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Recently, we talked about how you could apply colour psychology to design and how certain colours make us unconsciously behave in different ways. Today, we’re going to be looking at how you can incorporate psychological theory into your content marketing campaigns in order to influence customer behaviour.

When it comes to content marketing, strategy and planning are everything - as it’s not particularly easy to second-guess what your customers want (even with the most comprehensive and robust buyer personas in place). It’s also wise to assume that your competitors are doing at least the same as you are and if that’s the case, then you need something that sets you apart.

According to Consumer Psychologist, consumer psychology “studies thought processes, emotional reactions, reasoning and selection between various competing alternatives (e.g., brands, products, retailers)”. Marketers can apply consumer psychology to better understand how consumers come to make a purchasing decision. They can then use what they’ve learned in order to develop content marketing strategies.

Great Visuals and the Use of Colour is Vital

According to a Quick Sprout survey, 90% of subconscious judgements (which are made within one and a half minutes) are influenced by colour. Further to this, 92.6% of people stated that the number one influencing factor when carrying out a purchasing decision was visual. Now, I won’t go into the colour aspect as it was covered in my previous post listed above, but it’s safe to say that when you’re composing your content, it should contain images and they should be carefully created/chosen with colour in mind.


So if you’re creating infographics (for example), then think hard about which colours work best for what you want to achieve. If it’s written content, then think about how it’s presented with regards to header images and those that appear in the text. Try to choose colours that resonate strongly with your audience and that prompt action.

Emotional Response

When it comes to how content is shared online, it’s important to think about how it provokes an emotional response in the reader. Posts and images that prompt a sense of joy, happiness or laughter work the best, but negative content, that provokes anger and a sense of injustice also works, albeit not as well. When creating your strategy, think about what need in the audience your content fulfils. Does it solve a problem they might have or does it just make them smile?

Remember too that it must be relevant to your audience and that even small things that solve a problem for the reader can be valuable - it doesn’t have to be about cute pets doing silly things. List posts, for example, do very well as they offer to help the reader ( eg to do something that they currently can’t or give them sites to visit that they might otherwise not have thought about). For the same reason, ‘how to’ pieces also do well as they teach the reader how to carry out certain tasks.

Social Identity

When something appeals to a person based on who they are, it makes them more receptive to marketing campaigns. Think about the ads that you see on TV and you’ll see that often they’re delivered by a person in the same social group as the target audience. This allows the audience to identify with that person and influences the buying decision. It’s important that the content that you deliver is identifiable to the target group and that it’s consistent. Otherwise it risks creating a disconnect and putting off the reader.

This is because if your message doesn’t appeal to a person’s sense of identity it’s perceived as a threat and they are motivated to ignore it. A study by Hong Kong University’s marketing professor Amy Dalton and colleague Li Huang found that:

“Identity strength enhanced memory for identity-linked promotions if the identity had been primed. When the primed identity was threatened, ad memory was impaired, reflecting the motivated forgetting effect.”

Of course, with certain groups it’s necessary to take care not to stereotype people or you’ll do more damage that not applying identity theory in consumer behaviour ever could.


First championed by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the concept of reciprocity is one that simply means that when somebody does something for you, you quite naturally want to return the favour. So when it comes to your content marketing, this could be that you’re teaching somebody something that they didn’t know, or you’ve pointed them in a direction which means that they can get something for free or improve their life.


It doesn’t have to be anything big, although creating free downloadable content such as white papers, ebooks and images is certain to be a winner. All it has to do is make the reader grateful for the content to the extent that they feel like reciprocating. This makes for more conversions and can even boost word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing as the consumer will want to tell people that they received something for nothing or that dealing with you was a pleasant experience.

There are many ways in which you can use psychology to influence customer behaviour and we’ve touched on some of the most powerful here. It’s all about knowing your audience, how they behave, their likes and dislikes and tailoring content to suit. If you can do so successfully, then you’re likely to enjoy a campaign that returns real results.

Next Step: 10 Ways to Improve your Content Marketing

Chasing Engagement - Whitepaper

Historically, marketers did not need to understand the technical back-end of their website or sales database, but today understanding how your content management system works and being involved in its development will give you a competitive edge.

Download our free content marketing guide. You will discover how to increase your website and intranet ROI by enhancing your content marketing and distribution strategies.

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