5 behavioural science secrets to make you a better marketer

Joe Nicholson By Joe Nicholson

What if, by delving into the secrets of the unconscious mind, you could persuade your audiences to make the right choices?

Good news: behavioural science – the blend of psychology, economics, and neuroscience which investigates how people make decisions – can help you power up your marketing.

We all make decisions quickly and irrationally – it’s human nature. But behavioural science pays attention to these seemingly-unpredictable workings of the mind. By paying attention to key principles from the discipline, you can make your campaigns truly compelling.

And when the education sector is more competitive than ever, targeting your audiences’ deep-rooted unconscious motivations is a sure way to cut through the noise.

Without further ado, here are five of our favourite behavioural science principles – and how you can take advantage of them.

1. Authority bias

We trust authority – we’re more likely to do something when instructed by a trusted person.

Psychologist Stanley Milgram notoriously demonstrated this back in 1963, when students were asked to ‘electrocute’ actors pretending to be wired-up test subjects. Under the orders of scientists, the majority were actually willing to administer extreme shocks.

Scary, right? But the lesson here is that your audiences instinctively trust authority figures – so make use of endorsement in your campaigns.

Plus, the more likeable your authority, the more they’ll be trusted – that’s why peer recommendation is so persuasive.

2. Social proof

Admit it – our decisions are legitimised by what our peers are doing. We’re social creatures. This influence of the people around us is known as ‘social proof’.

Whether it’s staged queues outside nightclubs and bars or airline websites flashing ‘10 people looking at these dates right now!’ messages, the social proof effect is manipulated across society.

Needless to say, education marketing should follow suit – especially because social proof is even more potent among young adults. Show your audiences how their contemporaries are already doing what you want them to do.

3. Cognitive ease

We’re sorry to report that humans are a little lazy.

It’s been proven that the more mental energy we have to expend, the less likely we are to make a purchase.

That’s why supermarkets play with ‘choice architecture’, drawing your attention to certain products to make decisions as easy as possible. The same principle must apply to your marketing.

Bear in mind that your audiences have limited time, energy and knowledge about what you’re promoting. Present choices as easily as possible and limit options.

Simplicity is key.

4. Consistency bias

Chances are that you consider yourself a good person (that’s a good thing!).

But when it comes to decision-making, we tend to act in ways that are consistent with how we see ourselves. And marketing that appeals to this consistency bias gets cut-through.

5. Loss aversion

Think #FOMO.

Daniel Kahnemann, author of the seminal behavioural science book Thinking, Fast and Slow, argued that we hate losing almost twice as much as we love winning.

That’s why your marketing shouldn’t just focus on benefits. By introducing urgency and a fear of loss, you’ll more effectively push people to act.

Here at Consider, we love psychological insights.

Behavioural science is just one of the tools we use to inform our creativity – and to make sure our ideas find the most persuasive execution.

Take our global advertising campaign for LSE, for example. For this campaign to get cut through in a busy international Master’s degree marketplace, cognitive ease was essential.

We presented a simple choice across our digital ads, between generic MBA courses and LSE’s Executive Global MA in Management, ‘the standout alternative to an MBA’. Structuring the campaign around just two options increased conversions.

An earlier piece of work, our Army Skills campaign for ILM, tapped into the consistency bias to persuade. By creating the image of the ‘best soldiers’ for the audience to identify with, we made choosing ILM consistent with a deep-rooted self-image.

Could you boost your marketing with behavioural science?

With 15 years’ experience in insight-driven education marketing, we’d love to help you solve your challenges. Why not get in touch today?

Joe Nicholson

Joe Nicholson

Copywriter It took us a while to find the right copywriter to add to our team. But we knew Joe was the one straight away. As a writer, he’s both incisive and blessed with the ability to paint vivid images with words. We think that’s the perfect blend for an agency like ours…