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Is Your Brand Holding Up On Both Sides of the Digital Divide?

Incorporating consumer psychology into your marketing can help

How many times have you walked into a service establishment and been immediately drawn to their branding — their logo, their colors, their typefaces, their signage, their decor, their uniforms…even their beverage napkins?  Well maybe not their napkins.

Then when you get back to your office, you want to show a colleague your “new find,” so you Google them and – bam – you’re on their website and your colleague says, “So what’s the big deal?”  Not only was he underwhelmed as he walked away, but you were, too.  Scratching your head, you wonder why their online marketing elements – their website, their Facebook for Business page, their Twitter account, and so on – didn’t look a thing like their “offline brand.”

While this example is oversimplified, it’s often painfully relevant to many companies’ brand marketing efforts, and sometimes for a very simple reason: The offline marketers have traditionally been the gatekeepers of the brand.  But as the online marketing function has taken on more prominence – and often its own staff – there can exist a disconnect between the two on both a strategic and tactical level.  Total left hand/right hand situation. Sad, but true.

Another much more strategic reason lies in the psychology of sales and marketing.

Psychology: It’s More Than Just Science
British marketing consultant Kath Pay created new marketing terminology (and a successful company) in 2011 called “Holistic Email Marketing,” grounded in the principles of consumer psychology.

One of the world’s “Top 50 Email Marketing Influencers” (Vocus, 2014), today she consults and teaches clients and seminar attendees about the important connections between marketing/branding and psychology, since psychology and marketing are more alike than you would think. Both fields of study strive to understand the motivation, needs, desires and responses of individuals. As a discipline, psychology has examined and revealed insights into what drives a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Today, those psychological tenets are being more and more applied to sales and marketing.

According to Ms. Pay, “The benefits of incorporating consumer psychology into your marketing is twofold: you assist your customer in their journey to achieve their objective, i.e., buying a product or service from you, and in turn you, the marketer, benefit from facilitating more successful conversions.”

What follows are some evidence-based theories from consumer psychology that can be applied to your vending, OCS or micro market business.  More importantly, you should consider these theories and implications as they relate to both your offline branding and your online properties.

Persuasion Architecture Theory:  
Persuasion Architecture is a psychological concept that places more control over prospects’ interactions and behavior in your hands.  It’s largely based on visual cues – to not only help guide prospects to relevant content, but to influence them to take action. Implicit and Explicit Directional Cues built into your online and offline marketing properties will better direct how your prospects’ eyes move across a screen or printed piece of marketing or sales material.

Implication:
Use line of sight directional cues, such as placing a person’s face, on your website’s home page, splash page, email or brochure – directing your prospects’ eyes to your Call-to- Action. To be most effective, have the person facing and looking directly at your Call-to- Action, rather than eyes forward.  That’s an implicit directional cue that will likely increase attention to your CTA and improve your conversions.

Keep in mind a conversion doesn’t necessarily mean a sale. According to Ms. Pay, “It could be to read an article, download a whitepaper, or click through to the website – it is any action that meets the objective of the email.”

Explicit directional cues are usually more, well, explicit!  They often take the form of an arrow, line, or curve that creates a visual pathway – leading the prospects’ eyes directly to the objective of the web page or direct mail piece.

According to Search Engine Watch, “Persuasion Architecture is the notion that you need to model and understand your customers, what they want, and figure out how to persuade them to buy what you are selling. Sounds trivial, but it’s not. We are emerging from the era when marketing focused on branding and broadcasting simple messages to create desire for their products.

“But now there are so many choices available to consumers, and they are in much more control. They don’t want to be slammed with marketing [messages], they want the answers to their critical questions, and, if it makes sense to them, to be able to buy the product.

“It’s made more challenging by the fact that your prospective customers are not all at the same stage in the process. Some of them are ready to make an immediate decision, others are still doing research, and others may be at various in-between stages. In Persuasion Architecture, you strive to be successful in addressing the needs of all of these kinds of prospects.”

Emotion-Driven Behavior Theory:  
Emotion-Driven Behavior is typically right brain behavior.  For instance, consumers will act on an impulse and make a buying decision with their right brain, then construct logic and rationale for the purchase with their left brain. In his book, Unconscious Branding, Douglas van Praet writes, “Influence is born by appealing to the emotions while overcoming rational restraints.” In fact, he claims that according to research conducted at the University of Virginia, we make 90 percent of our decisions without consciously realizing we’re doing it.

Implication:
Tell a story about your vending, OCS or micro market brand that appeals to the emotions of your customers and prospects.

“People love stories, and the human mind is naturally programmed to remember them, says Ms. Pay.  “People learn by finding patterns and meanings in things—hence solitary facts and figures are easily forgotten—but if they are incorporated into stories, people experience them, which helps form an emotional connection. This phenomena is called Grounded Cognition, which essentially means that people live the story when they hear or read it.”

Emotionally engage your prospects on your website, your Facebook and Twitter pages or in your customers’ locations perhaps through compelling headlines, signage and other text, as well as emotionally evocative imagery.

Social Proof Theory:  
Social Proof:  Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, writes that people are more likely to act when they believe others are doing so.  Think Amazon reviews: More than 75 percent of Amazon Prime members buy products that are favorably reviewed by 100 or more other buyers.

Implication:
Make sure your brand has testimonials from satisfied customers, plenty of Likes on your Facebook page, Facebook posts and tweets, and let others do the selling for you.

According to an article written by Ms. Pay, an online betting website performed a test in June 2013 based on Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion. The goal was to increase click through rates to their registration page. They tested reciprocity (offering free tips and advice in exchange for registration), scarcity (using a “Don’t Miss Out!” message), and the social proof method (advertising their “Likes” on Facebook). While each technique worked, the social proof version drove the biggest improvement—with a 7 percent lift in click through rates.

Scarcity Theory:  
You’ve seen the principle of Scarcity dozens of times. Just think of how Apple uses it to drive demand for its products.  And online marketers have made this a staple in their marketing toolboxes.  It’s the proverbial “Act now, only 2 left!” or “This special offer expires at midnight tonight.  Don’t miss out!”

Implication:
Create a splash page with a CTA that uses Scarcity, but also has a link to your website.  Or an email campaign, such as a flyer that gets stuffed into your monthly invoices to customers that uses Scarcity to upsell them to a new machine, products or even a micro market if it’s appropriate.  (Hint:  Make sure your customer — and prospect — lists are segmented based on not only type of customer, but also what your next upsell offer should be.  Also consider A/B split testing of your offers — they provide valuable intelligence that helps nail down solid offers.)

Anchoring Theory:  
According to the content marketing gurus at Marketo, Anchoring comes from a cognitive bias known as a heuristic, which describes the human tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information that you receive (the anchor) when making decisions. When buyers need to choose between options, they look for a base from which to start — this is the anchor. An example is promoting a product on sale with its original price prominently listed. Buyers will see the original price and anchor it in order to evaluate how good the sale price is.

Implication:
Coffee and related condiments could be the perfect opportunity to use the Anchoring principle.  From whole bean to single-serve to ground coffee, as well as creamers, sugars/substitutes and flavored syrups, how easy would it be to associate your brand with the “Best Deals in Coffee…Anywhere” by anchoring an original price next to a remarkable sale price?

Ideally, you should test some of these theories (and related implications) in a cross-channel marketing campaign that includes your online properties, email marketing and offline strategies, including advertising, direct mail, trade shows, local networking, speaking opportunities, traditional PR…whatever works best for you.  But don’t forget to be sure your brand is holding up on both sides of the digital divide!