Your Customers as Seen Through Their Cognitive Biases and Predilections

How to Use Psycho-Sensory Principles in Brand Marketing

Are you currently using psycho-sensory principles in your marketing?

If not, you should.

Marketers often focus on what they think will be the most compelling and differentiating features and benefits of their products, and then go out and repeat (or “pound”) them across their marketing efforts and channels.

psycho-sensory principles-2What they often miss is that consumers are not robotlike purchasers of products and services. They are people. And people don’t see the world in a factual, rational and unbiased fashion.

They are influenced by many things, including their environment, culture, values, who they are with, how they feel and who they think is watching or judging them, to name a few.

Fortunately, psychology and neuroscience have established some general principles that marketers can use to navigate their target audience’s humanness and make their brands more appealing to them.

There are hundreds of cognitive biases, effects and heuristics (what we call psycho-sensory principles) people use, some consciously and some unconsciously, when they make decisions.


Psycho Sensory Principles

Below are 18 psycho-sensory principles that affect peoples’ brand choices and purchase decisions, and how marketers can benefit from them.

Your customers and prospects tend to…

1) Be notoriously poor at telling you what they would most like in terms of product innovations in the future.
Brand marketing insight: Traditional market research is of little value in developing future products and services. Deeper techniques are required to achieve real insights.

2) See their decisions more favorably after the decision has been taken.
Brand marketing insight: Reinforce post-purchase satisfaction and ask for a referral, review or endorsement.

3) Perceive prettier/more aesthetically pleasing things as more real and authentic.
Brand marketing insight: Pursue and emphasize good design.

4) Place more value on things they make or complete.
Brand marketing insight: Find a way to actively involve the customer in the experience.

5) Discount or ignore information that conflicts with their existing beliefs and perceptions and seek out information consistent with them.
Brand marketing insight: The better you know your customers/prospects, the better you can tailor your messages to them.

6) Be disproportionately influenced by initial information and first impressions.
Brand marketing insight: Realize the value of that first impression and the difficulty of changing perceptions later.

7) Believe specific instances, such as an individual’s brand experience, while underappreciating large group statistics (e.g., 72 percent of doctors recommend Product X).
Brand marketing insight: Bring individual customer’s experiences to life in detail over citing statistics.

8) Prefer smaller but immediate gains over larger but longer-term gains.
Brand marketing insight: Reward frequently following brand engagements, even if the rewards are small.

9) Believe what others around them believe.
Brand marketing insight: Share what others believe if it is helpful to the brand.

Your Customers as Seen Through Their Cognitive Biases and Predilections

How to Use Psycho-Sensory Principles in Brand Marketing Are you currently using psycho-sensory principles in your marketing? If not, you should. Marke...

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10) Like you more if they have previously performed a small favor for you.
Brand marketing insight: Ask for a small favor, such as input or a review, early in the brand engagement process.

11) Need to be seen as consistent.
Brand marketing insight: Remind them of previous purchases of similar items or positive experiences with similar items.

12) Feel the negative effects of a “loss” more keenly than the positive effects of a gain.
Brand marketing insight: Avoid having customers feel like they have lost something. Rather than taking away a benefit, try to transform it into something different.

13) Recall information better when acquired through multiple senses than through verbal information alone.
Brand marketing insight: Leverage the senses, not just verbal information, in marketing communications.

14) Value the same item more once they own it.
Brand marketing insight: Show your prospects what it would be like for them to own or use your brand.

15) Compare options over evaluating the absolute value of each option in isolation.
Brand marketing insight: Simply by presenting a less desirable option as a foil, you can make your offering seem more appealing.

16) Make purchase decisions based on how they feel and use features and benefits (rational information) to rationalize their purchase decision afterward.
Brand marketing insight: Understand and show how owning and using your brand will make a customer feel.

17) Adjust the speed of their behaviors to the prevailing ambient rhythm.
Brand marketing insight: If you want to move customers along faster, increase the speed of ambient stimuli (e.g., music, lights). If you want them to linger, do the opposite.

18) Are highly visual in their information processing.
Brand marketing insight: Make sure you communicate the perceptions that you’re trying to instill in your targets across all appropriate senses.

Ready to discuss your next branding project? Contact us today.


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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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