Social Psych & Marketing Smarter(er)

The very first assignment I had to do for an undergraduate sociology course was to answer the question: “How do you expect learning about Social Psychology will help you in your day-to-day life?”


Having flipped through the course materials, I had a pretty solid answer… it just wasn’t an answer that I wanted to share. I actually felt a little ashamed. I was working in a marketing and communications role at the time, and seeing chapter headings in the textbook like “Persuasion” and “Motivation”, I realized that I could probably apply a lot of the course material to my job. Bonus!


Except it made me feel kind of skeezy. Having a solid understanding of how people think, why they think that, and, ultimately, how to influence their thoughts and decisions… seemed like something an evil mastermind would be into. Now, granted, my childhood aspiration was a career path along the lines of mad scientist -> evil mastermind -> President of The Earth, but I never wanted to manipulate my way there.


So if I had all of this totally applicable knowledge in my toolkit – would I feel okay actually applying it?


Well, I was okay with the premise that, broadly, that’s what marketers/communicators/advertisers do: they try to get people to buy into their idea.


Then I realized, just because I would be employing elements of psychology didn’t mean I was hypnotically forcing anyone into doing anything*. I was still going to do the same things I’d always done —market and communicate— just smarter.


Instead of—essentially—taking educated guesses (based on demographics and market research), I could tailor the presentation of my message/idea/product to increase my chances of conversion significantly. From the physical design/visual presentation, to the method, to the wording, to the timing and the targeting: I could set up really bomb-proof strategies.


So that’s my plan: to share what I’ve taken away from various social psychology courses, in a marketing-specific framework. I’ll focus on one concept per post, and link to relevant videos and courses along the way. Hopefully you find it as useful as I have!


*Side note: that’s a common misconception. A hypnotist can’t force you to do anything you don’t want to – your brain won’t let that happen. If hypnotists could do that, then they would be the evil masterminds.

Author Ahna MacLeod

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