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How to Use Human Psychology to Improve Your Content Marketing

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Goepps human psychology jpg


Marketers have used psychology to get customers to feel and do things for decades. Many have had great success with it.

Understanding basic psychological principles is helpful when you’re developing a website, creating a social post, filming a video, or writing a blog article.

Psychology helps determine what colors are most likely to attract attention in different situations. It also allows you to figure out how long someone is likely to stay interested in your message. It can help you select the right subject line to get someone to open your email. The more you know about how the mind works, the more likely it is that you will make smart choices when it comes to developing marketing content, materials, and experiences.

Don’t feel that using psychology to inform your content marketing decisions is some form of trickery. Instead, think of it as a way to improve the user experience and help prospects and customers get the information they need to make the right choices about your products and services.

The big challenge for marketers is being able to figure out how to leverage complex psychological concepts in their marketing. It’s why we’ve worked with our team of experts to explain five psychological principles and how you can use them to make your marketing more effective.


1. Cognitive Fluency

The amount of information the human brain can process in a short period of time is extraordinary. A University of Basel, Switzerland, study about websites reports that visitors judge a website — and whether they want to engage with it — in a tiny fraction of a second. An often referenced study from Microsoft reports that the attention span of the average person has shrunk to eight seconds.

Because of how quickly people process information, they prefer to consume it in small and simple bites. They typically avoid anything that’s complex. This tendency is what’s known as cognitive fluency.

Cognitive fluency is why emojis and memes have become so popular. They communicate a lot quickly and simply.

Five ways marketers can leverage cognitive fluency:

Explain complex products and services in the simplest way possible.

Keep social posts short and simple.

Make calls to action simple, direct, and easy to act on.

Leverage clear images and graphics instead of words to communicate things whenever possible.

Don’t include too many ideas in a single piece of content.

2. Social Proof

Think about it: Do you buy anything online based exclusively on what the retailer or business tells you about it?

If you’re like most people, you ask friends, family members, or coworkers about their experience with the product, service, and business. Or you check online ratings, reviews, and testimonials.

According to Trustpilot, almost nine out of ten consumers check ratings and reviews before making a purchase.

This phenomenon is associated with the psychological principle of social proof. It is the overwhelming tendency for people to be more likely to act when they see others have done what they’re thinking of doing. People prefer to follow in the footsteps of individuals who are similar to them.

Social proof is becoming a more important marketing concept as consumers have more access to online information, including ratings, reviews, influencers and social media recommendations.

Five ways marketers can leverage cognitive fluency:

  • Make it easy for customers to provide ratings and reviews and encourage them to do so.
  • Make real world case studies a big part of your online content.
  • Share statistics that show your organization is popular and people like doing business with it.
  • Get influencers who are respected by people in your target market to recommend your business.
  • Encourage user-generated content from consumers about why they enjoy doing business with you.

3. Perceptual Set Theory

Perceptual set theory is all about the fact that humans are creatures of habit.

If you’re on a landing page and aren’t sure why you automatically looked for a button to click, you’ve had a perceptual set theory related experience. If you expect to see a call to action button on that type of web page, you can’t help but look for one. That human tendency will make you search for it until you find what you expect to be there.

Our expectations are shaped by past experiences. We choose what we pay attention to and figure out how things work based on experience. Human beings combine current circumstances with past knowledge to decide what to do next.

Marketers like to get creative. However, perceptual set theory suggests this may not be smart. Anything that doesn’t meet peoples’ expectations may be off-putting and could turn them off. They’ll likely abandon and search out a more familiar experience.

Five ways marketers can leverage perceptual set theory:

  • Whenever possible, give customers what they expect, unless you have a very good reason not to.
  • Leverage marketing best practices when developing new materials and experiences.
  • Always take time to understand the mindsets of the people in your consumer base and how they think.
  • Make calls to action easy to find and click on.
  • Test anything you create with people in your target audience to ensure they “get it”.

4. Models of Persuasion

There are several different psychological models of persuasion. The Fogg Behavior Model may be the most valuable to marketers.

Dr. B.J. Fogg of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University is a leading specialist in behavior design. He believes motivation, ability, and a trigger must come together to get people to take action. He based his model of persuasion on this idea.

Marketing motivation is highly dependent on being able to create compelling, easy to understand messages that are relevant to people. Relevance is critical because people in your target audience must feel able to act on what you present to them. The trigger is the benefit that your product or service offers that finally gets consumers to buy, schedule an appointment, give up contact information or want to learn more.

Five ways marketers can leverage models of persuasion:

  • Always ensure marketing messages are relevant to your audience.
  • Keep what you say simple.
  • Make it a point to explain the benefits your products or services provide.
  • Include a compelling trigger and call to action.
  • Make sure everything you produce includes motivation, ability, and a trigger.

5. Color Psychology

According to a report on the COLORCOM website, people judge a new product within 90 seconds of their first experience with it AND up to 90 percent of their judgment is based on color. Color is an important consideration for marketers when designing web pages, choosing banner images, creating packaging, and more.

Color can be used to communicate things. Shades of blue should be leveraged to help build trust and loyalty and convey honesty. Red communicates energy, passion, and danger. Green expresses financial security and environmental friendliness. Yellow can be used as a warning or to express cheerfulness and optimism.

Five ways marketers can leverage color psychology:

  • Make color a primary consideration when developing marketing materials.
  • Ensure the colors you use in your marketing will bring out the messages you want.
  • Make sure you select brand colors that align with how you want consumers to feel about your business.
  • Use hot colors like red, orange, and yellow for call to action buttons to foster a sense of urgency.
  • Leverage colors to guide the eye and move consumers through online experiences.

Every business is looking for a marketing advantage these days. Leveraging the basics of psychology could give you the edge you need to beat your competition.

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