2 Psychological Appeals Smart Marketers Use to Influence Consumer Behavior

Ever wonder why certain products or ideas are most attractive than others?

Why certain brands stand the test of time and others fail before they get started?

Or why some content gets shared online more than others?

Evidence shows that it takes a specific psychological cocktail to motivate people to take action.

I’m referring to psychological appeals.
Let me explain…

Understanding How to Influence Consumer Behavior

Every business sells to people. That said, it’s important to understand what makes people tick so you can communicate with them better and more effectively.

For example, using the exact language your customers use to describe their fears and desires creates a deep connection. Framing a story a particular way or injecting imagery they’re familiar with makes you look like you “get it.”
Smart marketers don’t aim to impress, they aim to resonate.
When marketing your product or service, using psychological appeals can also help motivate people to buy or take another desired action.

Psychological appeals are triggers that highlight specific aspects of an object that a person finds interesting or attractive.

In “The Experience Effect,” Jim Joseph lists a great overview of how both rational and emotional benefits are attached to everyday products. Rational benefits appeal to what people actually need. Emotional benefits appeal to what people want, why they buy or use a particular product.
Examples of Rational (N) and Emotional (W) benefits:
Kid’s Cereal – (N) Nutrition – (W) Fun Breakfast
Fruits & Veggies – (N) Vitamins & Minerals – (W) Look & Feel Better
Cookies – (N) Satisfy Hunger – (W) Provide Comfort
Deodorant – (N) Control Odor – (W) Feel like a Man or Woman
Hair Color – (N) Cover Gray – (W) Stay Young and Sexy
Toothpaste – (N) Prevent Cavities – (W) Prevent Embarrassment
Cars – (N) Get to Work – (W) Get Noticed
Pens – (N) Sign Documents – (W) Security from Identity Theft
Pillows – (N) Support Posture – (W) Reflect Personal Style
Computers – (N) Send Correspondence – (W) Connect w/ Friends
As you can see, a rational appeal is about thinking and an emotional appeal is about feeling.

Rational Benefits

Rational appeals are all about making a logical argument based on facts. The idea is to communicate the quality and usefulness of the product or service.
It’s all about making sense and backing up claims with proof. If your customers are going to come to trust you, then you have to first and foremost know what you’re talking about. You know, be credible.

Rational benefits are usually most effective when customers need to satisfy a need or just get something done. Think of the utility of your product or service. Think about the “what” aspect of the message.
When it’s snowing out, people need to buy a pair of boots or a coat. Be logical and straight-forward.

How To Best Use Rational Appeals?

Look, because rational appeals are about the fact and logic, you’ll need data to back up your claims. Research studies by a third-party or an accredited academic university that can provide statistics.
Demonstrations are effective too. Show people exactly how it works and the results they can get.
Focus on the benefits of the product or service, remember “what” are they getting?

Emotional Benefits

If you want to create brand ambassadors and a legion of loyal customers, rational appeals won’t do the job. People need to be emotionally connected for them to stay loyal to one brand, even when competitors have better products and services.
Emotional appeals are psychological triggers that make this type of unwavering loyalty possible.

An emotional benefit is used to help motivate people to take a desired action.
For example, have you ever been watching TV and come across one those “Feed The Children” commercials?
We all have.
They usually start with something like, “For just 8 cents a day, you could feed a little girl like Ana who would otherwise goes days without eating a nutritious meal…” (cue the heart-tugging music)

All the while, the speaker has little Ana on his/her lap. The little girl appears to come from poverty and there are images of other children who look malnourished.
The somber music that plays helps to put you in a vulnerable mood, playing perfectly with the imagery on the screen.
And you’re likely to pull out your wallet and make a donation when it’s all said and done. Even if you’re fully aware of what’s going on.

These advertisements are using emotional appeals to hook people in and make them feel sympathy for these children.
The idea is NOT to appeal to logic or use facts to persuade your audience to take action. Emotional appeals are used specifically to make people feel something.

In his New York Times best-selling book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger conducted research and found that articles in the “Most E-Mailed List” section of the New York Times were articles that played on specific emotions.
His study found that high arousal emotions like awe, excitement, amusement (humor), anger, and anxiety moved people to share articles 30% more than usual.

Emotional benefits are about digging deep, peeling back the layers and appealing to the customer’s subconscious. Think in terms of design, tonality, color, etc.
Anything that evokes feelings.

How Can You Use This In Your Marketing?

Using emotional appeals and benefits effectively comes down to understanding the customers’ “why”.
What are their inner most wants and needs? Why do they want to solve the problem they’re having? You need to know the answers to these questions.
You can use a technique called “empathy mapping” to get these types of in-depth insights.

When using psychological appeals in your marketing, you want to make people think first and then make them feel.
Use data or other research findings to grab your audience’s attention and gain their trust, then a strong call to action to compel them to act now.

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