In an ideal world, salesmen would offer up the best products at the lowest prices and then wait for needy customers to pour in. Everyone would approach each other on equal footing and walk away satisfied. Reality, though, means that more often than not marketers are engaged in an advertising arms race, both with their competitors and the consumers who gradually adjust to their tactics. These are five surprising facts marketers have learned to exploit the human mind.
A Professional Veneer Inspires Trust
Once, appearing professional required the funding that comes with respectability, or so people believed. While there have always been entrepreneurs putting on airs of grandeur, the Internet has made it especially easy to mask amateurism behind polished Web design. Despite the increasing prevalence of professional-standard websites, the brain still recognizes quality and gives it extra weight while considering a purchase. Businesses use this to get an easy foot in the door as readers decide that an attractive page is worth reading.
Reciprocity is Hard to Ignore
Humans are hardwired to respond to acts of kindness and generosity. The earliest hunter-gatherer societies survived through shared resources and equal contribution. Today, when a gift is made, most people feel like they must reciprocate.
That compulsion to please is a key part of most marketing strategies. The simplest methods include free meals or door prizes, but there are also more insidious ways for businesses to ingratiate themselves with potential buyers, like bundling in “free” products and offering incentives to continue visiting a site.
One Decision May Bring More
Once a person makes a decision, his or her brain begins to look back and change its memories to justify the choice. In effect, the mind tells itself what it wants to hear in an attempt to minimize any regrets. That justification does not simply extend into the past; a buyer is always looking to confirm a purchase with more evidence that it was the right thing to do. This is why so many companies send follow-up emails offering related products to a prior transaction. Repeat customers are made happier by the reinforcement, while the marketer walks away with a few extra dollars.
The Subconscious is a Dummy With a Credit Card
The average American grew up inundated by advertising. Sales techniques are everywhere, on television, online, along the roads and over the airwaves. Most people believe that they can see through the average pitch, and when they stop to analyze things this is usually true.
Even the most critical observer, however, cannot control his or her subconscious. The brain is vulnerable to suggestion, whether it be through a sustained campaign or a subliminal flash within a fraction of a second. Businesses spend millions of dollars associating their brand with desirable traits because, deep down, the subconscious is gullible enough to believe them.
Personal Contact and the Power of the Crowd
Every successful salesman knows that, ultimately, customers are defined by their human nature. They want both the flattery of individual attention and the vindication of knowing that others agree with them. Social media in particular has been a major facilitator of this tactic, with its ability to both bring businesses and fans together and display customer loyalty through likes and follows. With their livelihoods on the line, it’s no surprise that marketers know more about human behavior than almost any other profession.
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Frank Donovan has worked as a market research analyst for more than two decades. He was happy to share some of his knowledge in the Market Research Analyst Guide.