How To Influence Consumer Thinking

Part 2 of a 3-part series on today’s Consumer Psychology. In this part, messing with minds!
Part 2 of a 3-part series on today’s Consumer Psychology

Part 2 of a 3-part series on today’s Consumer Psychology. In this part, messing with minds – how to influence consumer thinking!

If I was a Jedi I wouldn’t bother with the lightsaber or all that bullcrap honor stuff. I would jump right on in there with the Jedi mind trick, working my mind-fecking evils on just about everyone I met. Just think of the fun I could have. First off, I would quit online shopping forever. I mean, why click and pay when I can walk into any store, wave my hand and get the goodies for free? TVs, cars, houses, shit, even entire countries and why not the whole world. All mine.

Next, everyone I met would mind fecked to think that I look like George Clooney, and anybody I don’t like would see Shrek looking back at them every time they looked in a mirror. 

Politicians would be my favorite victims, their deceitful little minds completely melting when I mind feck them to never tell a lie. 

Shallow I know, but oooh the fun I could have with Jedi mind powers.

But mind feck like this isn’t consigned to works of fiction or my dark mind. It actually happens for real too. Every day we are bombarded with subtle little tricks applied in the things we hear and the things we see, that are designed to bend our minds just enough to trigger a desired reaction. And the digital revolution has opened the way for mind fecking on a colossal scale.

Digital Dis-intermediation 

Our business relationships have changed.  In many cases, whole industries have had to re-think their role or risk disappearing altogether. A great example of this is in the publishing world.  

An example of publishing disintermediation is the publication of ‘Go the Fok to Sleep’ by Adam Mansbach []. As legend has it, this book was originally conceived as a joke on a Facebook status update after spending over two hours one night trying to get his two-year-old daughter to go to sleep. Encouraged by positive comments from his friends telling him he should write the book that’s exactly what he did. He wrote it in the style of a children’s book but aimed squarely at adults. 

After a reading at the Arts Salon in Philadelphia a wave of positive social media messages was sparked, resulting in the book reached number 2 on Amazon – this with only a book cover, a title and a short excerpt shown on the Amazon store. 

In the old world, Adam would have had to pitch his book to business book publishers. Following acceptance, there would be a contract negotiation. He would then have to submit several draft manuscripts for editing before final publishing. The artwork would be added, and this would then be followed by a marketing and promotion campaign driven by the publishing company. Adam would receive only a very small percentage of the book sales price. 

Digital Disruption 

If the automotive industry had developed at a similar rate to digital technology, the disruption would have delivered a Ferrari that does 500 miles to the gallon, achieves 0-60mph in 0.5 seconds, costs $1 and fits in your pocket! 

Let’s take a quick look at the plight of the newspaper publishing.  

According to the Pew Research Centre – Journalism and Media – Published June 2018  [ ]: 2015, newspapers experienced their greatest decline in advertising revenue since the recession years of 2008 and 2009. In 2015, advertising revenue fell a whopping 8%. Prior to 2008, the largest reported drop was in 2001, when advertising revenue fell 9%. The decline in 2015 was significantly higher in 2008 (-15%) and 2009 (-27%).  

The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2017 was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday, down 11% and 10%, respectively, from the previous year. Declines were highest in print circulation: Weekday print circulation decreased 11%, and Sunday circulation decreased 10%.

In comparison, “.. according to the independently produced reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, however, both companies saw large gains in digital circulation in the past year: 42% for the Times and 26% for the Journal, on top of gains in 2016. If these independently produced figures were included in both 2016 and 2017, weekday digital circulation would have risen by 10%.”

In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online(either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, ‘born on the web’ news outlets. Digital advertising revenue across all digital entities (beyond just news) continues to grow, with technology companies playing a large role in the flow of both news and revenue.” [ ]

The biggest influence on this change has been digital technology, with advertising dollars moving away from print to online. Naturally many if not all the newspapers responded by creating digital versions of their publications. However, they were unable to grab the corresponding share in the upturn in digital advertising revenues because digital has created many alternative channels all competing for advertising dollars.  

Digital disruption knows no boundaries, and it doesn’t take prisoners! Just look at some of these:

Uber – the taxicab industry 

Bitcoin – money! 

Netflix – the TV and Movie delivery industries. 

Spotify – finding music 

Waze – driving in traffic 

Tinder – meeting people 

Airbnb – hotel room bookings 

… and many more.

Driving this disruption and disintermediation, this re-imagining of our lives is a continual cycle of new technological development and with it, an explosion in data. 

Eric Schmidt at Google said [ ] – “Between the dawn of civilisation and 2003, five exabytes of information were created. [Exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes].  In the last two days, five exabytes of information have been created, and that rate is accelerating”.  

Now whilst the accuracy of the figures he used have been questioned, it can’t be denied that there has been, and continues to be, an explosion in data uploaded, shared and consumed. Data is at our fingertips on every device, from computers to tablets, smartphones and even tv sets. 

In consumer markets, this availability and immediacy of data make life difficult for traditional companies because speaking generally, they’re not well equipped to interpret and act on this data – especially to act quickly.   

A regular person can now launch and grow a global business within hours, all from the comfort of their home, something that would have been impossible just two decades ago.  

New companies spring up overnight and are armed with a wealth of data from new types of devices, can do old things in a completely new way, and critically, they don’t carry the same baggage in the form of legacy systems, organisational structures, and mindsets, that traditional businesses carry. 

The Story So Far

The tremendous changes we’ve experienced over the past two decades has led us to a mixed world of digital natives and digital immigrants. Technology continues to drive service innovation, which in-turn disrupts and dis-intermediates our traditional business models. The pace of technological change is increasing, customer awareness is increasing, and competition is increasing with every innovation that emerges. The digital natives of today will become digital immigrants within a very short period.  

Think Consumer 

In the digital world, the user experience is a success or failure issue at a business level, not at a product level. 

The digital revolution has transformed the way consumers think about, and buy, brands. Business marketing and advertising are no longer about one-way discussions, and consumers are better informed and better connected than ever before. All businesses need a deep understanding of their target consumers, and to understand how they journey from recognising a product need, through brand and vendor selection, to purchase and beyond. 

This section considers the digital consumer experience and explores the new ways customers are making their buying decisions.   

In the digital age, customers purchase things differently. 

Consumer Psychology in a Digital World 

Consumers have access to more information than ever before, some of it in real-time, and through social media platforms, they can very quickly spread their views about your brand, products, services and your employees. The consumer attention span is notoriously short, and their expectations are very high. You provide a poor user experience at your peril. 

As with traditional business, the customer experience has a direct impact on their brand perception and on the financial performance of your business, so without a doubt the design of the user experience should be regarded as a strategic issue for all business owners and leaders.  

Business processes need to have user experience considerations built-in right from the start. This will make design easier in the long run and will also reinforce to all employees the fact that user experience is business critical.  In the digital world, the impact of the user experience is a success or failure issue at a business level, not product level. If you fail here, your business will fail, no matter how good your product is!

Following the tech boom in the early years of this millennium, the user experiences of the tools and gadgets available to consumers have evolved in a way that makes them appear (almost) human. For example, devices may include physical enhancements such as touch-sensitive technology and augmented reality. Live streaming, bots, and virtual assistants can be used to add a positive non-physical digital experience for consumers. 

 The most successful user experiences are underpinned by traditional human social values which include openness and transparency.  Way back in 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.”  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs originally identified five levels of need for which he subsequently added a sixth.  Traditionally drawn as a pyramid, the hierarchy starts at the bottom with the most basic human need:  

Physiological – these are the physical requirements for human survival, such as air, food, and water. On thenext level are our Safety needs such as personal and financial security and health and well-being. The third level of the pyramid is Love and Belonging –  which includes friendship, family, and intimacy. Our need to belong can be an important tool for digital marketers, something we’ll come to shortly.The fourth level is Esteem which is the need to feel respected and valued The fifth level is Self-Actualisation –  morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.  The sixth level added by Maslow in later years is Transcendent needs, helping others to achieve self-actualisation.  

Successful user experiences tap into one or more of the needs identified by Maslow, and most frequently Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualisation. Skilled digital businesses will do this by weaving together stories and features which appeal to customers through these needs and by utilising subtle psychological tricks that steer a reader towards an outcome. 

Examples of this include social proof, digital communities, linking corporate sites to personal social network profiles, making the on-site experience more colloquial. The more the digital user experience taps into these needs, the more human the experience feels to us.  

The Hidden Science of Online Psychology 

As the digital experience becomes more human, we become more accepting and act more predictably. This, coupled with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and some basic human psychological traits, exposes us to some very effective psychological tricks used in digital marketing to steer a user towards taking a specific action, for example making a purchase or giving your email address.  

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) describes the fundamental dynamics between the mind (Neuro) and language (linguistic) and how they interplay to affect our behaviour. Online, NLP techniques can be used to steer consumers towards the desired outcome. I’ll guess that you probably recognise at least one of the most common NLP devices used by digital marketers: Presupposition, Commands and Embedding, Commands and Binding, Frame of Reference, and Thinking Styles.

 1. Presupposition –  this technique is used to guide the reader into accepting assumptions as facts. For example: 

“Are you one of the 152 million people in the UK who wants to start their own online business?” 

This sentence is a classic presupposition, inviting the reader to accept that 152 million people in the UK want to start their own online business. 

Another example of presupposition is: 

“What will you do with the extra $1650 you will pocket from applying the powerful sales techniques you will learn by reading this book?” 

Here the assumption is that the reader will pocket an extra $1650. 

  Some common presupposition constructs are: 

It’s a known fact, 

Everybody knows that, 

As you already know, 

As a matter of fact, 

What will you do with… 

2. Commands and embedding – commands can also be embedded in a sentence.  Instead of using a fact, marketers use a ‘soft’ opening and highlight the command. 

“You should act on this now.”

“Don’t let this opportunity pass, click on the subscribe button now.”

3. Commands and Binding –  commands can also be combined with irrefutable facts to create an NLP bind. For example: 

“Now that you have read this you realise why you must get a copy of his life-changing e-book.”

4.  Creating your own frame of reference –  marketers can also alter someone’s perception of the value of something by creating a reference frame against which it can be measured. 

“What would you give to learn the secret sales psychology techniques that compel people to buy from you? $30,000? $50,000?” 

 “Well my consulting fee is $2000 a day, so if you hired me to teach you, it would cost you at least $16,000. If you attended one of my online selling seminars, it would cost you $5000 plus hotel and travel costs. Would it surprise you to know that you can have unlimited access to my sales psychology course for only $495 and what’s more you can study at your leisure in the comfort of your own home!” 

5.Addressing thinking styles –  there are three common styles of thinking: Sight (visual), sound (Auditory) and feel (known as kinaesthetic). Individuals tend to favour one of these styles subconsciously. The good digital marketers ensure that their marketing messages address each of these thinking styles. 

To address visual thinkers, marketers cause your visitors to visualise the benefits by using sentences like “can you see yourself driving that sports car through the city centre?”. They tend to make extensive use of video content. 

To address auditory thinkers, include, for example, a downloadable audio presentation or cause your visitors to hear the benefits by using sentences like… 

“Can you hear your customers praising you for these improvements?” 

Finally, to address kinaesthetic thinkers, marketers play on their desire to feel by asking… 

“Just imagine how it feels to own one of these…” 

The point I’m making by talking about NLP is that in the business world the most successful messages – whether they are blog posts, website copy or social media updates, are most definitely designed and applied with consumer psychology in mind.  

As business owners and leaders, not only do you need to ensure that the user experience is smooth, positive and engaging, you also need to ‘humanise’ your messages in order to deliver the outcome your desire. This humanisation, combined with NLP consumer psychology devices, plays a key part in this, but good timing is also essential. Delivering the right message at the wrong time will count for nothing. Therefore, you must synchronise your messages with the consumer’s journey.  

In the third and final part of this series we will take a look at the new consumer journey and what evil marketers can do to win business.

In Part 3, we discuss Google’s ZMOT and the new consumer journey

If you missed Part 1 you can read it here: The Impact of Digital Business On Our Lives

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Andy Wood

Andy Wood

My mission is to guide and empower you with the tools, resources, strategies, and tactics to help you succeed in your online business, and (of course) EXPLODE your income so you can live life on your own terms.

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