Marketing Psychology 101

If you went to college, you were formally introduced to Psychology, if you didn’t, you probably learned quite a bit about it in the school of hard knocks. Keeping it simple, psychology is the study of how humans interact and behave. That behavior is predicated on several factors but boils down to what motivates them and what doesn’t. There are a myriad of things that can influence someone’s actions and behavior. I will focus on just a couple of these as it relates to branding and marketing.

Halo Effect

The first notion is called the “halo effect” and has to do with biases the observer has to the subject or speaker. This means that you instinctively “like” some people and, therefore, rate them better than people for which you do not have the same affinity. As you might imagine, this is vital in presenting a product or idea to a prospective buyer or group of users. The more they like the presenter, the better the chances of accepting the product or idea.

Hawthorn Effect

The second idea has to do with how to capture the attention of your prospective customer. There was a study done in the 1920s and dubbed the “hawthorn effect” where Western Electric was trying to determine how the effect of lighting  could affect the productivity of production workers. Because there were observers constantly making notes, the worker’s productivity shot up, regardless of the illumination levels. When the observers were not present, after the study, productivity sank to new lows. Paying attention to the subjects makes a difference in what they will do and think about what you are trying to convey.

The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. The original research at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero Illinois on lighting changes and work structure changes such as working hours and break times were originally interpreted by Elton Mayo and others to mean that paying attention to overall worker needs would improve productivity. Later interpretations such as that done by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers’ productivity. This interpretation was dubbed “the Hawthorne effect.” *Wikipedia


One of the more interesting basic premises to marketing and appealing to people is “how things look.” Are they aesthetically appealing, or not?

Numerous authors have provided lots of advice on how to approach people and convince them to go with your ideas, from Dale Carnegie (How to win friends and influence people) to Zig Zigler (See you at the top). Most of them focus on being mindful of pleasing people and not confronting them on your differences which has a lot to do with psychology and a people-friendly approach.

Integrity and Moral Values


Finally, since it seems to have lost its appeal, I want to put in a good word for integrity and moral values. Those are easy terms to roll off the tongue, but not so easy to practice. Being patient with people and staying away from the temptation to be dishonest or misleading is an art on which many of us need brushing up. Too often people say what is expedient at the moment. It is human nature to avoid responsibility when something goes wrong or is done incorrectly. All the customer support folks have mastered the apologies and remorseful tones when called upon to respond to the mistakes. This does not excuse the mistakes nor does it change the behavior that all too often, caused them.

It takes quite a bit of effort to build customer loyalty and customer satisfaction, sometimes several years of diligent work. It takes just a couple of mistakes to undo all the good work that went before. Just ask Volkswagen, Enron, 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, British Petroleum, Merck, Ford Motor Company/Firestone, Aventis, Toyota, Union Carbide, Exxon  and many, many others.


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