5 Psychology Hacks to Make Your Content Marketing More Persuasive

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Psychology is what drives human behavior. The ways in which we interact, develop relationships, speak and listen — even how we make purchasing decisions — can all be discerned through fundamental psychological functions. The brain is the epicenter and master filter of all that we inevitably purchase, or decide against purchasing.

If you’re a marketer, you need to aim your strategy towards the precipice of this great filter. Where the master controller of the mighty purse strings lays dormant. Empathetically fight your way inside the consumer mind to better understand what makes us, as humans, tick. Why do we interact with others? Why do we develop intimate relationships with inanimate objects? Why do we love and laugh; and why do we decide to buy the 10 piece pack of gum for $1.99 at the counter, instead of the 400 piece mega pack in the back of the store for $4 bucks?

Psychology is zany. That’s what makes it interesting. Let’s discuss the psychology behind your content marketing, and how you can harness the power of human nature to boost your brand online.

1) Urgency

Within your content, it’s important to create a sense of urgency. Whether it’s through design or verbiage, a marketer can present powerful psychological cues to assist the consumer’s brain in responding.

Check out the email blast below. This was sent to me by Banana Republic, the title of the email reads, “Cardmembers: Your special offer ends today!” Right off the bat, they’re creating a sense of urgency. In fact, I clicked into this email to read the offer, whereas I normally just let this address go to my spam box (to my dismay, it was only 15 percent off, which isn’t a good enough value for me – a topic we’ll touch on later in this article). Take a look at some of the words and phrases in Banana Republic’s email: “Don’t miss”, “Exclusively”, “Ends today”.


Using the right verbiage will go a long way in creating a sense of urgency in your digital marketing. Using similar phrases as above, such as, “Act now!” “Don’t miss out!” “Limited quantity!”, will work well in building urgency within your strategy. It’s proven that urgent situations cause people to behave impulsively in response to high levels of emotion — as a marketer, you can use this to your advantage.

A general known fact in online marketing is that conversions are higher when there’s less friction on the purchase path. It’s bad when people think too long, there’s no call-to-action (CTA) immediately available or there’s a broken link. These problems can impede sales numbers. And that’s no good for anyone.

2) Scarcity

I’m sure you know of Black Friday? Scarcity states that people place a higher value on an object that is limited and a lower value on those that are abundant. The fact that there exists an item that we want but can’t have drives many consumers to make heaps of unplanned purchases every year. It creates competition, and we all know how competitive humans can get (especially when $100 flat screens are involved!).

Have you ever been bombarded by someone who wants you to tune in to their webinar? They’ll say, “Hurry, there’s only a (insert tiny number here) spots left!” Future you may not even truly care about attending the webinar, but the marketer happened to trigger that portion of your brain the right moment. Present-time you thinks that future you will be better off with clicking the “register” button. Check out Dr. Dobias’ urgent-as-hell post below. He even asks people to “de-register to allow others to come,” if you can’t make it, of course.


…Are that many people really falling for this? What a time to be a digital marketer.


In the same vein as scarcity, a countdown encourages action by creating a sense of urgency. Take a look at Amazon’s lightning deals, where they present a countdown timer, or clock. This gives the user a known amount of time to purchase the item, heightening anxiety and increasing their likelihood of acting on this limited time opportunity. Not only is this good for increasing sales, it’s a nice way to get rid of lingering SKUs and sell bundles of products.


3) Color Design Psychology

There’s possibly no better place to utilize psychological marketing than in your design.

Color psychology has long been utilized as determinant of human behavior. For example, we see red, orange, yellow and feel energy, excitement, happiness and power. When we see green, blue and purple, on the other hand, we feel loyalty, calmness, sophistication and trustworthiness.

Okay, great boilerplate. While you should adhere to that general rule of thumb, also realize that increasing conversions is often more complex than just using red or green. Using contrasting colors may be your website’s most compelling feature in the hunt for sales. ThinkSEM writer Kayla Hollatz states it simply, “The higher the contrast between elements on the page and the CTA, the more attention is directed toward the button. The more attention drawn, the better likelihood of that visitor clicking the button.”

As we can see on SEO kingpin Moz’s site, it’s mostly made up of cooler colors; blues, whites, purples, greens, what have you. But the most important element, the CTA that they want their visitor to click on is — you guessed it — it’s complementary friend, yellow! Moz’s end goal is to sell their line of SEO products. So they immediately present you with their most important step in the sales process. They’ve removed every element of sales friction from their end by making the most obvious step the first thing you see.


When it comes to logos, some companies, choose a single color for their logo, Such as Target using red. McDonald’s and countless other companies, however, use two colors which modifies consumer’s perception of the company. While Target’s red is clean, vibrant and easy-to-read from the road, McDonald’s red and yellow arches are high contrast, almost in-your-face easy-to-read from the road, and has actually been shown to stimulate hunger. As your identifying mark, making a memorable logo is important, and reinforcing the related colors in your content is even more so.


4) Reward & Be Rewarded

Another fundamental of human psychology is that we strive to make progress in our lives. Whether it’s growing up, beating a video game or running a marathon, we set short term objectives to reach long term goals. Going to college and getting a job, eating the blue ghosts, or running a 5k are all objectives of the stated longer term goals.

The psychology of the need to progress can be harnessed and applied directly to your content marketing. I’m sure you know of the ‘ol buy stuff, get more of that stuff free deal. It used to be brick-and-mortar only, where you’d carry around a wallet-sized card for weeks (or years in my case) and slowly, you’d make enough progress — aka, spend enough money — that you’d finally get your free … well, whatever it was that you were buying. I have dozens of these cards. They’re almost like snapshots of my life at the certain times I started using them. Take a look at my faded, leather-stained Mesa Pizza card. This is from my college days, interrupted at six pathetic slices. I always felt like I graduated too soon. This just proves it.


While these cards are still in heavy circulation today, they’ve also been updated for digital. You see this content tactic everywhere. Perhaps the worst offenders are mobile gaming apps, which you can download for free, progress to a certain stage in the game and then have to fork up dough just to keep playing. This situation is hilariously parodied in a South Park episode titled Freemium Isn’t Free.  The show explains comedically, “With mobile apps, we now can make games that are boring and stupid, but if you pay for incentives, you’re rewarded.”

While this may be a crude way to look at it, when done tastefully, this strategy can become a great way to incentivize and reward customers to successfully generate sales. Krispy Kreme and Starbucks for example have their reward program on point. Which makes sense, because food is one of the best industries for reward programs.


Even if you aren’t slinging donuts or pressing espressos, there are ways to work in a rewards/incentive program into your digital strategy. The trick is to find your added value. an improvement or addition to something that makes it worth more than the price. For example, offering free tech support on a new laptop would be a value-added feature. Additionally, individuals can add value to their services, such as bringing advanced legal knowledge to a legal case in which an attorney’s client doesn’t foresee the need for such abilities.

Get creative in your quest to develop the perfect value added rewards program for your business. General Plumbing Supply, for example, has developed a “Trip Reward Program”, a limited time only (urgency!) event where shoppers get 5 points every time they spend $100. Save up 1,000 points and you’re entered into a chance to win a trip to Mexico.


5) Price or Value?

Price and value are two completely different things. As Warren Buffet famously stated, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” For most people price itself isn’t the deciding factor when a potential purchase is being made. Paul Christ, author of KnowThis Marketing Basics, expands on Warren’s vague-yet-philosophical viewpoint:

“For the buyer, value of a product will change as its perceived price paid and/or perceived benefits received change. But the price paid in a transaction is not only financial, it can also involve other things that a buyer may be giving up. For example, in addition to paying money a customer may have to spend time learning to use a product, pay to have an old product removed, close down current operations while a product is installed or incur other expenses.”

As we can recognize, value can include more than just price. So while that new laundry/dryer combo machine may be for sale at a great price (for a limited time only!), is it worth it to spend an entire afternoon hauling the incredibly heavy and old machines out of your basement, up your tiny staircase and to the dump? Unless your wife is nagging you or you’ve sprung an ungodly leak, meh, you can leave it for the next people who move in.

In order to implement this idea into your online marketing strategy, you need to understand the value of what you offer. If you offer flight lessons for $400, that might seem like a lot. But, given the right situation, if the consumer can understand what an exclusive and rewarding skill they’ll be learning, the value will rise and the expense will fall by the wayside. Communicate the actual benefits and the perceived value to give the consumer an entirely clear picture of what you’re offering.

Psychological Pricing

In relation to price vs. value, price point is another psychological marketing strategy based on the theory that specific prices cause a specific reaction in the psyche. Consumer behavior dictates that a shopper perceives an “odd price” as significantly lower than what they actually are. If a gallon of gas is priced $1.99, the consumer relates that amount to the lower $1 than the closer and higher cost, $2. Consumers ignore the least significant digits rather than do the proper rounding. Even though the cents are seen and not totally ignored, they may subconsciously be partially ignored. Keith Coulter, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Graduate School of Management, Clark University suggests that this effect may be enhanced when the cents are printed smaller (for example, $1999).


Wrapping up

Psychological basics can be a huge asset in your arsenal of marketing tools. Understanding the fundamentals that drive human behavior is imperative in your quest towards content domination. What you should understand is that testing your content against psychological cues will be the only way you can understand the successes and failures of your tactics. Don’t just throw a bunch of red on your website and call it a success. Fuse the two practices to better control your marketing strategy and improve your website, whether it’s through a rewards program, better copy and design, or varying prices.

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