Marketing Psychology: 5 Little Known Facts About Consumer Behavior in Advertising

December 04, 2018

What is marketing psychology?

When it comes to digital marketing it’s easy to drown ourselves in endless data analytics, campaign results, and market research. But marketing boils down to one thing only–humans. Marketing psychology is the study of consumer psychology and the reasoning behind why we make decisions.

Who is Richard Shotton?

My guest today is Richard Shotton, the author of The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioral Biases That Influence What We Buy. He’s also the head of behavioral science for Manning Gottlieb OMD, the #1 advertising agency in Europe.

5 Little-Known Facts About Consumer Behavior

  1. Pratfall Effect: If you can admit a weakness or flaw, you become more appealing to your audience.
  2. Confirmation Bias: We’re very good at maintaining our existing point of view.
  3. Our Habits: You can persuade people in the moments when their habits become destabilized.
  4. Brand Purpose: Not every company needs to have have a higher purpose beyond profit.
  5. Personalization: Don’t apply it to such a degree that you lose the essence of your brand.

The Pratfall Effect

The pratfall effect is a counter-intuitive idea that was first discussed by Eliott Aronson, a professor of psychology at Harvard in the 1960s. According to this theory, you become more appealing after you admit a weakness or you exhibit a flaw.

In marketing, this applies because one of the biggest issues we face is that people don’t trust brands. Once you’ve admitted a flaw, you’re demonstrating your honesty and the rest of your claims suddenly become more believable.

Confirmation Bias

Our brain instinctively resist new information due to confirmation bias. As Richard Shotton explains, if you already dislike a brand, your brain will continue to come up with counter arguments to maintain its existing point of view.

You can counteract this in marketing by reaching your audience at moments of distraction, because they’re potentially persuadable at this point. And you can do this by thinking about the body language and the tone of your advertising.

Our Habits

What are the moments when people’s habits become destabilized? According to consumer psychology, we can encourage people to buy our products during major life events. Richard Shotton conducted research where he discovered that people are 2-3 times more likely to try a new brand after undergoing a life event.

These life events can include getting married, divorced, retiring, moving, having your first child, or starting a new job. These are when our habits are in flux and we’re open to buying new products to fit these changes.

Brand Purpose

There’s a current trend in marketing at the moment where companies are trying to find a single way of answering briefs. This can go wrong in a lot ways. Because the problems that your target market will face are varied — and one solution is impossible.

Richard explains brand purpose as an example. In some circumstances, brands should have a higher order beyond profit but it can also lead to the wrong approach if you try to apply purpose to everything. Remember the infamous Pepsi protest campaign? That’s proof on how this tactic can fail.


If you take personalization in marketing too far, there can be huge implications. In this interview, Richard shares a theory from Kevin Simler that explains the value of a brand is in it’s shared cultural meaning.

If you’re targeting your audience with different messages it can be great in the beginning. However, eventually people will overhear those messages and understand that your brand actually stands for nothing.



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