It’s all in Your Head: the Psychology of Consumer Behavior

When it comes to selling a product, regardless of the sort, it would seem logical for a company to focus its pitch around one major question: What does the consumer want? Advertising, marketing, and branding techniques are all about promoting products by highlighting their best features, right?

Well, actually– Wrong.

It’s not about what you want

While the ultimate goal of any company is to introduce a product to the market that is beneficial to consumers in some way, when it comes to promotion, the issue is far less explicit, and much more psychologically rooted.

It’s not at all about what the consumer knows he wants. In fact, the key to marketing success is to appeal to what the consumer doesn’t consciously realize he or she is actually looking for.

A new online study by the University of Houston has shown that the power of association is far more effective in product promotion than persuasion. All alliteration aside, this finding has some serious implications regarding marketing strategies. This particular study focused on how food manufacturers manipulate the power of association; how companies form data networks in consumers’ minds by linking their products with words such as “healthy” and “organic”. Such terms are called “buzzwords,” nodes which become correlated with a network of positive ideas in the consumers’ subconscious mind. Quite evidently, according to extensive studies, such techniques are extremely effective.

Why is my ice cream container red?

Rather than promoting an actual, physical product, any given successful advertising campaign must focus on a more abstract, rather psychological level. To the consumer, goods and services are much less important than what they represent. The feelings. The emotions. The associations.

Beyond labels and “buzzwords”, there is great emphasis on the packaging of products, which has proven to be very influential in gross turnover. In fact, many branding and packaging companies consider visual cues to be key components in association formation. Health foods, for example, are typically packaged in green, and other earthy colors; chilled foods, in various shades of blue. Ever wonder why you’ve never seen a container of ice-cream colored fire-truck red?

Okay. So clearly the psychology behind packaging and labeling is a big deal. It is evident that marketing strategies must be approached from a psychological perspective. But what are the broader implications here? Does the scope of “packaging” stretch beyond plastic wrappers?

Blogs as “Digital Packages”

It would seem so. Consider websites as digital packages: the receptivity of their contents are largely dependant upon the mode of delivery. For this reason, many companies are looking to promote their products on various popular blogs whose followers match their target consumer audience. Note: such posts are not featured as sponsored content, but rather, written about by the blogger him or herself, in a manner that is consistent with the blogger’s own unique style and voice.

Content-rich material has proven to be much more effective in promoting products than traditional advertising. Why? Consumers — people — want to feel that they have choice; When it comes to advertising, it’s less important that the product offers what the consumer wants, and more important that the consumer had choice in picking it. When people subscribe to certain blogs, they do so because they find its contents interesting and appealing.

In a way, it is a representation of themselves.

For this reason, when a consumer enters a blog he or she follows, and sees that a blogger has mentioned a certain product, he or she is much more inclined to be interested in it. An implicit association  between the blog and the featured content is formed. This sort of figurative packaging is thus far more attractive to the consumer than if, say, the same product were featured on the company website, or on a blaring ad. What more, a blog post lives endlessly on the web.

When it comes to branding, there exists a hierarchy of priorities.

The message itself may be crucial– but the carrier of that message is key.

Written by: Eti Nachum, Co-founder at BlogsRelease