Eight Concepts that Demonstrate How Behavioural Science Is at the Heart of Successful Marketing

The most successful marketers will know that there is a clear link between behavioural science and marketing – behavioural science being the subject of human actions, and marketing being the activity of promoting goods and services.

When their definitions are broken down as such, it’s clear to see how the two can be linked – behavioural science is closely linked to psychology, and understanding human behaviour is fundamental to running a successful marketing campaign where you can tap into the likes of consumer habits and behaviour. This may be reflected in the understanding of your target audience, or elements of the campaign such as your copy, display of social proof, or authority bias as examples.

And yet, the links still often remain overlooked, or marketers might miss opportunities to use behavioural science to inform their work. In this blog, we’ll look at different principles that show just how closely linked behavioural science and marketing are, many of which are concepts that have proven successful when factored into marketing campaigns.

Behavioural Science Principles That Are Linked To Marketing

The Concept of Social Proof, or ‘Herding’

This concept refers to the tendency that we, as humans, make decisions that are based on what other people around us think and are doing. People are often referred to as sheep (hence the term ‘herding’) and this is not a new analogy, but science does suggest that there is truth in this concept. In other words, if we know something has been tried, tested, and liked by others, then we’re more likely to go ahead and invest.

In marketing, you can apply social proofing to strategies in several ways – e.g. by displaying Trustpilot ratings and testimonials on your website, using user-generated content on your social media, or labelling something as a ‘bestseller’ to demonstrate its popularity amongst your audience. This also taps into the idea of FOMO – fear of missing out – where people are scared to miss out on something that others are enjoying.

Loss Aversion

Talking about what consumers might lose by not purchasing a product or service has now been proven by behavioural scientists to be more effective than telling consumers what they will gain and benefit from – this is where the wording within your copy becomes vital. After all, the emotions felt when losing something are often much stronger/intense than the feelings that are felt when something is gained.

One of the most prevalent examples of this concept in practice is with ‘free trials’. For example, if you sign up to a subscription on a free trial basis and get to grips with using it, it then becomes much more difficult to lose it.

The E.A.S.T Model

  • E stands for ‘easy’ – humans are lazy. If you make it easier for us to do things, we’re much more likely to do it. Remove any stress points throughout your consumer journey.
  • A stands for ‘attractive’ – if something appeals to your target audience, it’ll get more attention, and leave people feeling more positive about the change that will be created as a result of using your product or service.
  • S stands for ‘social’ – tying into the previously-discussed ‘social proof’ concept, people are more likely to do or buy something if they see that other people have, and with success.
  • T stands for ‘timely’ – capture attention at the right time and establish habits early to keep your target audience engaged.

The Principle of Authority Bias

From the perspective of consumers, authority bias is when we put our trust in the experts – for example, if a famous sports star is endorsing a new type of running trainer, we’re more inclined to trust their judgement. From the perspective of businesses, capitalising on authority bias is all about showing that your company or product/service is leading in the sector.

Messaging, facts, and statistics all play a crucial role here. For instance, with messaging like ‘91% of dentists recommend this toothpaste’ – by linking the product to those that are seen as an authority in this area, you build trust and credibility.

The ‘Milgram Obedience Experiment’ was the first study on authority bias in the 1960s – this was an extreme example of how authority bias affects our behaviour, but it’s still widely applicable to society today.

Anchor Bias

Understanding anchor bias will help you to understand the buying journey, as opposed to it being a principle that you can put into practice and capitalise on within your marketing strategy (to an extent). Anchor bias – also known as ‘anchoring’ is a cognitive bias that describes our reliance on the first piece of information that we’ve received (this is ‘the anchor’).

In other words, the first bit of information – such as a price or value – that we see is anchored into memory. From that point, we then judge everything else based on that. Whilst it’s hard for marketers to leverage this, one thing it does emphasise is the need for strategic copy, especially on landing pages.

This concept is also very similar to framing. This principle refers to the point of view from which a piece of content or information is presented – the way that something is framed will influence the way a consumer or an online user thinks about it and so, again, this is where strategic copy plays a crucial role.

Choice Architecture

People like to be in control, and therefore like to know that they have choices. With that in mind, the way that these choices are presented can then impact the choice that is made, whether that be the way those options are arranged and presented, or even the number of options that are available.

A great example of this is running something on an opt-out basis. It’s widely reported that doing this, as opposed to an opt-in format, results in greater participation rates as people have to be proactive in withdrawing, and are then more likely to stick to the status quo.

As such, that choice – the one that you want people to make the ‘status quo’ – is the one that you want to take care presenting if it’s likely to lead to more favourable outcomes.

Reciprocity Bias for Reciprocity Marketing

Reciprocity is the first of Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion, stating that: “People are obliged to give back to others the form of a behaviour, gift, or service that they have first received.”

When you offer consumers something valuable, many feel compelled to make a purchase. Besides offering them the product/service, you could offer a myriad of things including a free product, a charitable donation on their behalf, or even knowledge with a free downloadable guide or knowledge hub, if applicable.

In marketing, reciprocity is often used in techniques that are designed to create a bond between the customer and the company. Ultimately, it helps customers to feel like they are getting something extra in return for their custom.

Driving and Understanding Consideration

A short summary on this has the potential to downplay just how crucial this factor is, and so further reading – especially Google’s report on the ‘Messy Middle’ – is definitely recommended! Understanding the buyer journey is crucial, and much of this involves understanding the ‘consideration’ phase of the journey.

Whilst this is a concept in itself, it also relates to many of the other concepts discussed in this blog. When users are looking to buy a product or service, most of the time they will look at several options, make comparisons, conduct further research, and deliberate the right choice for them. In other words, their purchase journey isn’t linear.

As such, when users are conducting this further research and weighing up their options, it’s important to show up at every stage. That means through different channels (e.g. via organic search, PPC, and Paid Social) but also by implementing lots of the concepts discussed (e.g. social proof and authority bias to build trust and credibility).

Looking for a Marketing Strategy That’s Put Together with Consumer Behaviour in Mind? Get in Touch with Us Today!

Here at Embryo, we’re enthusiasts when it comes to understanding behavioural science and how it can, and should, be applied to marketing strategies. It’s something that we’ve invested a lot of time in recently, and continue to do so, to ensure that we can deliver successful campaigns across different channels.

So, not only do we have our marketing knowledge to put into practice, but we’ve got a solid understanding of user behaviour within the agency to apply to our work too – it’s that combination that certainly gives us the edge.

If you’re interested in working with us to expand your online presence, and ensure you’re constantly showing up on the consumer buying journey, we’d love to chat. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.


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