6 brand lessons behavioural science can teach marketers

6 brand lessons behavioural science can teach marketers

Marketing is a precise science that marries creativity and originality with data to drive sales and leads. However, insights aren’t the only piece of the marketing puzzle – psychology is a key consideration behind countless campaigns new and old.

While our tastes and preferences in everything from food to clothing are subjective, the way we think is more objective. Sure, you may like jumpers while your colleague prefers shirts. However, the way you both decide where to buy your favourite clothes is similar.

To drive success in a digital space saturated with tons of content, many leading brands pay close attention to psychology to increase the success of their marketing efforts. With a greater understanding of how we think, businesses can work to attract customers more effectively. 

While dozens of behavioural science terms can apply to marketing, here we delve into six key examples and discuss what lessons you can learn to benefit your brand and shape future strategies.

1. Loss aversion

What is it?

The thought of losing something weighs more on our minds than the proposition of gaining something. As a result, most of us will make a decision to avert losses any way we can.

Although this may seem a rational way of thinking, especially for riskier choices, the extent of this bias is visible in even the most mundane decisions. As an example, coupons that use wording such as ‘save £5’ are more appealing than those framed as ‘gaining £5’, despite the meaning being identical.

What lesson can I learn?

The main takeaway from the loss aversion bias is to carefully consider how you frame your promotions. Although ‘save’ and ‘gain’ can have the same fundamental value for an offer, our brain weighs one option as more appealing than the other.

Beyond coupons, this loss-oriented mindset can be ingrained within your website in the form of a checkout countdown, for example. When the time limit expires, the customer would ‘lose’ their reserved item, enticing people to make their purchases faster and more consistently. 

The theory

The prospect of losing something is hardwired into how we think. Even the thought of loss triggers a visceral reaction many of us can’t ignore, coaxing us into clicking, buying and sharing. Research suggests that this occurs because areas of the brain associated with ‘value’ are often suppressed when facing potential losses.

For this reason, it’s common to see phrases such as ‘don’t miss out’ and ‘only 3 left in stock’ in adverts and banners that exploit this bias both online and in-store.

2. Status quo bias

What is it?

It’s no secret that many of us find change daunting, risky and unsafe. That’s why we often find the process of starting a new job or moving house a stressful endeavour. However, the status quo bias doesn’t dominate every decision we make – people progress their careers, develop their skills and move to new places all the time. 

As a result, this bias is most often present in the smaller inconsequential decisions we make. From the food we order to the brands we buy from, familiarity is subconsciously at the heart of many of our choices.

What lesson can I learn?

While this bias can make customer onboarding relatively difficult, it will help reduce the effort needed to inspire existing consumers to make another purchase.  

With this in mind, it’s important to strike a healthy balance in your budget between onboarding new prospects and attracting existing customers. The last thing you want to do is commit to one group over the other and stifle either element of your strategy

The theory

There are several factors that make the prospect of change unappealing to people. The first of which is loss aversion bias. To avoid potential losses, many often think they are better off in their current scenario – as the old saying goes, better the devil you know than the one you don’t. 

Another element of the status quo bias is the sunk cost fallacy. This theory suggests that our initial commitment to something means we view hurdles in the way of our chosen goal as inconsequential. In other words, people favour their current situation as they have already invested considerable time and effort, and abandoning it now would mean that energy was wasted.

This is often why people are reluctant to change their car insurance providers or are committed to certain brands, even when faced with objectively better alternatives.

3. Bizarreness effect

What is it?

The bizarreness effect is a simple premise. The more odd and unusual something is, the more memorable it can be. 

While there is no clear-cut metric from which to measure an adverts’ peculiarity, Old Spice’s left-field approach is an example of an unusual and striking modern-day campaign that subverted expectations with its unique humorous tone and radical departure from old branding. 

What lesson can I learn?

The main takeaway from the bizarreness effect is just how effective this method can be at helping your collateral stand out. Instead of adopting the approach that others would typically use, an unconventional twist may help you stand out in a world where the average person is exposed to several thousand adverts every day.

Although it’s hard to truly quantify how memorable the unusual ‘Gorilla’ Dairy Milk advert is, we bet the advert’s peculiar nature and departure from expectation cemented it in the minds of many.

The theory

Our collective ability to recall odd, unusual and bizarre things is rooted in human curiosity and our fundamental interest in the novel or strange. While many don’t remember specifics about their regular daily commute, it’s common for people to be able to cast their minds back to a bizarre memory from years ago. 

This is because these peculiar events and items are, by their nature, rare. When we see something strange and unique, it often has a greater initial impact, allowing us the ability to better recall that information days, months and even years after first seeing it. 

4. Authority bias

What is it?

Although the internet has made the process of purchasing goods more accessible and convenient, it has also presented consumers with limitless choices. With so many options, it’s not uncommon for customers to find themselves unable to decide what and where to buy.

To break this cycle, prospects often rely on the word of an authority to guide their decision. The words from leaders can hold a great deal of weight in our minds as we are taught to listen to authority from birth. 

What lesson can I learn?

Brands, such as Beats by Dre, leverage the popularity of celebrities to drive massive growth. Although it’s hard to determine how much of the company’s success can be attributed to the authority bias, it’s likely to have played a role in the organisation’s appeal and value.    

Of course, celebrity endorsements are out of reach for many organisations. Instead, consider enrolling the aid of influencers to give your brand extra kudos in the eyes of customers.

It may also be worth showcasing merits and accreditations in your marketing materials to demonstrate your expertise as a brand and your reputation as an authority in your field.

The theory

We often follow the letter of authority closely as we are taught from birth to respect and listen to role models. As a result, the words that experts and authority figures speak carry more weight, often allowing these individuals the ability to inspire action and emotions those without the status rarely can.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder why influencer marketing is so popular and thought leadership status is so coveted.

5. Herd behaviour

What is it?

Although individuality is something we pride ourselves on, we’re also genetically compelled to ‘follow the herd’. While many of us will walk different paths in life, we also collectively conform to trends in fashion, food and technology to varying degrees.

Many brands leverage herd behaviour as a way of encouraging certain actions by showing people that ‘others like them’ are doing it too. This is why a growing number of successful online retailers feature a ‘people like you also bought’ section on their websites.  

What lesson can I learn?

One way to leverage herd behaviour in your campaigns is by featuring customer reviews prominently in your campaign. By sharing both the star rating and the volume of reviews, it can make your brand come across as more trustworthy and desirable. 

Beyond that, by showcasing how many people purchased something on your website, you can help give further credence to your offering.

The theory

Our compulsion to ‘fit in’ and follow trends is likely rooted in our ancestors’ age-old survival instinct. In order to live at a time when humans were not at the top of the food chain, it often meant banding together and following the crowd. Strength in numbers, as the old saying goes.  

Although modern society is significantly less dangerous today, herd behaviour still subconsciously drives some of our choices, such as where we shop and what we buy.  

6. IKEA effect

What is it?

The so-called IKEA effect is an observation that describes the heightened sense of value and connection that customers feel to a product that they’ve built themselves.

Although you may initially think that DIY would serve as an inconvenience for customers, getting people hands-on to build their own products can associate the rewarding feeling of accomplishment with your brand and goods.  

What lesson can I learn?

Although the IKEA effect is a potent strategy for products, it can also be adapted to benefit your digital marketing strategy.

From fan art to follower reactions, sharing user-generated content (UGC) on your channels allows supporters to author content that contributes to the story of a company they admire, strengthening the bond between you and your consumers.

Netflix is one company that leverages UGC to form a bond with its community and shape itself as a personable and friendly brand. Instead of coming across as a corporate entity, the streaming giant is more akin to a friend that recommends movies. 

The theory

We assign a greater value to products that we have built ourselves because these DIY items provide us with a way of demonstrating our competency. A desire to be self-sufficient is baked within our DNA and is a deep psychological need that the IKEA effect fulfils.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising to see why organisations are increasingly relying on customers to build their own goods and contribute to their favourite brands’ stories with homebrew fan art and reactions.

Examples of behavioural science used by brands

Sensodyne’s dentist testimonials

Sensodyne, a popular toothpaste brand, is an example of one company that effectively uses authority bias throughout its marketing materials to build trust and inspire sales.

To do this, many of Sensodyne’s adverts focus on video testimonials from real doctors and dentists that speak about the importance of healthy teeth and gums, and how Sensodyne toothpaste can help achieve this. Because we are naturally inclined to listen to authority, the campaigns’ message carries a greater weight in our minds.

Zara’s fashion strategy

Behavioural science isn’t limited to use in just marketing materials, it can also be leveraged with great effect across all facets of a business. Zara, a popular online and in-store fashion retailer, employs loss-aversion tactics in their manufacturing process to drive up sales of their garments.

To do this, the fashion brand creates hundreds of different designs but makes them in relatively small quantities. This means new designs have an air of exclusivity about them, encouraging customers to purchase goods upon their visit or risk them being out of stock down the line.

Amazon’s trending products

Lastly, online retail giant, Amazon, proves how effective herd behaviour can be when implemented cleverly throughout a website. As well as prominently displaying the rating and amount of reviews a product has, the site also features a ‘people like you also bought’ section below all products. 

Both of these functions take advantage of herd behaviour as they readily display what people thought about certain products, and what others bought. This, in turn, taps into our compulsion to ‘follow the herd’, which encourages people to make purchases.

Leveraging the benefits of behavioural science in marketing

From carefully phrased wording that taps into our loss aversion bias, to influencer marketing that appeals to our desire for authority, there are a variety of behavioural approaches we’ve discussed that can help send your campaigns soaring without additional cost.    

However, for many marketing teams, knowing is only the first step. The real challenge can often come when trying to weave new strategies into the existing marketing workflow without disrupting output.

Faced with an impossible situation, does your team opt to put the new strategies discussed on the backburner and continue focusing on output. Or, do you choose to let content take a backseat while you implement new learnings?

The answer? Neither. To expedite the construction and organisation of assets and give your team the time to plan ahead, BAM by Papirfly™ is an all-in-one platform that can:

If you’d like to see more ways our smart all-in-one platform can give your team the tools to expedite content creation and revolutionise your marketing approach, get in touch today or book a demo online.