Behavioural Science Cheat Sheet for Your Marketing

Scientist holding a brain

Behavioural science gives us thousands of studies about how people act. It’s particularly useful for marketers because self-reporting is notoriously unreliable, so surveys can’t be the only source of our customer research.

From these studies, we can glean a few directives for our marketing that don’t require hours upon hours of reading dense research papers.

Here’s a little cheat sheet for you.

Behavioural science says your marketing should be:

1. Familiar

We prefer what we know and trust. It’s why we develop habits in our food shopping and why we find ourselves getting the same dish every time we visit a favourite restaurant.

That doesn’t mean there’s no room for your incredibly disruptive product; you just have to find a way to make it nonthreatening. Using familiar situations, everyday language and imagery that appeals to what your target audience will do that for you. If you’re new, don’t shove that in people’s faces – bold and different isn’t always better.

2. Simple

If we’re presented with too much choice or have too much reasoning demanded of us, we’ll reject it. Make it super easy for someone to choose you AND to choose which of your products they need. Winning a lead only to put them off with too much choice is such a shot in the foot.

We can help our customers by making things look simple, even if they aren’t. Short sentences, small paragraphs, easy iconography that means less reading to find signposts. All your business’s complexity should be under the surface. If you find yourself wanting to show off how clever something is, you’re risking it turning out complicated.

3. Rated

Reviews have soared over the last decade. So few consumers go from search to website to sale now. We dual screen and hop from search engine to reviews site to Facebook to WhatsApping our friends.

With so much choice, we’ll take the easy route of trusting our peers. It’s a fallacy because we may be put off by one bad review, but because it’s independent and from ‘one of us’, we’ll believe that over the business any day.

Having reviews isn’t an option now. I was part of launching a business six months ago and within weeks, we were seeing searches for ‘[brand name] + [reviews]’. People liked our brand and pricing but they were looking for that thing to convince them to take the chance on a business they’d never heard of.

Get yourself a good reviews partner as early as possible and start inviting customers to review you. Once you’ve built up a respectable number, that social proof will market your business better than anything you or I could come up with.

4. Immediate

We’re pleasure-seekers: we want our gratification now.

Behavioural science shows us that promising future rewards is never as strong as benefit now. Most people will take a cheaper product over something that offers savings later. This is more of a propositional decision than something you can achieved with marketing but bear it in mind when running social campaigns or setting up a new rewards program. Now is always more compelling.

5. Contextual

Context is everything. One price can seem good or bad value depending on what it’s sat next to. A common trick, employed by subscription services to great effect is to offer you an inflated price next to the regular price so the ‘lower’ (usual!) price seems better value.

Scarcity also makes price seem less important. I know if I’m under time pressure or stock is low, I’ll enter this state of madness where I’ll pay anything to get this one lipgloss that’s in high demand. See also: sale ends in 10 minutes.

6. Relatable

Brand purpose has gone way too far and consumers are wise to it. Many of us will say, in very expensive focus groups, ‘Oh yah, I only buy from sustainable, ethical companies’ – and then pop next door to Poundland.

However, when choosing between two very similar prices, seeming to fit in with a consumer’s general view of the world is a good differentiator. Know your audience. Understand what they feel. Live it – loudly.

Behavioural science is just humans being humans

We’re all affected by these things, even if we think we’re immune to advertising. A lot of it is common sense but use this guide to check you’re making the most of our adorable little quirks.

You can find more on using cognitive bias in marketing here.