The secrets of marketing psychology

By Michael Lovas


NOTE: I wrote my first marketing piece in 1979 for the Dallas Playboy Club. Ever since then, I've focused on the psychology that connects the offer to the reader. That connection is all psychology, and it all depends on the specific words used. If done correctly, the words, images and layout are all applications of psychology. Most of the time, however, they're done wrong. This article introduces you to how to do it right.

Can the specific words you use in your marketing really make a difference? Absolutely! When you purposefully choose the right words and deliver them in just the right way, you give your marketing its best chance of success. Specific words can easily mean the difference between success and failure. We've been analyzing marketing psychology for more than 20 years, and I can tell you from experience that in the financial industry, it is almost always done incorrectly.

Psychology is the exact point where most people screw up in their marketing. Two of the biggest mistakes are mindlessly simple: 1) They mistakenly think that all they have to do is add "free" or "new" or "guaranteed" to their pitch to increase their response, and 2) They think their information alone is strong enough to inspire people to respond. Both are just knuckle-headed thinking.

Let's look at a logical way to approach your marketing psychology. First, the goal is to scientifically move people to buy from you -- again and again. You shouldn't be thinking about one sale, but many sales to many people over a long period of time. You might look at it like this: What picture do you need to place in your target market's mind that will inspire them to take action? What emotion do you need to make them feel that will inspire them to take action? If you can't answer those questions, then your marketing is probably failing. Let's fix that.

When in doubt, appeal to feelings of pleasure, fear, pain, frustration and pride -- all residents of the emotional brain.

Meet your brain

Let's look at how people make decisions. Think of your brain (or your prospect's brain) as a married couple living inside your head. Let's call them the Bickersons. You need to appeal to both Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson. If you don't do this in your marketing, you'll fail.

Let's say that Mrs. Bickerson represents the rational brain. This is technically known as the prefrontal cortex. Her job is to take in data and analyze it. The quantity of data has a direct connection to your business. She can handle up to seven bits of data, but not well, because she's easily overwhelmed. So, when you need to present rational, logical data, give as little as possible.

This is one of those situations where your own comfort level with technical information gets in your way and hurts your chance of success. Many advisors are highly detailed people with an analytical personality type. That is simply a horrible combination for marketing. Many consumers don't understand the technical, so you alienate yourself from them more with every technical term you use. The natural tendency for amateur marketers is to communicate in their own style. Considering that each personality type equates to about 25 percent of the general population, that means you're only reaching 25 percent of your total target market. In other words, when you base your marketing (and selling) on your own natural communication style, you lose 75 percent of your target market!

Let's go back to the Bickersons. Delivering lots of information for the rational brain might mean organizing it into clusters. For example, three clusters of five bits is easier for Mrs. Bickerson to hold onto than fifteen bits. Here are three traditional ways of appealing to the rational brain:
    1. Listing product features -- In a market where the competitors are selling essentially the same thing, adding a feature can create a rational reason to buy.

    2. Listing product benefits -- In a market that is not yet overloaded with competitors, the product benefits make a powerful case.

    3. Seeing is believing -- This approach often takes the form of a product demonstration or testimonials based on performance.
While Mrs. Bickerson is analyzing data, Mr. Bickerson is exploring his feelings. He represents the Emotional Brain. This is known as the limbic system, and it contains far more anatomical references than we need to include here. His job is related to sexual arousal, pain and pleasure, fear, hunger -- functions that seem to be related to grunting. The Emotional Brain is the main influence in what people think of as "gut" or "intuition." So, when you create your descriptions and offers, focus on emotions and sensations. This is why so many TV commercials are imbedded with sex or food. Here are a few ways to approach Mr. Bickerson:
    1. Safety -- The first need in our lives is safety. If you can't communicate a sense of safety, then your target market will feel uncomfortable with you. Thus, they won't buy from you. Use guarantees, promises and emotional testimonials.

    2. Food and sex -- Hooters figured this out many years ago. Sex sells. So does food. That's why nearly ever scene in the entire run of Seinfeld showed the cast members eating something.

    3. Trust - If John Wayne could endorse your product, wouldn't most men trust it? What if Michelle Obama and Laura Bush endorsed a product? Don't you think most women would trust it? Those people are symbols of trust.
The secret formula for motivation

In order to appeal to your specific target market, you have to provide the right "treats" to appease both the Bickersons. That's because they will take your information and argue over it. Your job is to figure out which one will win the argument. Is your product more appropriate for a rational appeal or an emotional one? Lead with the right appeal and then use the other one to support the decision.

In most financial or insurance marketing situations, you'll want to use an emotional appeal first, and then use logic and data to support the decision. That's a general guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Technical or complex products would most likely rely more on rational appeals. But, when in doubt, locate the target market's feelings of fear, pain, pleasure, frustration, pride....

Pam and I were interviewed on a radio show a few weeks ago. One of the questions dealt with using psychology in marketing. We explained that the easiest way to start using simple psychology in marketing is to discover the professions contained in your target market.

Each profession attracts people who tend to have the same personality type. For example, surgeons are cut from the same bolt of cloth. They are people who want to be (need to be) the king of the mountain. They want to tell other people what to do. They must be able to make snap decisions and be right. They have the "driver" personality type.

Now, knowing that, if you want to appeal to surgeons, just approach them as "drivers" and you'll be more effective. If you approached them in any other way, they will most likely filter out your message.

There are three or four different types of doctors, half a dozen different types of business people, and several different types of financial people. Each one is represented by a different personality type or a combination of personality types. If you don't have a solid understanding of personality types, you will completely miss out on this strategic psychological advantage. So, isn't it time to improve your knowledge?

Your reward

If want to improve your success at using psychology in your marketing and selling, you need the right resources. How about a free one? Contact me using the forum below and I will send you our report, "Inside the Mind of Decision Influencers!" absolutely free.

*For further information, or to contact this author, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.