Psychology and the way that we perceive and interact with the world around us obviously plays a huge role in the decisions we make during our lifetime. We as humans draw on a combination of past experiences and current emotions to make decisions.
Having an understanding of the psychological reasons that people make decisions can give advertising brands a competitive edge in fine-tuning a message that encourages the desired action to be taken.
By drawing from the emotional and psychological reasons consumers consume the way they do, marketers can learn more about the deeper, less-obvious factors that motivate consumers to think, act, share, purchase, and become brand loyalists.
Richard Gregory’s Visual Assumption Theory
Richard Gregory was a psychologist that believed that our visual perception of our surroundings relies heavily on what can be referred to as “top-down” processing.
What does top-down processing mean for the human brain, exactly? It means that our brains make assumptions about our environments based on previously stored information – expectations, beliefs, prior knowledge, and prior experiences. Our brains are always trying to think, move, and anticipate faster; instead of having to relearn and reprocess a given situation, we are able to draw from the library of knowledge that is already stored.
Based on those theories, he deducted that nearly 90% of what we actually see or experience is lost by the time it reaches the brain. As a result, the brain relies on past experiences and knowledge in order to fully (and quickly) perceive a given situation. The human brain essentially merges new information with existing information to apply context and understanding.
Understanding this concept is extremely important for marketers and brands alike. The existing emotions and perceptions an individual has towards a brand or situation strongly affect how the individual will approach a new situation. Thus, if brands are interested in making positive, lasting impressions, they must allow their audiences to draw on past positive experiences and emotions.
This concept as it applies to marketing and advertising is not new by any means. We see it often – want to achieve a high social status? Buy this brand of clothing. Want attractive men/women to pay attention to you? Drink this brand of alcohol. Remember all the fun you had at the last sporting event you went to? Make sure to buy tickets to the next game.
Among the many psychological theories behind marketing and advertising, making an individual recall a positive memory or emotion helps brands encourage positive emotions towards them or their products, even if the individual has never interacted with that particular brand before.
Marketing and Memory
It’s well known that the human brain is only able to process and store the details of its experiences that it determines to be most important for survival. Obviously, no one (hopefully) is going to be in a fight-or-flight survival setting from an ad, but the brain still recalls past memories when making decisions about its current situations.
How Colors Relate to Memory
Our perceptions of the colors in our environments play an important role in how we process information, how it is stored in our memories and the emotions that we tie to those memories. Thomas Sanocki and Noah Sulman studied how certain color combinations have an effect on memory. They evaluated how harmonious and disharmonious color combinations influenced perception and memory.
Based on their findings, Sanocki and Sulman concluded three points:
People are more likely to remember harmonious color patterns (colors that when paired are pleasing to the eye) better than contrasting color patterns.
The use of few, strong colors allows the brain to more easily remember images.
Contrasting colors that surround a main pattern increase memory of the color pattern.
The takeaway for marketers: perception of color is a human experience, and we draw on past emotions when we look at particular colors or color groups. Since the use of specific colors or color combinations can alter the perception and memory retention of a brand, it’s imperative for brands to be aware of the emotions their branding stirs in their audiences.
Brands spend millions of dollars on branding and design alone for this exact reason – they know the importance of brand perception. Typical emotions associated with specific colors include:
Red: Energy, strength, power, hunger
Blue: Stability, trust, confidence, intelligence
Green: Growth, harmony, freshness, safety
Yellow: Joy, intellect, happiness
Purple: Status, wisdom
Black: Power, formality, elegance, fear
It’s important for brands to use colors and color patterns in their marketing that align with their desired perception and goals.
Volumes have been written on how Psychology plays into marketing (in fact, this writer has a bachelor’s degree in this very concept. And let me tell you, this writer read volumes on it.) While these are only a few of the many ways psychology and marketing can be used together to create effective ad campaigns, incorporating the above information into your ad campaigns will help ensure your branding is seen as positive and memorable.
Do you have examples of psychology used in marketing? We’d love to hear your thoughts!