Everything in our environment was designed and built with our psychology in mind. You probably don’t even realize it, but the lights in your office emit a cool-colored light because cool-colored lights have been demonstrated to make people more alert. Technology companies build their products with the assumption that people who use them will want to use them more often. If someone won’t open an email from your company, it probably means you need to make some changes in how you present your message.
Companies aren’t the only ones interested in the psychology behind their products. If we don’t take steps to change our corporate branding habits now, we could be left behind by competitors and find ourselves on the outside looking in when others have already mastered the full range of psychology-influenced branding techniques.
For example, according to a review of studies published in 2010, companies can pay off customers by using visuals like icons and colors that prompt people to “think warmly” about their product or brand.
What does branding have to do with psychology?
Branding is how your company connects with customers and how you communicate your brand’s value. It’s the combination of your physical presence, your digital presence, your communications and all of the interactions between you and your customers all blended into one cohesive message.
The role of psychology in branding is two-fold. First, psychology is used to formulate and deliver a consistent message that aligns with who you are as a brand, what you offer your customers, how you want to be seen by those customers and how they will interact with you. Second, psychology can help you develop strategies for positioning yourself as an authority on a particular topic so that people will consider you more credible than the competition.
The overall goal is to develop a brand that the majority of people will trust and that customers are willing to pay for.
So what can you use psychology for?
Behavioral research has shown that there are seven basic personality styles: extroverts, introverts, sensation seekers, thinkers, feelers, judgers and perceivers. Personality styles influence how people perceive brands because personality types are associated with certain beliefs about brands and how they should be treated. While the exact boundaries of each type vary from person to person, a general consensus suggests that extroverts prefer brands with fun or playful images while introverts prefer strong corporate images.
Researchers have also discovered that people develop brand relationships based on their experiences with those brands. Therefore, if you can make your customers feel a certain way when they interact with your brand, then these feelings will eventually become positive associations linked to your brand. In addition, people respond differently depending on whether they’re looking for a quick purchase or are trying to find a long-term investment. Taking this into account, it’s important to design experiences that please the majority of your customers while still leaving room for new people to join the ranks of satisfied customers.
IRI research has also found that when companies use their marketing efforts to tell a story, those stories can help build trust and deepen customer relationships. The IRI website even includes a section devoted to the art of storytelling.
You can also use psychology to frame your company as an expert in a particular field. By setting yourself up as an authority in the field, you can inspire people to trust you and make decisions based on what you have to say. With enough trust and positive feedback from customers, your authority will motivate people to do more business with you.
Branding is also a way of building positive associations about yourself in the minds of your customers. According to recent research conducted by NPD Group, 89% of US consumers have a favorable opinion of companies that provide social good donations. So if you’re a company that’s concerned with improving the world around you – whether it’s through small donations or large grants – then it’s important for you to establish yourself as an organization that gives back and encourages others to give back too. By branding yourself as an organization that’s concerned with doing good for the greater good, you’ll build positive associations that will help people remember you.
In the past, research suggested that although customers like to have their purchases associated with positive feelings, they don’t always feel positive about specific purchases. However, new evidence suggests that when customers are asked to recall a purchase and then provide an emotionally charged response, they tend to attach positive emotions to it. In fact, psychologists have found that most shoppers who recall making a purchase report being happy with the purchase and feels good in general about the experience.
The bottom line: You can use psychology to:
Determine which type of brand messaging appeals most to your customers.
Create strategies for positioning yourself as an authority in the world.
You can also use psychology techniques at the individual level, including using social proof, social influence and reference groups. For example, you can give random gifts to people you meet on a daily basis and ask them to tell their friends about your generosity. Even more powerful is when people see similar people acting in a similar way – such as when two friends have made similar purchases or are wearing similar clothing that displays a message of togetherness. This type of behavior has been shown to increase trust between strangers because it makes them more inclined to respond similarly to themselves.
Interested in learning more about how psychology is used in branding? Color Psychology and Branding: The Fundamentals discusses the principles of psychology in branding for designers.
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