If it's not for your brand or business. Let it be the knowledge of how marketing can alter your purchasing decisions moving forward.
Use marketing psychology in your business, but keep in mind your countries laws and regulations around this type of strategy.
Be helpful, offer value and never mislead customers. At the end of the day, you want that customer to come back, you don't want them leaving feeling they were pressured.