Psychological nudges guide and shape our behaviour unconsciously every day. We conduct most of our actions on autopilot oblivious to exposures of visual and psychological stimuli. In marketing, we use psychological nudges to stimulate consumer demand for products as well as influence decision making. Governments meanwhile use nudge psychology to shape public behaviour and also maintain a semblance of order.

Last weeks blog looked at what is nudge psychology and nudge marketing. Over the course of this blog we’ll delve into the use of these techniques as well as their effectiveness. Let’s start with:

1 - Exposure Effect

This one is quite simple in theory. The more we see something or someone the more likely we are to have a positive opinion of them due to familiarity. This works in dating where we’re more likely find someone attractive if we see them a lot. Friends in regular contact are more likely to remain friends. In business, advertising does work despite the opinions of a few. Multiple exposures of an ad of a brand or product increases memorability and trust as a result.

As humans, we fear what we do not know. If we’re familiar with a brand or business we’re more likely to buy. This is why marketing campaigns need to spread across multiple platforms to increase brand exposure. Governments use this in the run-up to elections where suddenly politicians are petting every puppy, kissing all the babies and shaking as many hands as possible.

2 - Cognitive Dissonance

This concept revolves around a person holding two incompatible beliefs. It can occur in marketing due to bad positioning or a lack of clarity regarding the brand message. If a luxury brand like BMW suddenly started highlighting low price as the main marketing message then this would conflict with their target marketers self-image. BMW customers are willing to pay a high price for the prestige of driving a BMW and want their friends to know its expensive not cheap or affordable.

Psychological nudges draw attention to discrepancies between peoples behaviour and self-image in order to create discomfort. This why the welfare office now insists on people demonstrating how much they were looking for work making them more likely to do it. Many charities also use this in their marketing. Ads subconsciously suggest that If you claim to be such a good and moral person why aren’t you feeding or donating to kids in Africa?

3 - Habit Formation & Reversal

Our habits define us. We are habitual creatures craving familiarity and routines which provide structure to our crazy lives. Creating brand loyalty is vital in business as it provides the business with an anchor of core customers. Often keeping your existing customers can be more important than attracting new ones. Getting people into the habit of buying your product or service can be the hardest part of any business. Once achieved, then the company must continually innovate and put effective CRM in place to maximize this relationship.

Social Media companies are great at embedding the habit in consumers to continually use their service. Facebook send you emails if you have not logged in with a while telling you all you’ve missed to pull you back.

4 - The Scarcity Effect

When we think something is scarce or only available for a limited time, then our mind places extra value on it. This is why many consumer products come in limited edition versions which provide the product with extra prestige and appeal.

“Only 1 day left on sale”, “Limited availability”, “Minimum 3 products per customer”, “Flash Sale” etc. All of these are great examples of companies using this tactic for promotions. Its also used by certain luxury brands in their positioning. They will only make a minimum number of products. This guarantees the products will sell out and create added clamour for the products.

5 - Overwhelming Stimuli

If we’re exposed to excessive amounts of stimuli then it clouds our decision-making processes. This leads us to devote less time to think through the decision. We reach a snap judgement or impulse purchase. Too much information leads to ego depletion making us highly susceptible to influence from others or marketing promotions.

You see this often in supermarkets. Floor stickers lead customers to certain areas of the store. Christmas and decorations serve to prime customers to feel festive and purchase related products.

This also can work in reverse. A study was done where 2 groups of customers had a choice between 2 options. Group A had to choose from 6 different types of jams vs 24 types of jams for Groub B. The study group who were exposed to only 6 jams made more purchases vs the ones exposed to a larger choice. Excessive choice and stimuli can overwhelm us making people more likely to refrain from purchasing as we cannot decide. FOMO in effect can also work against companies.