The Psychology of Marketing Strategy

brain split in two with left side full of formulas and right side sprayed with colorsMarketing strategy gets talked about a lot. This is especially true when the tactics currently used by a company are no longer working. That’s when people are asked, “what’s the strategy?”

The problem is, if you’re asking “what’s the strategy?” after already running tactics, you’ve wasted your time and money being reactionary or in simply hoping things would turn out.

At its most basic level, a marketing strategy is a plan with a specific overall mission or goal with accompanying tactics to achieve that goal, taking into account your audience, your products or services, and your ability to meet your audience’s needs. Unfortunately, this makes it seem like creating a marketing strategy is a matter of ticking some boxes.

Box One: identify your target audience and their typical behavior. Box Two: craft some messaging that positions your brand well and meets the communication needs of your target audience. Box Three: design a couple of buyer journeys, creating touchpoints for each stage of the journey and each channel your audience is likely to use. Box Four: create a frictionless purchase experience. Tick, tick, tick. Strategy done.

If we weren’t trying to market to humans, a typical marketing strategy might look like that. It might be a formula that gets pulled off the shelf and lightly massaged per industry. But, until someday in the future when bots handle even our purchase decisions for us, we are marketing to humans who are driven by emotion as much as logic, who are varied and complex in their use of different media, and who are wise to the “tricks” companies use to get their attention.

Let’s look at some examples.

Mere Exposure Effect (or Familiarity Principle)

Originally discovered by psychologist Robert Zajonc, the Mere Exposure Effect, also known as the Familiarity Principle, is the psychological quirk where people end up feeling a preference for people or things simply because it is familiar.

In other words, the more you are exposed to something, the more you like it simply because it feels more familiar to you. It’s not a logical response: more exposure to something doesn’t mean it is more trustworthy or worth feeling great about. But it is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to form attachments anyway.

Outside of the marketing context, it helps explain why some people struggle in disposing of old clothing or items that have no emotional significance: they’re familiar, and therefore valued. Within the marketing context, it means consistently presenting your brand in a positive and strategic way across multiple platforms can help people grow partiality toward you.

Rule of Seven

Similar to the Mere Exposure Effect, the Rule of Seven says potential customers need to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they engage with you. While this number isn’t set in stone – it will vary by industry, price point, and buyer personality – it communicates the same idea that buyers need to feel familiar with your brand and messaging before they will engage. The thinking behind the Rule of Seven, however, is that brands need to repeat themselves often in order to:
• Cut through the noise and distractions in the marketplace
• Be present when a buyer’s need rises in urgency
• Set the stage for convincing buyers of your value

However, these psychological phenomena are only undercurrents to developing a marketing strategy. Being successful in the face of these subconscious drivers requires a clearly-defined marketing strategy that maps out how you want to interact with your audience, how you expect to reach them multiple times, and how your messaging and imagery will attract their attention and compel them to action.

The Trust Factor

The Mere Exposure Effect and the Rule of Seven are helpful in understanding why it’s important to reach out to your audience in a frequent, consistent, and engaging way. It underscores that no single tactic will be a game-changer, and no single marketing channel holds the golden key.

However, we can’t ignore that there’s increased caution and mistrust in some areas of media and business. Today, you might as well rename your “Marketing Strategy” as your “Trust-Building Strategy” because building trust with your audience has become mission-critical.

This is where an Integrated Marketing Strategy truly shines. It meets the criteria of helping buyers find you and that they’ll like what they find, but it also gives you a platform for shaping public perception of your company or brand. Trust is built in what we share, how often we share, and for what purpose, as well as intentional communication about your company’s values and purpose.

Creating a Marketing Strategy

In truth, if creating a successful marketing strategy were a matter of ticking a few boxes, agencies like Scheffey wouldn’t be required. Nothing can replace a strategy based on a deep understanding of your target audience, and the ability to meet their needs by offering the right services and communication. But the art of an effective marketing strategy is understanding where you need to be, when you need to be there, and what you need to say to tap into your audience’s emotions, logic, and their sense of trust.

Start building trust backed by good marketing. Call us to get started on building your marketing strategy, or as we like to call it, your trust-building strategy.