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If we were all like Spock from Star Trek, marketing would be so much easier. Everyone would make his or her purchases because it’s the logical thing to do. Unfortunately, we’re not Vulcans, which means our decision-making process is ruled by emotions and personal preferences. This is called “cognitive bias”—the tendency to go against your logic or better judgment in order to act in a certain way.
For marketers, cognitive biases are a particularly useful part of psychology. When incorporated in an ethical and respectful way, they’re a reliable means of either preventing or encouraging people to take the actions that you’d like them to take. Research shows us that marketing campaigns that appeal to people’s emotions—via a product or service’s benefits—resonate with them more than a logical appeal—via a product or service’s features. In fact, marketing campaigns with emotional content did twice as well as those with rational content (31% compared to 16%).
Here’s how to use psychology in your marketing strategy to grow your audience:

The Halo Effect

The old saying is that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but it actually isn’t. Humans have a very specific definition of beauty, and they tend to give beautiful people or beautiful things the benefit of the doubt. This is known as the “halo effect.” To put it simply, the halo effect means that if something or someone looks good, we’re automatically inclined to believe that it is good. Studies show that attractive people make more money—up to 14% more than ordinary-looking people—and they tend to get more opportunities in general.
So how does this work for marketing? You can use the halo effect in several ways:

  • Make sure that your product is showcased in an attractive way—not just useful or feature-filled, but physically beautiful so that people are more inclined to trust your offerings.
  • Create the halo effect around your brand with gorgeous marketing materials. Build a website with attractive visuals and people will be more likely to flock to your brand.
  • Put your prettiest products in the spotlight. People will naturally assume that it is the best product, so just be sure you can back that up!

The Anchoring Effect

The anchor bias is simple: it’s the tendency to rely on just one piece of information when making a decision. When it comes to marketing, the anchor effect leads us to make comparisons rather than judging a particular product on its own merits. As journalist David McRaney points out: “The Misconception: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value. The Truth: Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions.”
One example of the anchor bias at work comes from author and researcher Dan Ariely. He surveyed MIT students, asking them to choose a $59 web subscription to a publication or a $125 print and web subscription. The majority of the students (68%) chose the web subscription. In a separate survey, he then asked students to choose between a $59 web subscription, a $125 print subscription, and a $125 print and web subscription. The students fixated on the print subscription and how, for the same price, it was a lesser value than the print and web subscription. This led 84% of the students to choose the more expensive print and web subscription over the web-only subscription.
So if you want to sell a more expensive product, put it next to a similar product at a higher price or a product with less features at a similar price so that people use it as their anchor when making a purchase decision.

The Bandwagon Bias

The bandwagon effect is one of the most powerful psychological tools at your disposal.  Research shows that people are more than twice as likely to click a Facebook “like” button if they can see that a few other people have already liked the page. Social media endorsements and followings are only one way to leverage the bandwagon bias, however.

  • People are more likely to purchase a product with hundreds of four-star reviews than a product with only a couple of five-star reviews.
  • Brands with large fan bases—both online and offline—are more likely to gain new customers.
  • People are more likely to make a purchase if they have proof (testimonials, case studies, peer reviews) that other people benefit from a product or service.

It may seem like a Catch-22 at first—to get a lot of customers you must have a lot of customers—but as long as you can unite people around your brand, the larger your customer base will grow. For example, with every sale, ask the customer if they would be willing to write a review or follow your brand on social media to keep up-to-date on news or sales.

Hyperbolic Discounting

It’s no secret that our society is driven by instant gratification. People want things, and they want them now. In fact, they want those things so much that they’d be willing to give up something better later on in order to get something of lesser value immediately. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, right? Countless studies have shown that a majority of people will choose to take $1 today over $10 in a month. This behavior is called hyperbolic discounting, and if you know how to use it, it is a very valuable marketing tool.
One of the most popular—and successful—ways to use hyperbolic discounting is the “buy now, pay later” plan. This works because customers can get what they want (your product) right now, which makes them less likely to think about the consequences of that decision (paying you later).
Service providers also use hyperbolic discounting to price their monthly and yearly plans. People are much more likely to pay for a $5 monthly subscription rather than a $50 yearly subscription because even though the yearly subscription is cheaper in the long run, the monthly subscription is cheaper right now.

The Picture Superiority Effect

Viewers tend to retain 65% more information when looking at images rather than text, and online images can have some dramatic effects: photos raise the number of Twitter retweets by 35%, and 86% of buyers want to see at least some visual content from their favorite brands.
This is called the “picture superiority effect.” Adding images to your marketing materials—photos, infographics, vector images, and even simpler graphics like charts and graphs—is one of the easiest ways to boost your marketing strategy, particularly nowadays, since most of your visual content is distributed online. As you build a website, design it with the picture superiority effect in mind!
If you want to create a website that uses all of these cognitive biases to their best effect, then it all starts with a reliable web hosting service like Bluehost. With Google App integration and 24/7 support, as well as some smartly-used psychology, you can turn your website into a marketing machine!

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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