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4 Key Psychological Tricks To Improve Your Online Marketing

By winniewong on February 15, 2016

marketing psychology tricks

One of the keys to good marketing is understanding psychology. Think about it – psychology is the study of human behavior.

A huge part of marketing is figuring out who your target audience is and what they want. You want to determine what your audience wants and how you can give it to them, not to mention how you can convince them that your products or services are exactly what they need.

All of the online marketing strategies that you are using are based in psychology in one way or another. You’re trying to build a relationship with consumers in order to build trust and loyalty so that they will buy your products or services.

But this is a somewhat obvious connection, and a bit of a vague one too. In order to truly use psychology to your advantage, you should use a number of marketing tricks based on psychology. The following are four psychological marketing tricks that every business should employ.

1. The Halo Effect

halo effect marketing psychology

The halo effect at its core is very simple. It describes the bias that consumers have towards products by a certain company.

For example, say a consumer buys a product from a certain company. They love this product. The company releases a second, unrelated product. The consumer will then choose to buy this second product from the same company instead of looking at similar products from different companies due to the first experience that they had.

One of the best examples of this is Apple. Apple has been around for decades, but when the iPod came out, it really set the world on fire.

steve jobs

The success of the iPod helped to substantially boost sales of their Mac laptops. This happened because customers that bought iPods were so happy with the product that they chose to also buy other products that Apple released – and continue to do so today. It’s one of the reasons why consumers were practically camping in line during the original launch of the iPhone.

So how does this work psychologically? I mean, if you look at the example I used involving the iPod and the Mac, it makes complete sense on one hand, but on the other hand, it kind of doesn’t. An MP3 player is completely different than a laptop, so why would customers who bought the iPod blindly decide to buy the Mac laptop as well?

Yes, the company proved itself. But just because you make one good product doesn’t mean every product you make will be good. To really understand this, I’ll need to go to the origin of the term “halo effect.”

The Origin of the Halo Effect

The term “halo effect” was coined by Edward Thorndike. However, he wasn’t thinking about marketing when he came up with the idea.

The halo, of course, is a religious reference. A person depicted with a halo over his or her head is typically an angel. This meant that if you saw somebody depicted with a halo over their head, you would assume that they were a good person. So basically, a single characteristic – the halo – determined how you judged that person’s character.

Establishing the Halo Effect

When it comes down to it, the halo effect is essential in creating brand trust and brand loyalty. But you don’t have to just put out an amazing product in order to create the halo effect. That product is an impression you’ve made on the consumer – and you can make a good impression that acts as a halo effect using other methods as well.

For example, if you create amazing content for your blog that is extremely helpful, it will paint your brand in a positive light that could translate to sales. The same goes for the way that you engage with consumers on social media. If you leave a great impression, they’ll be more likely to try one of your products or services.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you create bad content or treat followers poorly over social media, it will leave a bad impression. This is known as the “horns effect.” The horns, of course, are used to describe a devil figure. If this happens, consumers are less likely to try your products or services – even if they are of better quality than the competition.

2. The Information Gap Theory

information gap theory

The information gap theory is something that you’ll want to keep in mind as you write your business blog. It’s all about tickling the curiosity of readers.

The theory was developed by George Loewenstein. He defined curiosity as being an innate human behavior that is triggered whenever there is a gap between what people know and what they want to know.

This gap is what, according to Loewenstein, influences people to take certain actions. In marketing terms, it’s what influences consumers to purchase your products, share your blog posts or subscribe to your email list, to name a few actions.

Using the Information Gap Theory

You understand what the information gap theory is and how it applies to marketing, but how exactly can you use it to your advantage? You might think that it comes into play with the title of your content. It can certainly be effective when used in the title, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be used here.

One place where it should be used, however, is within the introduction. The introduction is where you should attempt to establish the gap between what readers know and what they want to know.

Here are a few examples of how the information gap theory can be put to use within a sentence:

  • The key to getting visitors to read your blog is to use the information gap theory.
  • There is a way to boost blog traffic by using the information gap theory.
  • Have you ever wondered how you can improve your online marketing with the use of psychology?
information gap theory

An example of how the information gap can pique reader’s interest.

Do you see how it works? These sentences establish a goal (getting visitors to read your blog, boosting blog traffic and improving your online marketing) as well as presenting the solution to that goal (using the information gap theory and using psychology), but leave a huge gap in terms of how you get from point A to point B. This is the information gap that will pique the curiosity of your readers, leading them to continue reading.

3. The Theory of Reciprocity

theory of reciprocity

The theory of reciprocity is another very simple principle that everyone understands. It describes the need for a person to give back when something is received. For example, say you suddenly find yourself in need of a ride to the airport at the last minute.

Maybe you post on Facebook asking if any of your friends are available to give you said ride. If one of your friends does answer the calling, you’re probably going to want to return the favor somehow, whether it’s by filling up their tank with gas or by letting them know that they can give you a call if they need something since you owe them.

Using the Theory of Reciprocity in Marketing

At its most basic, you give something to consumers and they’ll be more inclined to do what you want them to do, whether it’s buy a product or sign up for an email list, to name a few possible actions.

But let’s go into a little bit more detail concerning a few effective marketing tactics that make use of the theory of reciprocity:

  • Offer Free Downloads – One of the most effective ways to get visitors to continue reading your content and to sign up to your email list is to provide substantial content, such as eBooks or whitepapers, that they can download for free.

    free downloads

    While many websites will require visitors to sign up to their email list in order to access free downloads (in itself a good strategy), you may even want to set up a section on your site that simply has a number of free downloads that don’t require any such action.

  • Provide Good Content – By making sure that the content you post is of high quality and is relevant to your audience, your readers will begin to appreciate your brand. They may not begin buying products or paying for services just yet, but they will be more likely to share or like your content via social media or even sign up to your email list.
  • Offer Free Trials – If you offer a service of some kind, then offering potential customers a free trial is a great way to eventually make a purchase. For example, if you sell software, you could provide them a free trial of one of your latest software updates. At the end of a certain period of time, such as a 7 or 30-day period, the trial could end and they could be given the option to purchase the software. They’ll be much more likely to make the purchase after you’ve essentially let them borrow it for a while.
  • Offer an Exclusive Deal – Exclusivity makes people feel special. You could be offering a special deal only to customers who have followed you on Facebook or who have signed up to your email list. Consumers will often feel like you are going out of your way to help them out and nobody else, which means that they will be more than likely to take advantage of that deal.

4. The Theory of FOMO

fear of missing out

FOMO is one of those terms you may have heard the youth of today throw around online, like YOLO (You Only Live Once). FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out. It’s not hard to figure out that something like FOMO could influence how consumers act with your brand.

There’s nothing that will instill action into a consumer like the fear of regret. Just think about how often you’ve made a purchase when an item was on sale simply because you thought to yourself, “when is that item ever going to be on sale again?” This is FOMO in action. FOMO is a very strong psychological tool that you can use in order to boost your sales.

Ways to Use FOMO in Marketing

The following are a number of ways that you can instill FOMO in your consumers, thereby leading to more sales:

  • Limit the Purchase Times – This is often used for sales. For example, many businesses will hold Labor Day sales, during which their products are heavily discounted during the Labor Day weekend but will go back to their original prices once Labor Day has ended. When you promote a sale and use the term “for a limited time only,” this will induce FOMO within consumers since this could be their only chance to buy certain products at a discount – even if they don’t need the product immediately, or at all.

    limited time

  • Limit the Supplies – Another FOMO marketing term often thrown around with good effect is “while supplies last.” Consumers will hurry to make a purchase before they miss out because you’ve sold out. Many businesses will use this term in order to clear back stock. It’s a clever way to clear older inventory that they are trying to get rid of anyway since newer inventory is going to replace it.
  • Limit the Quantity – This is similar to the limited supplies strategy, except that you limit the quantity of products you are selling instead of just holding the promotion until you run out. For example, the first 100 sellers get a $10 gift card. This use of FOMO marketing uses exclusivity – consumers will feel good about being one of the few who were able to get in on the deal.


Effective marketing requires you to understand human behavior. As you can see by these four marketing tactics, they all use an element of human psychology in order to be effective. Every business should strive to take advantage of the halo effect, the information gap theory, the theory of reciprocity and the theory of FOMO.

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Updated: 20 February 2024


About Winnie

Winnie is an aspiring copywriter & internet marketer in the vast world of digital marketing. She's as curious as she can be; constantly hunting for answers to her questions, never saying no to new experiences. When she's not spending her time typing up a storm, she is at home keeping up with her never-ending movie marathon & books.

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