5 Principles of Marketing Psychology to Attract and Convert More Leads

By Linda Quezada on September 28, 2021

To be an effective marketer, you have to know about marketing psychology. To be a great marketer, you should understand how to incorporate those principles into your marketing campaigns. Some psychology principles fit so seamlessly into marketing that we might not even realize we’re using them, which can be helpful to turn potential customers into loyal ones.

But if you want to reach the next level, you need to start thinking strategically. Your brand needs to purposefully use consumer and social psychology to influence consumer behavior and the customer experience. We’ve outlined five strategies you can use in your business to do just that, but first, let’s take a closer look at the foundations of marketing psychology.  

Psychology + Marketing. Great Alone, Better Together

Marketing isn’t about throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s all about knowing what your customers want and consistently delivering that outcome. Just like marketing tools use troves of data to inform their functions, your brand can use marketing psychology to inform your campaigns and win new customers.

Marketing psychology uses psychological principles to influence how consumers think, feel, reason and make decisions. Imagine if you could accurately predict exactly what colors would grab customers’ attention or which phrasing would most effectively create trust in your brand. When you allow psychology to inform your marketing strategy, this is exactly what you can do.

The goal of this approach is to influence consumer behavior and purchasing decisions by using a variety of psychological principles. When executed correctly, marketers can make a calculated emotional appeal to their audience, which might be exactly what you need to land a lasting customer.

Humans Are Predictable, And That’s Good News (For Your Business)

As consumers, we’re irrational. Our buying decisions are largely driven by innate biases that are hard to decipher without looking at the psychology of the human mind. But, despite being irrational, we’re also predictable. 

Ninety percent of human decisions are made based on emotions. You might decide to stop at McDonald’s because you feel hungry, or to buy a new car because it makes you happy, or to earn a bachelor’s degree because it makes you feel accomplished. This range of examples is just to show that emotions can influence both inconsequential and life-changing human behavior.

These are huge decisions, and we all know we don’t go just with our gut. We use logic; it’s what separates us from animals. But take a second and think about how we really use logic. Humans use logic to justify their actions to themselves to others. So when you decide to go to college because you want to feel accomplished, you’ll say things like, “It’ll broaden my job opportunities,” “It’ll look good on a resume,” “I’ll have a chance to develop my talents.” All true, but also all justifications to act on emotion.

There’s a theory out there called “The Triune Brain” that marketing psychologists have picked up to try to hack human psychology. It was proposed by Dr. Paul MacLean in the 1960s, and it proposes that the mind is actually organized as a hierarchy with three parts: the neocortex, the limbic and the reptilian brains. Let’s break it down.

Reptilian: Survival

This is the primal brain; the one that operates on our most basic emotions. When we’re thinking with our reptilian brain, our sole focus is to survive and thrive. The reptilian part of our brain operates on pure instinctual response, which might seem like a disadvantage to marketers but it’s actually a plus. If you can adjust your sales strategy to light up this part of the brain in new prospects, then you’re much more likely to develop loyal customers.

Limbic: Emotional

Our feelings live in our limbic brains. This is the portion of the brain that lights up when you drive by McDonald’s and you’re hungry or when you see that car that makes your heart sing. It’s the second most powerful portion of the brain for consumers, because as we mentioned, we make most of our decisions based on emotional responses.

NeoCortex: Rational

According to MacLean, we developed this last. This is the mind associated just with humans. It’s rational, intellectual and capable of complex thought. It’s the place we all like to tell ourselves we spend the most time, even though we probably know better. This is the most difficult mind to market to because it’s always weighing options and looking for alternatives. 

With this model in mind, marketers can greatly influence the decision-making process of their consumers by following the three levels of thought.

  1. Address basic survival instincts.
  2. Appeal to an emotional response.
  3. Allow for logical reasoning.

Top 5 Marketing Psychology Strategies To Engage Your Clients And Increase Your Sales

Okay, now that we’ve got some principles of marketing and social psychology under our belts, let’s talk strategy! Implementing these principles can help you attract, engage, and form emotional bonds with your target audience, which, as we know, can boost your conversion rate and help with customer retention.

Just Imagine Technique

Imagination is at the core of any good story, and stories power great marketing. Your story is what makes your brand unique, and the way you tell it is what piques people’s interest. Everyone has heard “50 years in business” or “Best quality goods,” and, quite frankly, they’re tired of it. But when they hear the makings of a story, their ears perk up.

Telling stories through content is what creates a connection with your audience from the first time they find your brand. Rolex nailed this technique with the slogan “Every Rolex tells a story.” With five words, they turned a mass-produced product into a unique item by creating an emotional connection between the customer’s personal story and their watch.

Rolex marketing psychology example

If you’re wondering how to implement this strategy with your brand, don’t worry. There’s actually a complete guide called The StoryBrand Framework that helps businesses simplify their message by using a story-based approach. It places customers at the center of your story and follows the hero’s journey so they know your product is all about them.

Start With Why 

Simon Sinek created the golden circle presentation that uncovers why some brands have loyal customers and others have to rely on extensive digital marketing, limited time offers, special promotions and price reductions. In the end, these brands working hard to bring in an audience are still forgotten. So how do you keep your brand from falling into this fate? Ask why.

Sinek proposes that the “why” of your company is at its heart and that’s what customers are trying to understand. So instead of taking them through a series of chutes and ladders to figure it out, start with your why. Explain the purpose of your brand (the why), then your process (the how) and finally what you actually do. 

This might seem backward at first. After all, how will people decide to buy from you if they don’t know what you’re selling? But think back to the three levels of the brain. Your brand’s “what” appeals to the rational mind, but we only think we use that to make decisions. Your brand’s “why” appeals to the emotional brain, which is the portion we actually listen to the most.

Yeti is living proof that this method works. How did a cooler become cool? They didn’t start by saying, “We sell high-quality coolers!” that’s for sure. Instead, they created an aspirational brand that connects with people on a deeper level. They focused all their efforts on communicating why Yeti exists—for the serious outdoor enthusiast. #BuiltForTheWild. That’s a powerful emotional trigger that surpasses reason and price limits so much that the premium pricing has become a reason to buy! Yeti is now a symbol of status and lifestyle people are happy to pay top dollar for.

Decoy Effect 

The decoy effect has to do with alternatives. When we’re choosing between two options, the addition of a third, less attractive one (the decoy) can influence our perception of the original choices. These decoys provide justification for our buying choices—usually to spend more—which helps us feel like we’re making “rational decisions” based on logic instead of emotion.

A great example of the decoy effect is Spotify’s pricing. If you need a subscription for yourself and you see the individual plan and the family plan, you’ll probably choose the individual. After all, the family plan is the more expensive option, and it’s just you, right? But add in the Duo option as a decoy, and your whole mindset can change. Now you see the family plan is actually a great deal; less than $3 each if you add five friends or family members!

Once the decoy is deployed, people can more easily justify the added expense.

decoy effect

To use the decoy effect in your business, all you have to do is create an option similar to your main product, but worse. First, choose the product you want to sell more of and make sure it has more visible benefits than others. See how the Spotify family plan has a longer checklist? That’s what I mean. 

Next, create your decoy. Make this product asymmetrically dominated by your key product, which will increase the attractiveness of what you actually want to sell. Last, make the sale price of your decoy close to that of the key product. This will help people see the value and opt for what you want them to buy.

The Power of “Yes”

The word “yes” is incredibly powerful, especially in our subconscious minds. Saying yes can put you in a positive state of mind, which makes you more open to trying new things. When you feel optimistic, you’re more likely to take risks or buy that thing you’ve been wanting. So to access the power of yes, all you have to do is get customers to say the word.

If one person asked you to buy a Porsche and another offered you a free Hot Wheels car, who would you say yes to? Probably the Hot Wheels guy. He’s offering you something for free compared to a $100,000 investment. What if I told you that same Hot Wheels guy could probably get you to buy a Porsche a month from now? It’s the power of yes.

You can be the Hot Wheels guy for your customers by using the “yes” principle in your sales strategy. Here are the steps:

  1. Identify your big ask. (Usually, this is the Porsche.)
  2. Work backward by identifying a few smaller tasks that could lead to this sale. (Could be a free demo, an email subscription, etc.)
  3. Plan how to get your first yes to one of these smaller tasks.
  4. Go get that yes!

Once you get that first yes, customers are primed to respond positively to your requests. You can slowly chip away the feelings of risk associated with a purchase until they’re ready to buy that luxury car.


It might seem far-fetched that you could take someone from a free offer to a large purchase, but it’s possible because of another psychological principle: reciprocity. 

We’re all wired to believe we’re good people and to cement that thought, we like to help each other out. The principle of reciprocity says if someone does something valuable for us, we innately feel the need to give something in return. Or at the very least we have a positive association with that person.

This can be translated into any kind of business. You can offer free guides, free samples, free services, free trials, keeping in mind the first priority is to provide value. You want to help your prospective client in a meaningful way while also communicating the value of your products. But above all, always leave them wanting more.

An easy example of this principle is free versions of software. Immediately after signing up, we have a positive perception of the company and have probably resigned ourselves to buy the full version if we like the performance. Allowing people to access portions of your service before they invest, particularly in more expensive products, gives them the opportunity to build trust with your brand and know you’re worth supporting.

Marketing Psychology Will Influence Consumer Behavior

Now you can stop spending marketing dollars trying to appeal to people’s reason and start appealing to the real decision-maker: their feelings. There are tons of different techniques to leverage consumer psychology out there, but they all boil down to the same thing. Appealing to people’s emotions and creating a connection to your brand through stories is the most effective way to market your product.

👉 Check out How the StoryBrand BrandScript Helps Any Product Sell Itself

Linda Quezada
Linda Quezada
A lifelong collector of experiences, Linda's background spans from startups to internationally renowned corporations. Passionate about customer relationships, building trust and delivering results, she has brought a multicultural perspective to a variety of industries in multiple countries, helping businesses achieve their goals through market intelligence and strategic planning.

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