Ultimate Guide to Marketing Psychology

We dive into the unreal world of Marketing Psychology and the impact your subconscious mind plays when it comes to creativity within the marketing world.

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard — 14 minute read.

Psychology and marketing go hand-in-hand; we all like thinking we’re in control of our purchasing habits, in charge of the things we purchase, 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 creative and innovative marketers? Marketing creatively tells you what to buy and how much to spend subliminally.

Subliminal or Psychological manipulation is typically controversial, significantly when it impacts your spending habits.

Psychological Manipulation

I’m not here to tell you persuasion is the key to success, or to go and manipulate your demographic for profit has been a very profitable marketing strategy for a long time. This article is designed to educate.

I want to dive into the consumer psychology of marketing. Before doing that, let’s better understand what “Psychology” 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 behaviour”

Marketing psychology is all around us, on our public transport, at our workplace and even in our underwear. It’s something that our generation has become somewhat conditioned on.

It’s become harder and harder to differentiate between daily news and a sponsored segment or publication. Everywhere you look, someone is trying to sell something uniquely or creatively.

Falling victim to these tricky marketing strategies is an everyday assurance for most. Although I’m in Australia, 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.

Walt Disney

“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?

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What is the Psychology of Marketing?

Knowing psychology and marketing can help you take your business to the next level or make smarter purchasing choices. It’s used in social media, print media and all types of digital 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. Snap, think of your top 10 or as many as you can think of.

Think about their logos, restaurant colour scheme, and general branding.

Without knowing who you picked. I know their primary branding consists of either red, yellow, or a combination.

Colour Emotion Guide

This is no weird coincidence. Red triggers hunger, and yellow triggers thirst, complementing each other and crossing paths when triggering your subconscious decisions.

Being exposed to these colours and certain shades of these colours can influence a more enormous appetite than you thought. Ultimately, this increases your likelihood of spending more.

Pro-tip: Go through the drive-through — Walking in exposes you to more colours and smells tailored to increase your order size. You spend less going through the drive-through on average.

Colour Psychology

One of the first things you will learn about psychology is the effects colours play, following the psychological principles; colours impact buyer behaviours, result in higher-value sales and even persuade positive reviews.

Colours play a large part in marketing psychology as colours trigger a subliminal signal to the think box they call the brain to persuasively encourage emotion, which is why you should include it in your marketing strategy.

Colours control various emotions and psychological feelings, unwilling and unbeknown to you. These can be manipulated to dictate your purchasing behaviour subliminally.

Colour Emotion Chart

Fortunately, plenty of research has been done around this that you can take advantage of.

The research found that 90% of product snap judgments were colour-based.

Brands like Coca-Cola have used these strategies for over a century; their logo has changed over the past 130 years. This includes its shade of red. It’s why it’s reported that 94% of the world recognised Coca-Cola’s colour palette.

Coca Cola Logo History

Coca-Cola isn’t the only brand that uses colour to build recognisable branding or the use of colour to manipulate consumer behaviour.

Some of the world’s leading brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks, Colgate, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and social media giants 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 centres use a 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.

Super Sale Banner

Red stands out, is impulsive, and grabs the eye; everyone loves seeing the word “sale”. It’s also well known in marketing that marketing up before marking down plays a huge part in how a potential customer sees the price tag.

40% off looks excellent! $9.99 for a shirt is a great deal, but a $9.99 shirt that says it was $24.99 seems better! Even if the price of the item 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 ensures your branding aligns with your target demographic audience.


Typography put 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.

A simple font impacts your branding and logo, your documents look, and how people engage with your website.

Think about this: You’re walking down Main Street, New York City, and 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, and 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 vastly different from the target demographic of your local fresh food market. When you walk into a new food store, cursive is used. Or, when you walk into a record shop, more aggressive fonts are used.

Each industry tends to have its standard “go-to’s”, and for the most part, they’re fairly accurate. Look at what your competition is doing, 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 consumer behaviour.

Typography Stand

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 use and consider mixing and blending what already works.

Smells, Scents, and Fragrances

Suppose 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 say, “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 five ordinary senses, then you have smell, hear, see, touch and taste like me. We have touched on 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, and 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.

Baked Cookies

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 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 companies have used researchers for years; bootstrapping off their success is a sales 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 like us. We build audiences with high accuracy using subliminal marketing tactics.

Audience Targeting

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 target a particular niche, demographic or interest intent.

Businesses like Facebook and Google, who make up a massive 60% of marketing, have an unbelievable knowledge of you.

Advertising Market Share

They know your search habits and what you may or may not be interested in.

What you’re interested in and, more than likely, your average order sizes, where you have shopped, and 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.

“Digital Marketing Expert Christian Carere owner of Digital Ducats Inc says Companies need to diversify their sources of traffic and be smarter marketers to Excel in the current state of search.”

By doing this, they know that if your habits match someone else’s, but someone else is buying something, you’re not. The likelihood that you also like that product or service 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, your news feed and your favourite YouTube videos.

I can now include information in my copy or visual advertising to make you think I know exactly who you are.

Redbull Ninja

As you can imagine, our ROI will be through the roof using this. 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 relatable and subliminal ads.

Other forms of Subliminal marketing

There are thousands of examples; obviously, I don’t know all of them or have the time to go through them in depth. But I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourites.

Social Signals

Social signals or otherwise known as “ social proof”, are where a business shows they’re a trusted, reputable and reliable brand. Social proof can encourage potential customers to think about a brand positively and help the decision-making process when purchasing.

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.

Social media pages are a form of social proof by showing a brand or business is active and what its social following is saying about them. Social media can also increase customer experience and satisfaction. This can cause their cognitive biases to change their opinion and have a lasting impact based on what they have seen.

Don’t use negative words.

Computing giant Apple is a brand that does this well and is in its sales training.

Using words like “no”, “cannot”, “broken”, and “sorry”. Leave negative connotations and give an uncertain feel. You can turn customers away with negative wording.

Instead, find solutions and rebuttals to commonly asked questions or doubt. Using positive alternatives such as “absolutely” and “we can do that”.

Even when 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”. It leaves the customer feeling that it cannot do something but feels like it can.

Stand in the way

You can influence sales by standing in the doorway or blocking a customer’s direct line for the door.

This might sound like entrapment, but the customer doesn’t realise they’re “being blocked” due to its unknowing nature.

A strategy I learned whilst visiting Bangkok, Thailand. I looked at clothes longer, talking myself into a sale instead of feeling like 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, 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, food outlets let you try something, knowing you’ll love it and likely buy more. Sampling has worked in the food industry for decades.

This works for luxury home sales, whereas an agent 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 way to entice customers into a sale and one of the oldest tricks in the books. As a consumer, you’re getting double for nothing.

More often than not, you’re paying the total 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 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 their 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 help your conversion rate.

Allowing customers that small win, the bragging rights in the car on the way home goes a long way.

Conclusion on Marketing Psychology

Hopefully, you will take something from this article. Suppose 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 country’s laws and regulations around this strategy.

Be helpful, offer value and never mislead customers. You want that customer to come back, and you don’t want them to leave feeling they were pressured.

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey is the CEO of sitecentre® and a data analyst in the SEO, Paid advertising space that uses machine learning and AI to advance sitecentre® as an industry-leading digital marketing agency across Australia.

Find them on their website: sitecentre®, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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