Marketing and Sales

The basics of behavioral psychology to improve content marketing

5 minutes

The basics of behavioral psychology to improve content marketing

The goal of behavioral psychology in content marketing is to change the behavior of the client in order to benefit the business. Marketers use it to increase traffic, engagement, conversions, and other metrics. To achieve high indexes, you need to try to change the content marketing strategy based on several principles of behavioral psychology.


Reciprocity is a psychological response to a positive effect. Companies use this principle by providing its subscribers with a free offer, thereby ensuring customer loyalty. Content is an excellent tool to put the principle into practice. Your content should be astute, profitable, and free. Some good examples of content tools are useful articles or blog posts, free e-books, and online webinars.


Informative principle

This principle was developed by George Levenshtein in the early 1990s. It states that when people need certain information, they will look for it any way they can in order to get it.

In email marketing this principle is realized by creating a situation that would cause curiosity among subscribers, leading them to want to learn more from you. The easiest way is to use an attractive headline.


The most eye-catching headline was in the emails of Barack Obama’s election campaign in 2012. The headline “Do it for Michael” gathered a huge amount of clicks.

Hack: People like to receive information instantly. Consumers look for instant gratification and thus using words like “fast,” “quick,” and “instantly” get superiority over others.

Social justification

This principle states that customers would rather buy a product that they were advised to buy by relatives or friends rather than the company.

People, by their nature, tend to follow others, believing that others are aware of better products than they are. To implement this principle, marketers use content that subscribers can comment on and share. For example, this could be a blog post, a publication on social networks, etc. It has been proven that if some readers comment on your article and share it with friends, then their friends will do the same. Do not forget to add social network buttons to your email!

social proof

Hack: People share information that causes positive emotions. A study of 100 million articles showed that content that carried a negative emotion was shared only by 7% of the readers.

Fear of omission

When people are afraid to miss out on something because of limited time or quantity, they begin to desire more of this kind of product.

When it comes to content marketing, you need to show the client how important and valuable they are to you. For example, if you published an e-book, then give the subscriber the opportunity to download it for free for a limited time. To do this, set a time counter or simply indicate the deadline of the proposal.


Fear of loss

Psychologists have proved that people avoid great losses even at the expense of making a profit because loss is ten times stronger on the human psyche.
The best way to apply this principle is to use powerful words in the content, which will focus on the fact that your clients may lose (time and money, for example). Focus on the benefits of your product or service when creating content, and describe how it can solve the problem of loss of time or money.


The paradox of choice

The paradox of choice lies in the fact that customers are less satisfied when they are presented with too many options, fearing that another option might be better. Provide the subscribers with the feeling that they are making a choice by themselves, even though you previously cut choices to a minimum.

After reading through the content, the subscriber needs to take further action. To do this, offer them two options; for example, this could be to read something or go back to the home page. Don’t offer more than two options.


In the «Michael Kors» example, they give their subscribers two ways to take further action: ‘Shop Activewear,’ and ‘Shop Sneakers.’

Here are some bonus hacks:

Fancy fonts may harm your brand

Unique fonts can help distinguish your company from others on the market, but at the same time, they can make your text hard to read. According to a study in «Psychological Science», people that read instructions with a unique font understand the material two times slower than those who read them with a normal font.

Ask nicely

Using the request “Please retweet,” sociologist Dan Zarrella received 160% more retweets than the average Twitter index.

Use the word “because”

Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study of the line near a Xerox machine. Two of her assistants came to the copier to make a copy. One assistant said, “Pass me to make a copy” and the other said, “Pass me to make a copy because…” The second assistant was passed by 90% of people in the line, while no one passed the first assistant. Therefore, the word “because” is a great tool to make a specific agreement with rational thought.

Use quotation marks

It was found that quotation marks in the text increase its readability by 80%. Quotation marks are credible and text containing them is perceived as a worthy read.

Adam Ferrier, a specialist of behavioral psychology and advertising, in his book Advertising Effect, identified two more conditions in which we can influence the consumer with the help of content:

  • Motivation

Motivation involves two components: private incentives and social norms. Private incentives are to have fun and to avoid pain. Social norms are due to the generally-accepted standards of behavior in society.

In order to change the model of user behavior, tell the consumer how these changes will happen; for example, the promise to raise the level of satisfaction, reduce negative emotions, and ensure subscribers that the new model is not completely contrary to generally-accepted standards.
Come up with an interesting legend of your brand and distribute it.

Hack: Alex Lucky from «Opower» set out to persuade Americans to conserve energy. He sent three e-mails with the following text:

“You can save $54 a month”
“You can save the planet”
“You can help the country”

However, these e-mails did not bring the expected result, so Alex sent another e-mail with the following text: “Your neighbors save more electricity than you.” This letter led to 2% less electricity consumption. So, comparison with other people can be used as a kind of motivation.

  • Skills

To change the behavior of the client, you need to teach them certain skills using educational content.

For example, popular weight loss programs have attracted a huge number of customers through a simple and clear system. They had a clear sequence of actions for training and optimization of the rationale.

In conclusion, we would recommend using all these things combined to use content to create a loyal audience. There is no universal formula for content marketing, so everything needs to be tested. We wish you good luck and high conversions!

Date of publication:

August 12, 2016

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