S2 Ep3 – Marketing Psychology

In this week’s show, we interview Maria Gardener @ Psycology Works and cover off a number of Psychology topics:

We spoke about how you’re a psychologist interested in marketing and any good marketer should be interested in psychology, what interests you in marketing?

  • As a psychologist I’m eternally fascinated in understanding what makes people tick and why people do what they do
  • My work as a business psychologist takes my interest in this and applies it in a work context, i.e. to find someone who is the best fit for a job, and a company – as well as how to help people be better leaders through how they think, what they do and what they say
  • It was out of that came my deeper interest in communication, influencing and persuasion
  • For me, marketing is the application of understanding what people do and why they do it for a specific purpose – to influence our behaviour towards something – usually to buy something
  • In particular, the 2003 book The Power of Persuasion: How We’re Bought and Sold by Robert Levine really caught my attention
  • It’s a fascination study – a personal journey by Robert Levine – looking at all the ways we are persuaded to do things. He literally learnt how to be a car sales man, door to door Tupperware seller, etc, as well as looking at how Hare Krishna’s and charities encourage donations, and how and why people get drawn into cults
  • As well as using my interest in marketing as part of my day to day business development responsibilities, I also took on organising one of my industry’s biggest conferences in 2013 – which then led to spending a subsequent two years as their Head of Communications – responsible for all comms and marketing (website, emails, events promotion, social media, branding, etc)

How can learning more about psychology help your marketing efforts?

  • In my personal opinion a basic knowledge of psychology is essential for any marketer. A deep understanding of psychology can give you a real competitive edge
  • Ultimately if we know what makes people tick, understand the basics of how the brain works – we can then look to tap into those insights as part of our marketing efforts
  • The brain is set up to be as cognitively efficient as possible, over time it develops certain rules, short cuts or associations
  • It uses these short cuts to process the vast amount of data that comes in via our senses at any one time – to free up our brain power to focus on the tasks that we find more interesting or demanding
    • i.e. if we see the colour red when we are driving, we know without really thinking about it that it means ‘stop’ or ‘danger’
    • We see someone in a white coat and assume they must be a doctor of some kind
    • Its why people are more likely to buy ground meat that’s labelled as 75 percent lean than meat that’s labelled 25 percent fat
  • Great marketers applies an understanding of psychology and crafts their marketing efforts around it – using what they know about their target audience (beyond the demographic stuff) to influence them towards the service or product that is being sold
  • I remember seeing an advert for a dishwasher about 10-15 years ago which had Kelly Brook dressed up in a white lab coat – and for me this was a really great example of applying an understanding these mental shortcuts to help sell a product
    • i.e. power of ‘celebrity’ plus ‘authority’ via the white lab coat to sell a product – logically it shouldn’t work but it does!

You’ve started working with HR departments to help their staff better understand themselves in the working environment, what have been the businesses goals, why do they undergo these programs?

  • what have been some of your key observations from this?
  • My passion and interest is in enabling people to realise their potential and be as effective as possible, which in turn improves productivity and engagement, which in turn enables the business to be more successful and profitable
  • Taking a step back from the bottom line, I often find myself working with organisations going through a period of change, and for whatever reason the goal posts have changed slightly for those in leadership positions
  • My job therefore is to take those leaders on a developmental journey that will give them the tools, skills and mindset they will need to be successful – as a leader of their team, as well as a leader of the business that has strategic objectives to meet
  • Each programme is specific to the client, but often we will explore how to use flexible leadership styles, enhanced communication techniques, body language, emotional intelligence, feedback skills, how to build and communicate an engaging vision, etc
  • Ultimately as a leader you deliver through your people – and that means knowing how to communicate, influence – and at times persuade your team, colleagues, peers and even your boss!
  • What has also been interesting over the last few years is how I’ve seen a growing interest in people wanting to develop their personal brand and learn how to market themselves
  • I’ve worked with recently graduated students through to senior executives facing restructuring and/or mergers wanting to know how to ‘tell their story’ and differentiate themselves from the competition
  • I’m also currently working with a number of recruitment firms and individual recruiters wanting to know about how to develop their personal brand as a tool for candidate attraction and business development
  • In my industry we’ve been talking about a ‘war on talent’ for years. Basically, good people are hard to find – they are always in limited supply – so to attract them and keep them companies have got to have a strong employer brand. They have to know how to market themselves to prospective employees, and social media has become a real facilitator of this

Are there any important psychology studies you would recommend marketers read up on and why?

  • There are lots of fascinating studies out there, but if I was to recommend a few good books that summarises some of this research it would be:
  • The Robert Levine book that I mentioned earlier – that is an informative but fun read
  • However, for the good stuff then absolutely Persuasion: The Psychology of Persuasion by Prof. Robert Cialdini. It’s a really thorough study of about 35 years’ worth of research on persuasion and influencing, which culminated in him identifying 6 key principles:
    • Reciprocity – people repay in kind
    • Scarcity – people want more of what they can have less of
    • Authority – people defer to ‘experts’
    • Consistency – People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.
    • Liking – People prefer to say yes to those that they like.
    • Concensus (social proof) – Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own
  • Its not a ‘light’ read but it is probably the definitive text out there on influencing and persuasion
  • The chances are marketers are probably applying some if not all of these principles, but they may not know why they use them – what the science is behind the tools and techniques they use

Other books would be:

  • Yes!: 60 secrets from the science of persuasion by Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini – it’s the ‘light’ version of Cialdini’s original book
  • Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow is another classic
  • Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai is another great read – specifically looking at the application of influencing and persuasion in an online context. I like it because its accessible but also firmly grounded in the science
  • One I haven’t read, but is on my reading list this year is Pre-suasion from Cialdini – his follow up book to Persuasion – rather than looking at how to influence others it explores how to make people ready to be influenced
  • Finally, it might not be an obvious one for marketers, but in an age where personal brand and the power of story telling is becoming more and more important as part of the sales process, then I would absolutely recommend Simon Sinek, Start with Why – even if its just to watch the TedTalk

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Enjoy the episode!


5 years ago

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