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14 Creative Ways To Attract Customers Using Consumer Psychology

If you haven't yet, be sure to read our post An Introduction to Consumer Psychology and The Factors Influencing Consumer Buying Behavior. It's an introduction to consumer psychology and the importance of studying consumer behavior and the impact it has on your brand.

In this post, I'm going to cover 14 principles of consumer psychology, and how you can use them to get more customers.

What are the principles of consumer psychology?

1. Reciprocity

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when someone does something nice for you out of the blue? When you do something for someone, they feel more inclined to return the favor. It doesn't even need to be a large gift. Restaurants giving you a mint when they deliver your bill is reciprocity in action. A simple after dinner mint doesn't seem like it would influence a tip that much, but in fact, according to Dr. Robert Cialdin of Influence at Work, if a server delivers your bill with a single mint it's been shown to increase their tip by 3%, delivering two mints showed tips increased by 14%. And—hold onto your hats—if the server delivers the mints in a way that makes the customers feel unique and special ("Here's an extra little mint for you guys for being so great tonight. 😉"), the tips increased by a staggering 23%.

How to apply the principle of framing in your business

Tuck a handwritten thank-you note into their order, add a fun sticker to their package, include an exclusive discount code for their next purchase, or even a small sample of your best seller. These little extras will make your customers feel special and appreciated, like they're part of an exclusive club. If you have a physical storefront or a booth at a market, don't underestimate the power of a warm greeting. Taking a moment to acknowledge and welcome every customer who walks through your doors can make a big impact in reciprocity. Keep the tokens small and simple it feels like a pleasant surprise for your customers, not a guilt trip.

How the principle of reciprocity impacts your brand

Making reciprocity a core part of your brand strategy goes far beyond just generating sales – you're building relationships. Customers who feel appreciated and valued are more likely to return and spend more and recommend you to others. But keep in mind, reciprocity only works if it's genuine. If your attempts at generosity feel fake or manipulative, it can backfire and leave a bad taste in the mouths of your customers. Make sure your acts of kindness come from a place of authenticity and a true desire to make your customers happy.

2. Scarcity and FOMO

If there's one thing humans don't like it's feeling like they're missing out on something. People are hardwired to want what we can't have. We hate feeling left out or like we're missing out on something awesome. Smart marketers know the power of a flash sale or limited edition product. There's not much that will make us hit "purchase" faster than when we get the sense that we'll miss out if we don't buy now.

How to apply the principle of scarcity and FOMO in your business

To tap into the power of scarcity and FOMO in your business, you can try creating time-sensitive offers that make your customers feel like they need to act fast. Things like flash sales, secret sales or limited edition products that your customers can't get anywhere else all play into the principle of scarcity. You can also emphasize the limited nature of your offerings by highlighting low stock levels or showcasing how quickly your products are selling out. It's like a countdown clock that's ticking away, urging your customers to make a move before it's too late. And don't forget the power of social proof! When your customers see that other people are raving about your products or that there's a ton of buzz around your brand on social media, they'll feel even more compelled to join in on the action.

How the principle of scarcity and FOMO affects your brand

While scarcity and FOMO can be incredibly effective at boosting sales and creating a sense of excitement around your brand, it's important to use these tactics wisely. When done right, your customers will feel like they've scored something truly special and will develop a stronger attachment to your brand. But if you overdo it with the scarcity tactics, it can backfire. If your customers feel like they're constantly being bombarded with limited-time offers or that everything is always "almost sold out," they may start to feel anxious, frustrated, or even start to question the authenticity of your brand and lose trust in your messaging. Make sure your offers are genuinely limited and exclusive, and don't overdo it to the point where your customers feel like they're being played.

3. Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is similar to the , but different from scarcity in that instead of focusing on missing out on something, it focuses on keeping what you already have.

First introduced by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tverskyin the late 1970's, this concept suggests that people feel the pain of loss more intensely than the pleasure of gain, leading them to make decisions that minimize potential losses. In other words, people are more likely to make decisions based on the fear of losing something they already have, rather than the potential benefits of gaining something new.

For example, StitchFix is relying on the principle of loss aversion in their business model. They send you a box of clothes to try on knowing that you're not going to want to send the items back once they're already in your hands. They know it's not only easier, but plays into human psychology to simply keep the clothes once you have them. They even go one step further to make the purchase simpler by offering automatic subscriptions and keeping your credit card on file so you don't even have to struggle with the mental block of pulling out your credit card.

How to apply the principle of loss aversion in your business

Businesses can leverage this principle by framing their products or offer in a way that emphasizes the potential losses customers might face by not purchasing. Instead of focusing on the shiny new benefits they'll gain, highlight what they stand to lose if they don't take action. For example, a skincare brand might say something like, "hold onto your dewy glow" instead of "See results in just a few weeks."

The loss aversion principle can also be put into effect by helping your customers imagine what it's like to own your product, like we in models like StitchFix or Amazon's try-before-you-buy. When customers can physically hold and use your products in their own homes, they start to feel a sense of ownership. And once they've experienced that ownership, they're much more reluctant to let it go.

How the principle of loss aversion affects your brand

While loss aversion can be a powerful tool for driving sales and conversions, it's important to use it carefully and thoughtfully. The key is to strike a balance between highlighting potential losses and emphasizing the positive benefits of your products. If you're too heavy-handed or manipulative with your messaging, it can backfire and leave your customers feeling anxious or resentful. When done right, loss aversion can be a highly effective way to increase conversions while still leaving your customers feeling supported and valued. It's all about framing your messaging in a way that resonates with your audience and aligns with your brand's overall tone and voice.

4. Rewards

Who doesn't love a good reward? There's something undeniably thrilling about being recognized and celebrated for your actions. In the world of consumer psychology, rewards are like the secret sauce that keeps people coming back for more. People love to be rewarded, and are naturally drawn to activities that offer positive outcomes or incentives. Whether it's earning loyalty points for purchases, receiving discounts, or obtaining freebies, rewards serve as powerful motivators that influence consumer decisions.

How to apply the principle of rewards in your business

By implementing membership programs with rewards points, or offering incentives to make purchases, businesses can foster customer loyalty, and ultimately drive sales and engagement. Rewards become an even more powerful purchase driver if they're gamified. For example, a retailer can offer a program that has different tiers for customers who spend $100, $250, or $500 per quarter. The tiers would offer increasingly valuable benefits for the customer and the customer would be more motivated to keep up their spending habits to maintain their tier (which also ties back to loss aversion.) You can also drive referrals, reviews, or social media by offering a bonus reward or incentive.

How the principle of rewards affects your brand

There aren't many downsides to utilizing this principle in your brand. By offering rewards, you can foster a sense of loyalty and appreciation among your customers, leading to increased retention and lifetime value. Customers who feel valued and rewarded are more likely to continue engaging with your brand and promoting it to others. However you'll want to be sure to find the balance between generosity and profitability, all while keeping the program straightforward and easy to understand. Complex or lackluster rewards can lead to frustration for your customers and cause disengagement.

5. Color Theory

Color theory is the idea that different colors carry different psychological associations. Colors are like the secret language that brands use to communicate with their customers. Each color carries its own unique personality and emotions, and when used strategically, they can influence everything from how we feel to what we buy.

For example, luxury brands often use sleek black and rich gold because it lends an air of sophistication and elegance. Kid's brands often a vibrant rainbow of colors that matches the joy and energy of a child, while baby brands often utilize pastel colors in their branding to match the sweet softness of a newborn.

However, color theory is just that—a theory. The meanings and associations we assign to colors can vary wildly depending on our cultural background and personal experiences. What might feel lucky and prosperous to one person could feel dangerous or alarming to another. Emotions cannot be widely assigned to any one single color. For example, in western cultures the color red might be associated with danger or emergency. But in eastern cultures it's much more positive. In India, red is symbolic of purity, and in China it symbolizes luck. In film and theater, the color blue can often symbolize death, but in business it's associated with trust and authority.

This is why it's so important for brands to do their homework and really understand the cultural nuances and context behind the colors they choose and how they will be perceived by the intended audience. It's so important to know your customers inside and out, and select colors that will resonate with them on a deep, emotional level.

How to apply the principle of color theory in your business

You can apply the principle of color theory to your business in various ways. Consider using colors in your brand and packaging that align with the specific mood or feeling you want to evoke. For example, a luxurious skincare line might opt for rich, jewel-toned hues, while a natural, eco-friendly brand might gravitate towards earthy greens and browns. If you offer products geared towards different genders, use color theory to create clear visual cues for your customers. Classic blues and greens can signal masculinity, while soft pinks and purples are often associated with femininity. Color theory is also seen in sales design. When designing sales signage or promotional materials, use colors that grab attention and create a sense of urgency. Bold red and yellow combinations are classic choices for clearance sales, while black and white can create a sleek, modern vibe for more upscale promotions.

How the principle of color theory affects your brand

When it comes to branding, color is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. The colors you choose will become an integral part of your brand identity, influencing everything from your logo to your website to your packaging. You want your colors to tell a consistent story and create a cohesive visual experience across all touchpoints. That means doing your research, testing different color combinations, and getting feedback from your customers. You might find that certain colors resonate more strongly with your audience than others, or that certain combinations feel more authentic to your brand. However, don't let the idea of color theory cause you to feel boxed in. Don't be afraid to think outside the box and experiment with unexpected color combinations. Brand colors should be selected to align with your brand's values and personality and create visual harmony and balance. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to stay true to your brand's core essence while also creating a visually stunning and emotionally engaging experience for your customers.

6. Social Proof

Social proof is like the ultimate stamp of approval. Social proof can come in the form of customer testimonials, reviews, or even shoutouts from notable media or influencers. Basically, any time someone unrelated to your business says something about your business, that's social proof—evidence to other customers about what your business can provide. Here at Happyland Creative®, we often recommend that our clients collect various kinds of social proof—everything from honest reviews, to quotes from their best customers—and scatter it throughout your website. The most valuable social proof comes in the form of uninfluenced opinion. People are going to be more likely to trust a review when it feels authentic and free from influence from the brand.

How to apply the principle of social proof in your business

We often recommend to client to collect social proof in various forms and sprinkle them throughout your website. For example, on your homepage you might choose to highlight a couple of quotes as well as any notable media outlets where your products have been features. Your product pages are a good place to collect customer reviews. And it's ok if all of those reviews are not five-star. In fact, it adds to the credibility and authenticity of your reviews if there are some lower ones. In the case of reviews, it's best to let the customers speak for themselves and keep the amount of moderating to a minimum.

How the principle of social proof affects your brand

When it comes to social proof, authenticity is key. Genuine, unfiltered opinions from real customers can be a powerful tool for building trust and credibility with your audience. It's like having an army of brand ambassadors out there spreading the good word about your business. Honest social proof will only impact your brand in positive ways. Even if you're receiving a lot of negative reviews or feedback, that's an indicator that there's a problem that needs to be addressed, and it gives you the chance to make changes that will positively impact your business in the long run. The only negative impact can come if you're utilizing disingenuous methods to generate social proof. Keep in mind that fake or misleading testimonials are not only against FTC regulations but can break trust with your customers and damage your brand's reputation. Customers are savvy, and they can smell a phony testimonial from a mile away.

7. Paradox of Choice

Have you ever heard of "analysis paralysis?" It's that feeling you get when there are too many choices and you shut down from overwhelm. That's the paradox of choice. In consumer psychology, the paradox of choice is a fascinating phenomenon. It suggests that having too many options can actually lead to decision fatigue and overall dissatisfaction. Many business owners make the mistake of wanting to offer every single possibility to their customer under the guise that it's customer service. But it might actually be having the opposite effect. When there are too many choices to pick from your customers yes may just glaze over and leave them feeling stressed, anxious, and ultimately less happy with whatever they end up picking, if they end up picking anything at all.

How to apply the principle of social proof in your business

It may seem counter-intuitive but simplifying the decision process, editing down options and providing customers with a curated selection of options will actually guide your customer towards the checkout and boost your sales. Instead of overwhelming your customers with endless options, take the time to carefully select the best of the best. Create thoughtful, well-edited collections that showcase your unique offerings. Simplify the decision-making process by organizing your products into clear categories and providing helpful filters and search tools. Make it easy for your customers to find exactly what they're looking for without having to wade through a sea of irrelevant options. You can also offer personalized recommendations based on your customers' past purchases, browsing history, or preferences. They'll love feeling like they have a shopping buddy who knows their taste and can steer them towards the perfect choice without much brain power on their end.

How the principle of social proof affects your brand

When you simplify the decision-making process for your customers, you're not just making their lives easier – you're also elevating your brand in their minds. A well-curated selection of products communicates thoughtfulness, expertise, and a deep understanding of your customers' needs and desires. But be careful not to take the simplification too far! While it's important to avoid overwhelming your customers with too many choices, you also don't want to limit their options so much that they feel like they don't have any control over their purchasing decisions. Strike a balance between curation and variety, and you'll hit the sweet spot of customer satisfaction.

8. Anchoring

Have you ever browsed a selection, maybe it was a fancy restaurant menu, or maybe it was the "New Arrivals" collection at your favorite store. The price on first item you see makes your jaw drop and your eyes pop out of your head. You start to sweat a little and wonder how you can discreetly slip away, unnoticed. But then your eyes land on the next price and it's a bit lower than the previous one. Your shoulders relax a bit and you think, "Oh ok, I can do that." — Even if it's more than you would normally spend.

That's anchoring.

Anchoring suggests people rely heavily on the first piece of information they receive—the "anchor"— when making decisions. This initial reference point influences subsequent decisions, even if it is irrelevant or arbitrary. You'll see anchoring a lot when it comes to pricing. By strategically setting initial price points, highlighting specific features, or framing product comparisons, businesses can anchor consumers' expectations and steer them towards a decision.

How to apply the principle of anchoring in your business

Use strategic pricing techniques, like displaying your most expensive products or services first. This can make your other offerings seem more affordable by comparison, even if they're still pricier than your competitors. Highlight the value or savings of your offerings by comparing them to industry benchmarks or your competitors' prices. This can help anchor your customers' expectations and make them feel like they're getting a great deal. Provide context for your prices by emphasizing the unique features or benefits that justify the cost. This can help anchor your customers' perceptions of value and make them more willing to invest in your products or services.

How the principle of anchoring affects your brand

Anchoring can be easily perceived by the customer if it's not done with care and consideration, which may leave your customer with a bad taste about your business. Be careful when anchoring that there truly is a difference in the product for the price. Make sure that any anchoring techniques you use are grounded in reality and backed up by genuine value.

9. The Decoy Effect

The decoy effect occurs when consumers change their preference between two options when presented with a third, less appealing option. This third option, known as the decoy, is strategically designed to make one of the other options more attractive in comparison. For example, imagine you're at a movie theater concession stand. There are 3 sizes of popcorn: a small for $5, a medium for $7, and a large for $8. Seeing that the price difference between the large and medium (the decoy) is only $1 might just be enough to convince you to buy the large, which you may not have done if you had been presented with only the small and the large. The presence of the decoy makes it feel like you're getting more bang for your buck. Understanding the decoy effect allows businesses to design pricing structures and product offerings that maximize sales and profitability.

How to apply the decoy effect in your business

You can use bundles and quantity options to create decoy offerings in your business. For example, offer a small, medium, and large version of your product, with the medium size serving as the decoy that makes the large seem like a better deal. Experiment with add-ons, upsells, and cross-sells to create decoy options. For example, offer a base product, a slightly upgraded version (the decoy), and a premium version, to nudge customers towards the premium option. You can also use language like "best value" or "most popular" to draw attention to the option you want customers to choose.

How the decoy effect affects your brand

As with any principle in psychology, people don't want to feel manipulated, but at the same time they do want to feel supported. Make sure that any decoy options you offer are still providing genuine value to your customers. Don't use decoys that are so unappealing that they feel like a waste of money or an insult to your customers' intelligence. Instead, focus on creating decoy options that help your customers make informed decisions and feel good about their purchases. Use the decoy effect to highlight the value and benefits of your target offerings, rather than just trying to trick people into spending more money.

10. Priming

Priming is a psychological phenomenon where exposure to one idea influences a person's response to a subsequent idea. In the world of consumer psychology, priming is all about exposing people to certain stimuli—like colors, words, or images—that can shape their perceptions and preferences.

For example, you go to see the the newest blockbuster at your favorite movie theater, but decide to skip the snacks this time. Now, you're sitting in your seat, the lights dim and screen begins to glow. On it, is a picture of a tall glass—ice drops into the glass and you hear it clink. Suddenly you hear the unmistakable *pop! fizzzzz* of a soda can being opened. Rich, dark, bubbly, Coca Cola starts to pour into the glass on the screen, over the cold ice.

You are suddenly craving a Coke and can't make it throughout the movie without a giant Coke and salty popcorn.

You've been primed.

By understanding the power of priming, businesses can strategically design marketing campaigns and brand experiences to shape consumer perceptions and influence their purchasing decisions.

How to apply the principle of priming in your business

Consistency is the pillar to this principle. Use consistent visual elements, such as colors and imagery, across your marketing materials to prime your audience to associate those elements with your brand. Leverage language that evokes the desired emotions or attributes you want consumers to associate with your products or services. The key is to create a cohesive brand experience that immerses your audience in the world of your brand. Every touchpoint, from your website to your social media posts to your packaging, should work together to reinforce those positive associations so your customers are ready to buy from you when you ask them to.

How the principle of priming affects your brand

By consistently reinforcing positive associations, you'll create a strong, memorable brand image that sticks in people's minds like glue. They'll be more likely to recognize your brand, remember it when they need it, and even develop a loyal attachment to it. Just be mindful that your priming tactics align with your brand's overall strategy and desired image and you'll reap the benefits.

11. Verbatim Effect

You know those times you find yourself humming a jingle or reciting a slogan, even though you can't quite remember the exact words? That's the verbatim effect in action! Your customers are bombarded with countless marketing messages every day, so the goal is not to get them to remember every single detail about your message, instead it's about leaving a lasting impression. The verbatim effect suggests that people are more likely to remember the general idea or feeling of a message rather than the precise wording.

How to apply the verbatim effect in your business

Focus on creating simple, easy-to-understand messaging that communicates the core benefits of your products or services. You want your message to be easy to understand and hard to forget. Think of it like the chorus of a catchy song—even if you can't remember all the verses, you can still sing along to the hook. It's often recommend that your messaging be simple enough for a fourth grader to understand it. Repeat memorable phrases, slogans, or taglines that encapsulate your brand's unique selling points throughout your marketing channels to reinforce them in the minds of your target audience.

How the verbatim effect affects your brand

The verbatim effect is your secret weapon to making your brand unforgettable. When your target audience can easily recall your brand's key messages, they're more likely to remember you when it's time to make a purchase decision. It's like having a billboard in their brains, constantly reminding them of your brand. But the verbatim effect isn't just about getting your customers to remember you—it's also about forging a stronger connection with them. When your messaging is clear, concise, and memorable, it's easier for your customers to understand and relate to your brand. It's like you're speaking their language and showing them that you truly "get" them.

12. Framing

Framing refers to how the presentation of information can influence decision-making. The way you present information about your products can have a huge impact on how consumers perceive them. It's like putting a filter on your messaging—you can choose to highlight the positives and make your product seem like the only answer to their problem. Framing techniques are used to shape consumer perceptions and steer them towards desired outcomes. With the right framing techniques, you can make your customers see your brand in the best possible light and get them excited to engage with you.

How to apply the principle of framing in your business

When crafting your marketing messages, focus on highlighting the positive aspects of your products or services. Emphasize the benefits, solutions, and value that your offerings provide to consumers. Use language that evokes positive emotions and encourages consumers to take action. Consider the context and audience when framing your messages to ensure maximum relevance and impact.

How the principle of framing affects your brand

Framing can provide a glow up for just about anything. Positive framing can make your audience fall head over heels for your brand, leading to more trust, loyalty, and advocacy. While negative framing can be a useful tool to influence your customers towards a decision you want them to make. Keep it real and authentic, and avoid anything that could be seen as misleading or manipulative so you don't break your customers' trust.

13. Commitment Escalation

Commitment escalation refers to the tendency for individuals to continue investing in a decision or course of action, even in the face of negative outcomes or diminishing returns. Once a person has committed to a certain choice or behavior, they may feel psychologically compelled to justify and reinforce that commitment, often by increasing their level of investment. Business owners can tap into this psychological quirk by getting customers to make small commitments to their brand, like signing up for a newsletter or creating an account. These small commitments allow customers to dip their toe in the water before taking the full plunge.

How to apply the principle of commitment escalation in your business

To get your customers hooked on your brand, encourage them to start by making small commitments to your brand, such as signing up for a newsletter or creating an account. These "easy yes" commitments are like the free samples at Costco—they draw your customers into your busy in a low-risk way. And once they've had a taste, they'll be more likely to come back for more. Gradually offer opportunities for them to increase their spend with your, such as loyalty programs, exclusive offers, or personalized recommendations. Like leveling up, the more they engage, the more they spend.

How the principle of commitment escalation affects your brand

The commitment escalation principle allows you can create a loyal fan base that just can't get enough of your brand. As customers become more committed, they are more likely to advocate for your brand, provide positive reviews, and make repeat purchases. Just make sure you're consistently providing value and positive experiences that justify their ongoing investment. If you can keep them happy and committed, you'll have a loyal customer base that sticks with you through thick and thin.

14. Information gap theory

Information gap theory suggests that individuals are motivated to seek out information when they perceive a gap between what they know and what they want to know. In other words: a cliffhanger. Pique customer curiosity by creating content or ads that give just enough information to pique their interest, marketers can make their target audience eager to learn more. It's like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that leads straight to your brand.

How to apply the information gap theory in your business

To put the information gap theory to work for your brand, create marketing content that teases intriguing details about your products or services, leaving your audience wanting to learn more. Use headlines, subject lines, and social media posts that spark so much intrigue your customers can't help but click through to discover the full story.

How the information gap theory affects your brand

By becoming a master of the information gap theory, you can turn your brand into a magnet for curious consumers. As they engage with your brand, you'll see your website traffic, social media interactions, and conversions blast off the charts. Just be sure that the information you provide is accurate, relevant, and delivers on the promises you make. If you disappoint your audience or leave them feeling misled, you'll lose their trust faster than you can say "clickbait." Your credibility is on the line with this one.

Applying the principles of consumer psychology in your business

Now that you have an understanding of the basic principles of consumer psychology you can decide which ones to implement in your business. Experiment with different ideas to come up with creative ways to attract customers. After trying a few things out you'll find what works for you and can lean into it.

There's no doubt that creating a brand that is psychologically designed to connect with your customers will help you create an unforgettable brand that your customers keep coming back to. And, if you want help from a brand strategist to create a psychologically influential brand for your business, Happyland Creative® can help you. Reach out to us to book a free call and see what's possible for your business.

We help our clients make more money with their brand and website by designing engaging visual identities and strategic websites.

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About the Author

Brittany Wong

Brittany Wong is the Founder and Creative Director of Happyland Creative®, a design studio helping small business owners make more money with their branding.