Ready to explore the brain of your consumer and the psychology behind marketing with influencers? Well, here we go…

As you know, we are all complex beings that have sophisticated conscious and subconscious thoughts. These thoughts lead us to take particular actions on a daily basis. Yet, as complicated as we are, we still share similar traits. We exhibit familiar psychological patterns and reactions. And that is why it’s important to study the psychology behind marketing.

It is not just psychologists, sociologists, and other academics who should take an interest in how people think and behave, though. As marketers, we have to be obsessed with human behaviour. There is a whole field of knowledge surrounding the psychology behind marketing.

While people typically think of marketing as an art, in reality, much of a marketer’s arsenal comes from your understanding of science – the science of human behaviour. It is the psychology behind marketing that causes consumers to act.

The study of the psychology behind marketing has played a vital role in the development of my company, PMYB. And it is something that every marketer should pay attention to if they’re looking to get the best out of their influencer campaigns. Some of you may already implement the marketing techniques outlined in the following article. But it’s good to be fully aware of them, so you can apply them in all of your influencer marketing endeavors.


The Theory of Social Proof Demonstrates the Psychology Behind Marketing

The whole reason that influencer marketing succeeds is that most people feel a need for social proof.

Dr. Robert Cialdini discusses this in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He describes how “we view a behaviour as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”.

In this online age, people regularly turn to online influencers to guide them in their decisionmaking.

Over time, influencers build genuine and authentic relationships with their followers. As a result, these audiences take notice of what the influencers they admire say. They are prepared to adapt their decision-making accordingly to fit in with the views of their role models.

Therefore when an influencer suggests that a particular product could help solve their problem, it acts as enough social proof for their followers. In cases, they accept that they must try the product or service, to see if it meets their needs.

This belief in social proof ties in with the Halo Effect, where people look up to their influencers and deep down want to be like them. We previously discussed the Halo Effect in the following article: Social Influencers: The Psychology Behind Great Influencer Marketing.


Priming Adds Thoughts to a Person’s Subconscious

Priming is a clear example of putting the psychology behind marketing into practice. It explains how you can use an earlier stimulus to modify the response that somebody gives to a later stimulus.

Scott Scanlon provides a simple example. Suppose you give somebody a list of words that includes ‘table’. If you later asked that person to think of a word beginning with ‘tab’, the odds of them mentioning ‘table’ are much higher than if you hadn’t primed them.

Research has shown that priming can be used effectively on social media. This is because when somebody interacts using a social network, their brain releases the chemical, oxytocin. This chemical is known to be a human stimulant of empathy, generosity, and trust.

Because influencers have built up strong relationships with their audience, they have the power to modify their audience’s perceptions. They can help ensure a brand’s product or service comes across as the perfect solution to their specific needs through techniques, such as priming.


The Amplification Hypothesis Magnifies Influence

Displaying assertiveness and confidence about an attitude while conversing with another person will act to increase and strengthen that attitude. If the attitude displayed comes across as uncertain, then it will act to soften that attitude. Aside from influencers who have shone through their personality, the mastery of a subject is what helps some influencers to grow their inspired followings. It is his/her displayed knowledge and understanding of a topic that leads to him/her establishing their reputation as an influencer.

This is an example of the Amplification Hypothesis in action. The more confident an influencer is about their topic, the more believable he/her will be to people, and thus the more influential he/her will become.

This is one reason why generalists fail to become influencers. For people to believe in you, you have to display an in-depth knowledge of some area – not just an ordinary understanding of a wide range of topics.

This is also a reason why celebrities are not so appropriate in times. Celebrities may be well-known, but that does not mean they have built a believable knowledge about the particular product or service they are being asked to promote. For example, the likes of Lionel Messi and Paris Hilton have been paid to endorse various cryptocurrency companies. And you wouldn’t associate them with such an industry. However, if someone had an in-depth knowledge of cyberspace and a financial background, you would be more inclined to take their advice than a celebrity, that is known for playing football or being a reality star. It’s simple but true.

For the Amplification Hypothesis to be valuable to your brand, you have to ensure the influencer comes across as knowledgeable. Essentially you have to match the right influencer with the right brands, which is something everyone knows by now!


The Conversion Theory Explains the Power of Vocal Minorities

You often find a few vocal minorities in a group, who hold a disproportional amount of power within the group. They are excellent at converting the majority of the people to their cause.

In reality, most members of a group probably don’t have a strong opinion about the majority of topics. Therefore they are open to having their opinion swayed by the members who are more passionate and concerned by a subject.

Often the silent majority are happy to be led.

Organisations working in influencer marketing are able to reap the rewards of this particular situation. If they take on the vocal minority as brand advocates, there is a good chance that the influencers will bring the silent majority along with them. When a vocal majority influencer promotes the benefits of a brand’s product, and there is no reason for the group to resist his/her views, the rest of the group is also likely to take an interest. And this is how the conversion theory can be really applied to influencer marketing.


The Power of Reciprocity and Influencer Marketing

I referred earlier to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s work which looks at the psychology behind marketing – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Reciprocity is another of Dr. Cialdini’s fundamental principles.

Reciprocity means that if somebody gives you something, even if it is of minimal value, you still feel obliged to give them something back. How many times have you felt obligated to do something for somebody else because they have done something kind to you?

Back in the days when Christmas cards were more common, people used to keep a record of every card they received, so that they could send one back in return. They didn’t want to be thought of as rude.

Dr. Cialdini cited a case study that showed waiters’ tips rose by 3% when restaurants gave diners a mint. Tips rose 14% when they gave diners two mints.

Businesses engaging in influencer marketing can also demonstrate reciprocity. But any actions undertaken by a company must come across as authentic, or there is a danger that they can backfire.  Customers react poorly when they see that a firm’s outreach is one-sided.

Any outreach a firm makes needs to be tailored to suit particular situations. This is another example demonstrating how vital it is that a business selects the best influencer for their target audience. If a firm works with an influencer to make an offer, it will only be valid if the audience feels it is relevant to them.

Another way reciprocity works well is when influencers keep conversations going with their audiences. For instance, audiences feel incredibly special when their favourite influencer responds to them! Going by this theory, getting an influencer to talk about your brand with their followers can be an extremely powerful way to generate future revenue.


Organisations Can Use Social Influence to Change an Audience’s Behaviour

As you know, social influencers can have a powerful impact on peoples’ behaviour. This provides tremendous opportunities for brands, governments and organisations to utilise influencers in order to help generate interest.

One example this can be applied to is from YouTube star, Zoella, who has used her channel to become a Digital Ambassador for Mental Health. She helped publicise the #DontPanicButton campaign to help convince her 11 million subscribers that there is no stigma with mental health.

Social influence actually demonstrates three facets of the psychology behind marketing:

  1. Conformity – people are willing to change their behaviour to mirror others in a group
  2. Compliance – people are prepared to do what somebody they respect asks of them. Especially when there is a chance of receiving social rewards or avoiding penalties
  3. Obedience – many people have a natural reaction to perform a task asked of them by an authority figure who they respect. Mainly because they have a perception they can’t or shouldn’t say “no”.


Anchoring To Place Things in Context

We have previously discussed the importance of anchoring as a negotiation strategy.  But anchoring has far more uses than just as a negotiating tool.

People often base their decision on the first piece of information they receive.

This is why businesses often discount the prices of products or services. If somebody sees that an item of clothing they like usually costs $50, they will be far happier to spend $30 on the day.

The concept behind anchoring demonstrates that consumers feel the need for a reference point. With this, they can compare everything else to it.

If an influencer lets his/her fans know of a personal discount, his/her audience is likely to take advantage of this information. For example, in one of our campaigns for, utilising personalised influencer discount codes really helped us to generate a high volume of sales in a short period of time.


The Power of Proximity

A significant drawback of working with celebrities is that the target market will be unable to relate to the celebrity’s daily life. Most celebrities spend their lives in a different social world to your customers.

Influencers, however, usually have a better understanding and more relatable lifestyle. They come across as more in tune with those, who are likely to spend money on your brand.

While audiences may admire celebrities, it is usually from afar. Celebrities do not have the same life experiences and do not have similar private lives.

Influencers are usually in closer social proximity, and can more organically demonstrate how a product or service is likely to solve their fears, concerns, or problems. Or even their future purchases.


Brands Should Study the Psychology Behind Influencer Marketing

The psychology behind marketing is a critical element of every marketing campaign. Influencer marketing is no exception.

The main reason we avidly promote the power of influencers is because of the positive psychological effects influencers have on others. People trust people. And people definitely trust influencers.

People expect social proof before they make decisions. And influencers are incredibly powerful at forming and modifying these perceptions and behaviours.

As Seth Godin said, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic”. You can’t afford to ignore the psychology behind marketing – influencer marketing or any other type of campaign you operate.


Thanks for reading. To learn about how we went on to discover an invaluable way of identifying exactly which influencers are more likely to perform better, prior to using them, read our story here.


Written by Chris Wilson, PMYB Co-Founder
Chris Wilson, PMYB Influencer Relations Director
We’re the leading Global Influencer Marketing Agency, PMYB. We’ve pioneered the process of identifying high-performing influencers!


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