Wednesday, April 22

How Much Marketing Has Become Psychological Trickery?

Marketing Meets PsychologyOne of the first lessons learned in advertising is that most purchasing decisions are made based on emotional impulses and irrational conclusions driven by our dreams, hopes, fears, and outrages. But for all marketers knew about advertising, it was social media that capitalized on the immediacy of it.

Instant gratification and chronic impatience has shortened not only attention spans but also the ability to make educated decisions. As a result, the fundamental market has changed with consumers who are generally more anxious and angry as the world feels a little less controllable and hard to understand. They are more prone to react with instinct over intelligence, favoring short term over the long term.

Five quick examples of psychological impulses shaping perception right now. 

• Vani Kari a.k.a. "Food Babe" has risen to become a popular food blogger for her denunciation of chemicals in food, but chemistry professor Michelle Francl has received an equal amount of attention for denouncing the decrier. Right or wrong, the initial attraction capitalized on our fear of the unknown while post-debate believability largely centers not on the facts but rather on people "like" the Food Babe.

• Socio-economic disadvantages are frequently attributed to poor performance in schools. While there is some truth to it, new studies suggest the labels meant to "save" these students can also be counterproductive. Students perform lower on tests when they are over praised, under challenged, or  merely reminded that they are disadvantaged. So wisdom holds true. We are what we think we are.

• The Guardian recently asked why people keep electing the least desirable politicians. The answer was psychology. People tend to vote for whomever simplifies the choice, demonstrates the confidence to deliver on a promise, and remains someone with whom they can relate. And what happens when nobody does? Then people are less likely to turn out and vote, which may explain low voter turnout.

• Most people have formed opinions about the Baltimore riots based upon visual content more than their understanding of the circumstances behind them. Depending on which visuals they were exposed to (rioters vandalizing stores or the peaceful side of the protests) and when in the timeline of events they were introduced to the story largely dictates their opinion of it.

 • Affirmation and frequency illusion work hand in hand in the subconscious. Not only do people see what they expect to see, whether or not it really happened, but they often believe what they see based on increasing frequency even if any improbable increase in frequency could be the result of simply noticing something in the first place. The validity of frequency is compounded from varied sources.

The packaging has become the product, for better or worse, in marketing. 

Content Marketing Stats from Hubspot
With trust in experts failing and the appetite for visual content increasing, people want to become more self-reliant simply by processing a mile of information to the depth of about one inch. In other words, they want someone else to study one inch of information a mile deep and distill any rationale into a soundbite that can be voted on, quickly and efficiently, based on little more than gut instinct.

The only problem with hard wiring the brain to work this way in tandem with modern technology is its reliance that the source has their best interest at heart. Mostly, they don't. The majority of content being produced today is by marketers and affirmation journalists, who exhibit varied degrees of bias.

That's not to say marketers are necessarily tricksters. It might be more accurate to say they've become more savvy in meeting the decision-making needs by distilling it in bite-sized simple comparisons to elicit an immediate emotional response. Right. "You won't believe what happened next" headlines work for a reason. So do easily digestible graphics that look authoritative and possibly objective.

Never mind that the content was compiled by an intern on the go. People are too busy rewriting their brains with potentially disastrous results to dig deeper into the issues or even the sources. As long as the marketer touches an emotion, narrows the choices, expresses confidence in the data, and delivers on any promises to somehow improve the purchaser's experience, people will buy the product, thought, or ideology. Sometimes, they even buy two.
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