Subtle Manipulation: 4 Psychological Tricks You Could Pull to Boost Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing tips
Subtle Manipulation: 4 Psychological Tricks You Could Pull to Boost Your Marketing Efforts

Holidays and the planning of one should be a stress-free getaway from our daily lives and perhaps it’s just me but it feels like the last few times I’ve been planning a getaway, I’ve been feeling undue pressure whenever I’m looking for accommodations. For the record, I would like to say that I’ve used Agoda a lot of times in the past and I’ve never had any problems with the booking site but whenever you’re looking through hotels in Agoda, you’re often told that this is the last room available at that price and that there’s a dozen other people currently looking at the same hotel.

For anyone suffering from the least bit of anxiety, these things can be incredibly annoying. Agoda also has this thing where you’re allowed to book hotels without paying until a certain date so this one time I ended up booking four different hotels just to be on the safe side while I try to narrow down my choices. These psychological tricks might be annoying but they’re definitely effective so it makes sense that businesses are using them as much as they could, none more so perhaps in content marketing.

The history of manipulative ads

In a way, accusing ads of being manipulative is like accusing classic Formula 1 V10 engines of being too loud. They are but that’s also kind of the whole point, isn’t it? Advertisements are designed to make you interested on a product or a brand and since humans are at their core an emotional creature, appealing to their less rational side is one of the easiest ways to do that. Being emotionally manipulative doesn’t always have to be a negative thing; they can actually make you feel really good.

I don’t understand American football and I don’t actually like it but some of my college friends do and every year, we hole ourselves up at either a bar or one of our places to watch the Super Bowl. I still have little idea about what goes on in every game and I have no interest in correcting this discrepancy but I’ve grown to enjoy this particular ritual of ours not because I like the actual game but because of the commercials. Super Bowl commercials are a thing of beauty. They’re emotionally manipulative beauty but still a thing of beauty nevertheless.

There’s the completely irrelevant Budweiser ad about a love affair between a dog and a horse that I could never stop watching. There’s also this Toyota ad centering on the journey of Lauren Woolstencroft, who as a baby was born without legs but was already an 8 times Paralympic gold medalist by the time the ad was aired during last year’s Super Bowl. I have to admit, these ads are particularly effective at raising their visibility, showing just how useful psychological tricks can be when used in marketing and here are several you could use on your marketing efforts.

By taking advantage of the principle of loss aversion

The principle of loss aversion is based on the idea that relatively speaking, people tend to feel worse about missing something compared to how good they feel when they gain something. In a scale of 1 to 10, the pain you get when you missed out on a good deal might be an 8 but the joy get when you actually land on a good deal is probably a 6. This is the same tactic Agoda use with their users, the fear that I could miss out on a good deal is so bad that I ended up making multiple bookings just to be safe.

Be emotionally manipulative in your storytelling

This is from the Super Bowl commercial example I’ve mentioned above. Inspiring and tear-jerking stories are advisable since positivity as a sentiment is the one you’d want to be associated with. Storytelling in marketing is generally more useful in raising your brand’s visibility but if you want to push a specific product and/or services, using case studies and customer anecdotes and presenting them in a single narrative could also work.

Take advantage of a common ground

If you feel like you have any qualities that you could showcase to take advantage of in-group favoritism, use it. In-group favoritism is the idea that people tend to favor other members of their group compared to anyone else. This tribal mentality tend to have a negative stigma but it’s actually pretty useful in business as long as you can make clear that you and your intended audience share a common ground. It should be noted however that this could backfire if you’ve been making the wrong assumptions about your target market so comprehensive research is necessary if you want to play this card.

Provide decoy pricing options

This one actually happened to a friend of mine with Tinder. The dating app Tinder has two premium tiers, Plus and the more expensive Gold, that allows subscribers to those tiers access to features that free users don’t. They get unlimited swipes, a Boost feature to have your profile being put in front of the queue and in the case of Gold, a feature to see people that has swiped right on your profile. Users are given three subscription options, for 12 months, 6 months and just 1 month with the monthly cost being cheaper the longer you subscribe.

This friend of mine had been, shall we say, without intimacy for a while that in his desperation, he signed up for Tinder Plus for 12 months. The funny thing is, barely 2 months into his subscription, he met someone through a mutual friend and is now in an exclusive relationship while still having 8 months left in his Tinder account. This is referred to as decoy pricing, where services offer you lesser economical options to get you to spend more money for a better or longer service that you might not actually need.