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Marketing psychology: how real-world techniques can drive digital engagement

Human decision making is often irrational and frequently unconscious. We have far less control over our decision making than we would like to believe, with clinical researchers in Germany discovering that we often make up our minds on something ten seconds before we are consciously aware of having done so.

That realisation, in addition to an understanding of how social cues can often lead us to make illogical decisions, has enormous implications for marketing. The intersection between psychology and marketing is a space in which marketers can use techniques designed to stimulate system one or system two behaviours - impulsive versus considered thought - to drive greater impact to their marketing spend.

Nick Mason is chief executive and founder of digital content marketing platform Turtl.

Kicking off a webinar organised in partnership with The Drum, he shared his favourite example of how even highly educated people can make highly irrational decisions. One such example demonstrates how social cues can lead to people donating money when they otherwise wouldn’t have: by preceding the request for a donation with the ‘gift’ of a flower, Christians at the airport are more likely to receive a donation in turn. Mason explains: “When someone gives, we give back.” A social stimulus led to an irrational response.

Jergan Callebaut is head of psychology at Datasine, which uses data to create personalised experiences for consumers. He explained how marketers can use a technique known as mirroring in order to “tune in” to their consumers in order to establish a rapport: “Salespeople who are natural empaths… have a lot more success in selling something.”

As a result, understanding the techniques around mirroring has huge implications for everything from how salespeople interact in person to how brands send out communications to wider audiences. Learning best practice around implementing those techniques typically drives much more engagement, as Callebaut’s use cases during the webinar demonstrated.

As consumers increasingly move online, Mason noted that he has seen a marked increase in the number of people who are looking to apply those techniques to digital communications: “As more and more of the buying journey starts to happen online, there’s going to be more pressure to emulate those real-world techniques but through the digital channels”.

The pair noted that, while AI is powering much of the personalisation taking place in online channels, there will always be need for humans behind the AI, who can create ‘digital empathy’ designed to guide customers through the 75% of the journey that currently takes place online.