Psychology key to online marketing success

By Chris Lee

The Annual Brighton Digital Marketing Festival 2012 (BDMF) and bi-annual BrightonSEO conferences drew hundreds of digital marketers from the UK and further afield to discuss online marketing best practice.

One of the key themes that emerged was the role psychology plays in the behaviour of Internet users and how marketers should factor user psyche into their campaign plans.

The Psychology of the Social Web

Former Microsoft marketer Allister Frost of Wild Orange Media spoke to delegates at (BDMF) about the psychology of the Social Web. Why do people share things? Why do they like, retweet and pin things, and how can brands use this knowledge to build affinity?

Frost likened the relationship of marketer and target audience to a seesaw: it only works when a give-and-take situation emerges.

“As a profession, we have a responsibility to ‘open the kimono’ and not be embarrassed about what we show,” Frost told delegates. “I want to make marketing ‘noble’ again. What we have to do is accept responsibility in a transparent world to improve the lives of the people.”

Components of a successful social media campaign

Many people’s actions online are determined by their “old brain”, which governs our survival instincts, Frost argued, listing seven elements that should feature in any social media campaign:

1) Social proof: humans have a need to fit in and not stand out

2) Contrast: Offer users a choice

3) Scarcity: If people think there is a finite number of a product available to them they are more inclined to act

4) Hidden delight: Look to use subliminal messaging to surprise people

5) Commitment: People want to be associated with positive messages, so encourage small acts which they will act on

6) Reciprocity: always give something in return

7) Visual stimulus: Images can be incredibly powerful

Predatory thinking key to online ad success

Dave Trott of consultancy CST The Gate opened BrightonSEO the following day with a well-received presentation on what he called “predatory thinking” in advertising.

Trott argued that in advertising marketers need to apply the principles espoused by the Bauhaus art movement of “form follows function”, in other words, start with the reason you’re doing something and then apply art to it.

“90 per cent of advertising goes unnoticed. 90 per cent of everything isn’t noticed,” he said. The challenge, Trott argued, was to be noticed and this is why he believes conversations have three elements: Impact, communication and persuasion. Marketers currently spend too much time on persuasion and not enough on impact, which is why 90 per cent of messaging is lost on impact, Trott argued.

“Complication is weakness, simplicity is strength,” he told delegates. “Einstein said if you can’t explain it to an eleven year-old you haven’t understood it. People spend too much time on persuasion and not on impact. A billion people ignoring your ads is as bad as a 100 ignoring them.”

Trott acknowledged that there is a challenge that creative agencies face when talking to both clients and to target audiences.

“We need two languages: one for clients, using long, sophisticated words, and one for consumers,” he added. “The problem is creative people have a fear of the obvious and have to sell their work to people who have a love of the obvious. Creative people want to be different. It’s sound commercial business to stand out. By being different you have solved the impact problem and got on the radar. Get upstream and work out what drives [consumers]…and don’t nag people.”

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