We like to think of ourselves as highly intelligent individuals, immune to any kind of persuasive technique, however we fail to realize that we are influenced every single day, be it a newspaper advertisement or a YouTube video, our neurons are constantly bombarded with visual and aural stimuli that affect our decisions in one way or another. If you haven't already heard of psychological hacks then here's a quick introduction - Simply put these are techniques driven from the concepts of psychology that can be used to influence people and their decisions.

Top 5 Psychological Hacks

Anchoring Bias - Also known as the decoy effect occurs when someone who offered you two choices brings up a third one that is considerably higher than the other two which makes you earlier choices seem cheaper and more affordable in comparison. For example, Comparing two $500 smartphones on a website and right underneath you see a section called "People Who Saw This Ended Up Buying" with all $700 and above phone. Suddenly you are a lot closer to being convinced on the $500 mobile because you subconsciously did all the math in your head - How much you will save, how much the expensive phones' price would depreciate etc and the self confirmation biases begin.

The Halo Effect - People instinctively connect emotions to goodwill. If you are able to delivery a pleasant experience to your users be it a comedic animation, a sad yet meaningful commercial about road accidents or simply an image with a powerful caption, we as human beings have an inherent tendency to reciprocate that with goodwill and amity towards a product or brand. This why content marketing is becoming increasing popular at an exponential rate. Creating adventurous experiences rather than a bland marketing message that will be forgotten in an instant.

Social Proof - We as social beings seek out the opinion of others when we are unable to make the decision ourselves. Our preconceived assumption that our peers have more knowledge about the subject and hence their opinion is significant, shapes our decisions. One of the most ubiquitously observed examples of social proof is the audience laugh used in comedy sitcoms, even if the joke is not funny it makes you giggle why? because we are subconsciously trying to fit in. Nobody wants to be the guy that doesn't get the joke. There are different types of social proof in digital marketing - Reviews, Social Filters and Social media likes, verified badges etc.

Social filters are displayed on the product page and the heading on these filters is something along the lines of -

  • People who bought this also bought..
  • Customers who viewed this also viewed..
  • People who saw this ended up buying..

Then there's social media - In the eyes of a regular user, a Facebook page with crappy content and a million likes and a verified badge will hold more than a page with few thousand likes and top quality content. This is because we equate more likes or fans with status, it portrays an image as fake as it maybe be of a well established and successful brand. Which is why a couple of years ago you would see brands purchasing fake fans for social media instead of focusing on content. Now you might think that's sort of a good move because you've been reading about social proof for the past few seconds but its not. What such brands are doing is faking social proof, its a scam and eventually it will backfire and all that negative social proof is going to trump any status/branding that was obtained during that period of time.

Reciprocity - Give and you shall receive. We have this innate desire to give back when we receive something, to the extent that it starts to bother us when we don't return the favor. Here's an example -

You - Hey Jason, can you help me out with this project real quick, i know it's late i just want to finish this for the meeting tomorrow. It won't take more than an hour.

Jason - Umm, Sorry man I'd love to but I can't right now.

You - Okay, no problem. Listen can you take my dog out for a walk tomorrow I think i might be late.

Jason - Of course, not a problem.

Now this can be executed a lot better but the point is, if you start with a bigger request which is likely to be turned down and then settle for a smaller request, your chances of getting people to say yes become significantly higher. The reason why that works is very simple, you make the person feel like they escaped the BIG favor you asked for so now your smaller request seems like a great bargain in comparison.

Scarcity -  Then there's the age old principal of scarcity, people want what they can't have and what there exists limited of. Have you ever ended up in a situation where you just casually browsing around and you see this limited edition item and you are suddenly interested ? Why is that ? You might not really want it but realizing that you might not be able to have it is reason enough for you to want it more. And if someone else shows interest in that very same product then your want just amplifies which is why car salesmen often invite multiple prospective buyers at the same time, competition exudes anxiety and that can be a very powerful tool.

Here are a few digital marketing examples incorporating the principal of scarcity

  • Limited-Time/Deadline
  • Stock Quantity Indicator
  • Online Bidding
  • Exclusive One Day Deals
  • Black Friday Deals

So why do these tactics work ? It's because we subconsciously conclude that a product that people are interested in buying and is therefore limited in quantity, is a good deal. This is also where scarcity and social proof work in tandem - Everyone's buying it ? It has to be great, I should get it too.