How to Use Psychology to Improve Your Direct Mail

Many marketers are struggling to generate leads that convert to sales, and it’s clear that more efficient strategies are needed. Most marketers are well aware of the power of direct mail, especially at times like these. But have they considered how psychology can be incorporated into their direct mail strategy?

Many marketers are struggling to generate leads that convert to sales currently, and it’s clear that more efficient marketing strategies are needed to generate profitability. Most marketers are well aware of the power of direct mail, especially at times like these. But have they considered how psychology can be incorporated into their direct mail strategy?

According to the USPS Market Research and Insights Report, “COVID Mail Attitudes,” 65% of those surveyed stated that receiving mail lifts their spirits, with 54% of respondents stating that mail helped them feel more connected. With people looking forward to getting mail each day, you should strive to be in the mail box. Let’s consider some of the best ways to leverage direct mail right now, and how can marketers use psychology to improve their direct mail pieces.

Customer Loyalty

  • Create special offers for your customers based on past purchase history.
  • Suggest new items they would like.
  • Help them feel how important they are to you and that you care.

Prospecting

  • Be very honest and transparent in your communication with prospects.
  • Vet your messaging well so that you are certain you’re providing a product or service they actually need.

Trusted Source

  • Provide needed information and ways people can help others — this is a great way to show how you care, and will help you build brand status with customers and prospects.

Did you know that the human brain is doing most of its work outside of our consciousness? If we are able to create a good strategy that enables us to tap into the subconscious decisions, we can generate a greater response from prospects and customers with direct mail.

Psychology is an excellent tool to help drive direct mail response. Consider the following when working on your direct mail:

  1. Use Emotional Triggers Appropriately – Both men and women need emotional engagement for direct mail to work. This requires the use of both good emotional copy and imagery. Segmentation can really help you target the right people with the right emotional copy and images.
  2. Avoid Overload – When there is too much clutter within messages, either from words or images, the brain cannot process it. Make sure that you leave white space and use concise copy so that the brain can easily process your message.
  3. Make It Interesting – The brain likes puzzles and humor. Keep them simple for easy understanding. They are effective with increased engagement.
  4. Understand Your Audience – For example, if your audience is made up of women you need to tap into empathy. Women engage with faces and direct eye contact images. Women also respond to group/community activity images and of course babies too. She will pay attention to messages that make life easier, celebrate her or allow her to do multiple things.

A complicated mail message will most likely be ignored by the brain. But there are ways to simplify your copy and images to capture attention and drive results. Here are two ways to capture attention:

  • Novelty: This is the No. 1 way to capture attention. Our brains are trained to look for something new and cool. A novel message or layout can really help you stand out in the mail box.
  • Eye Contact: Humans are social beings. Images of people or animals making eye contact with your prospects or customers grab attention and draw them into the mail piece.

As you can see the brain is powerful and is very good at ignoring messages. Taking the time to consider how all these psychological factors can really help you drive your direct mail response rates up. As always, focusing your messaging with targeted segments to really reach the right people with the right message will increase the success of your mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started?

Keeping Up With the Marketing aaS’s, Acronyms and ROI!

So what’s your MarTech IQ? How quickly can you describe what the following acronyms stand for and do to advance your marketing programs and sales?

quizSo what’s your MarTech IQ? How quickly can you describe what the following acronyms stand for and do to advance your marketing programs and sales?

MRM, DAM, CMS, IMM, CMP, SEO, SEM, PMP, DMP, SMM, DSP …

And these just scratch the surface. (For answers to the quiz, see the last paragraph of this post.)

CMOs in all industries are scrambling to invest, install and ignite sales with the latest tools and aaS systems — IaaS, PaaS, DaaS, SaaS — there’s a lot more aaS’s to keep up with, as well. And with this frenzied need to keep up and deliver results faster than the speed of light, it just adds to “crazy,” and often more so than adding to ROI. All MarTech investments take time, money and add to the overall costs against the ROI you have to deliver in short order.

So What’s a Marketer To Do?

Start with a MTP! The foundation on which you need to build all the other acronyms you include in your marketing toolbox.

An MTP is simply a “marketing technology plan,” or a blueprint for implementing and integrating all of the technology investments you need to reach your most important goals as a marketer:

Deliver relevant offers, communications and engagement to your most valuable consumers on the channels they use and respond to the most.

The good news is that this is not as daunting as it used to be, thanks to all of the MRM, DAM, SMM, IMM and other acronyms available.

Instead of buying all of the systems you can to keep up with your competitors, you need to circle back to what matters most to your business. For most businesses, it comes down to this one goal:

Deliver psychologically relevant and emotionally fulfilling engagement and communications to your top customers in a timely manner that ups your sales and competitiveness.

Okay, so maybe that combines two goals vs. just one.

In short, delivering personally relevant communications as quickly as you can is mission-critical to success. Customers expect all promotions and engagement to be “about me,” not you, and if you can’t get your campaigns and offers to market much faster than in the past, you will lose sales to competitors who do. This is a big dilemma facing marketers in all industries, because personalized communications take time, and the more time you take, the more money you spend in production costs and opportunity costs, as many consumers change brands and loyalty based on whose promotions get there first and with the most value.

Some Things to Think About:

Get the ‘Inside’ Scoop on Your Customers

Invest in DMPs – data management platforms — or similar tools that help you collect small and big data on your customers. Who are they? What are their interests and passions? What websites do they browse? What channels do they frequent most? And where and what do they buy regularly or spontaneously? When you can collect data this precise on consumers in your space, you will get an inside picture of what captures their attention and what moves them to purchase and loyalty. With that picture, you can create relevant content for all segments to be deployed across all channels.

Get Relevant Content Out Quickly and Consistently

This is critical to current sales and future growth. This requires platforms that allow you to quickly adapt content for local markets, cultures, languages and needs. You need a platform that can automatically adapt content from one asset to multiple assets across all formats and channels in minutes, not days, so you can deploy the same communications in all markets with brand consistency and the kind of timing that keeps your message relevant before the next consumer whim or trend blows in the market. For tools that can help you do this, check out “Gartner’s Magic Quadrant” for MRM systems (marketing resource management).

Get the Real Facts

Invest in analytic tools that help you measure all of your results. Not just sales, but levels of engagement across your channels, so you can keep track of where customers go for information, research and purchases. And you can keep track of how this behavior changes, as it will. Quickly.

Just as quickly as the technology for marketing seems to be changing, so do the needs of consumers. You need to invest in technology that allows you to stay on top of their attitudes, needs, emotional drivers and brand demands, and you need to most assuredly invest in the technology that allows you to produce content that addresses all of these quickly. All other technologies are secondary to those that can truly deliver on these mandates, and cover your aaS (as a service or subscription-based technology applications) investments.

Answers to the Quiz:

  • MRM — Marketing resource management
  • DAM — Digital asset management
  • CMS — Content management system
  • IMM — Integrated marketing management platform
  • CMP — Content management platform
  • SEO — Search engine optimization platform
  • SEM — Search engine marketing platform
  • PMP — Predictive marketing platform
  • DMP — Data management platform
  • SMM — Social marketing management platform
  • DSP — Demand-side platform

Stay relevant, and market on!

Jeanette

The Positive Psychology of NO CHOICE

When asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

choicesWhen asked why he always wore grey or blue suits, Barack Obama responded that he had enough other choices to make so this was a choice he could choose not to make. And per psychology studies, this was a smart choice.

Making choices actually depletes our brain energy and distracts our mental focus in ways that often lead to inertia, or procrastination of important events, and fatigue. In fact, several studies have shown that:

the more little decisions we make, the more it taxes our ability to make bigger decisions that are important to our advancement toward life’s bigger goals.

For example, a study conducted by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and colleagues showed that participants who made several small choices while shopping were less likely to do well when asked to solve a simple algebra problem. This inability to go from a series of small choices to a more complex mental activity proved true with other tasks they conducted in this same study, which involved college students. Per the task studied involving students from prestigious universities, researchers found that students were more likely to put off studying for important tests if preoccupied with smaller decisions at the same time.

Vohs and her team conducted four different tasks associated with choice for their overall study and made some fascinating observations and conclusions:

  • Making choices can deplete the brain and body, creating mental and physical fatigue
  • Having to make choices is more depleting than just looking at options
  • Implementing choices imposed on you by somebody else is less draining
  • If you anticipate that making choices will be a fun and rewarding experience, the decision process is less depleting

These findings have substantial implications for anyone in marketing, whether B-to-B or B-to-C: If you want your customers to make quick decisions to purchase from you, and have an energizing vs. depleting experience, simplify the decision process by offering fewer choices.

Sounds counter-intuitive to some, but think about it. When you are faced with choosing from dozens of products on a shelf with lots of price and promise variations, you end up having to think more, analyze more, and it often results in muddled thinking and confusion. Per the above studies, you and many other consumers have likely made the choice to not choose when choosing becomes too time-consuming and exhausting. It happens when shopping for cars and even personal products at a grocery store. We get “depleted” mentally when trying to decide which product to purchase based upon our mental process to make sure we get the best deal, best value and don’t make decisions we might regret.

As a business, we need to do whatever we can to make choosing our products simple and energizing vs. depleting.

If you’re selling software as a service, such as a SaaS platform for CRM or some other business function, you likely have a big range of services people can choose from, and different price ranges for “packages” of those services. If you have three packages to choose from, your chances of getting sales quickly are likely going to be greater than if you gave them 10 packages to choose from or ask customers to create their own bundle out of dozens of services you offer.

And if you make that choice “safe,” by providing a generous cancellation or opt-out clause, you take the fear out of an easy choice. This is critical to the psychology of choice, as both of these activities take less energy from our mental capacities. And when we use less energy worrying or stressing or contemplating, we have more energy to anticipate the reward of that decision.

So ask yourself these key questions:

  • Do my offerings or sales model drain or sustain brain energy?
  • How can I simplify choices without making customers feel like they have none?
  • How can I make choices a replenishing, energizing experience that makes customers feel good about their decisions and my brand?

When you can build your sales offerings and marketing messages around the answers to those three questions you can transform your brand’s ability to close deals. And that can transform your bottom line and competitive advantage for a long time to come.

This Will Scare the !@#$% Out of You, Marketers!

Sit down for this one: 80 percent of CEOs do not trust their CMOs or marketing teams to deliver results. Ninety percent of those same CEOs DO trust their IT and finance teams, or so claims a recent study by the Fournaise Group.

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 10.27.11 AMSit down for this one: 80 percent of CEOs do not trust their CMOs or marketing teams to deliver results. Ninety percent of those same CEOs DO trust their IT and finance teams, or so claims a recent study by the Fournaise Group.

Its no wonder that 93 percent of marketing leads feel increasing pressure to perform along with the added frustration of feeling they do not have the resources to get the results expected from the board room. And it’s also no surprise that the average tenure for CMOs is slipping, down to 26.5 months in 2015 from 35.5 months in 2014.

Given these “scary” numbers and others and other statistics about marketing challenges today, its not far off to claim that many in our profession have become the “working scared.” Scared of the rapid pace in which technology changes, scared that IT will soon takeover their functions, scared that unrealistic expectations for ROI based on media strategies, which are tough to measure anyway, will run them out of jobs and thwart their career paths, and so on.

The fear associated with failing our CEOs, shareholders, marketing teams, ourselves and our families is resulting in a lot of knee-jerk purchasing behavior by CMOs and the like. A friend of mine who is a top sales executive for a global marketing technology company describes CMOs as reactive more than proactive, spending huge amounts on technologies they don’t understand in search of that golden and instant ROI.

While there may not be a lot of upside to working in fear, it does give us a better understanding of what drives our consumers to think and buy like they do. Just like CMOs who buy technology they don’t understand – and in many cases don’t even know what the acronym stands for – in order to avoid a painful loss, consumers seek to buy things to help them do the same, just in other areas of life. For example, consumers buy luxury labels for clothing and cars that cost so much more than functional alternatives because we fear losing social status among those we seek to impress. We buy educational products or college degrees for fear of losing a quality of life we anticipate or have now. We buy technology that will keep us connected with our jobs, our networks and our knowledge sources so we don’t have to fear being left behind. The list goes on.

The Best of Psychology-Based Marketing

Marketers, like everyone else, sometimes need to reflect on where they’ve been in order to really see the valuable lessons they’ve learned and what they’ve accomplished. Here are four lessons in psychology-based marketing, which also happens to be the name of this column.

Elementary teacher email marketingMarketers, like everyone else, sometimes need to reflect on where they’ve been in order to really see the valuable lessons they’ve learned and what they’ve accomplished. Here are four lessons in psychology-based marketing, which also happens to be the name of this column.

The four blog posts that are top-of-mind for me are:

  • ‘This Will Never Happen to You’ — the concepts of denial that marketers to navigate through. To jog memories, here’s the first paragraph: “Car accidents, failed businesses or marriages, and lackluster marketing campaigns happen to ‘everyone but me.’ Or so we like to think — or, rather, are programmed to think.”
  • Remember that Donald Trump post? ‘Donald Trump Is Getting It Right by Doing It All Wrong.’ This is about the value of establishing “like values” with your followers.
  • ‘The Purpose-Driven Brand.’ This post is about how CSR attracts consumers far beyond your pricing and promotion strategies.
  • ‘The 4 Most Powerful Words for Closing Sales’ — aren’t the words most marketers would summon to mind. They’re “but you are free.” Here’s more about what that means: “Why do the simple words, ‘But you are free’ have such a strong persuasive impact on compliance? From a psychological perspective, we humans want to always feel in control, and when someone asks for something that is ours — our time, our money — we feel they are asking us to give up control of some of our most valuable necessities. From a marketing perspective, I believe the impact goes even deeper.”

Why Facts Don’t Matter

Why do politicians and their followers dig in their heels and cling to their beliefs even when there is overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary? Everyone has, and is entitled to, an opinion. But what about facts? Most people aren’t going to change their opinion because now more than ever facts…

Triggering the Unconscious Mind for Unthinkable ROIWhy do politicians and their followers dig in their heels and cling to their beliefs even when there is overwhelming factual evidence to the contrary? Everyone has, and is entitled to, an opinion. But what about facts? Most people aren’t going to change their opinion because now more than ever facts don’t matter.

Why? It’s less politics and more science about how the brain responds.

Let’s begin with this: You build your opinions to keep you safe. It’s the primitive brain. Psychologists call it “motivated reasoning,” “confirmation bias” or “cognitive dissonance.” Still, in an exchange with someone who has a mistaken belief about any topic, and when the facts are laid out to them thoughtfully and without being confrontational, the conversation often hits a brick wall.

It’s the same with any of us selling a product or service, or raising money. If there is a wall surrounding an opinion, it’s not going to move easily because most people resist changing their opinions.

Why? At an early age we start taking in information, all a part of life experiences. We takeaway feelings about many things. Remember the Maya Angelou quote? “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We accumulate life experiences. We turn raw, meaningless data into judgments, views and opinions.

And we’re stuck. Just like politicians and their voter followers. The other side is always wrong. Once something is added to a belief system, it is defended from change.

And as marketers, we’re stuck with the challenge of changing people’s opinions who haven’t drunk your Kool-Aid yet. The human mind instinctively, unconsciously and earnestly resists change.

What to do?

Remember: You’re trying to create new long-term memory grooves. Which means you may need to approach more slowly and deliberately, working your way through, first, glance-and-forget messages, then short-term memory, and finally, the most desired of all, the coveted long-term memory.

My recommendations:

  1. Understand underlying feelings
  2. Build trust
  3. Make it simple to understand
  4. Stories can help
  5. Stir emotion

Give your prospects plenty of opportunities to feel good about themselves and their decisions, and you may be able to open the door with enough facts to change an opinion.

Have We Over-delighted Our Customers?

Forgive me, but every time I pick up my drink on the Starbucks counter, after waiting in a usually long line with others whose cups get placed on the same counter with the same amount of impersonal interaction, I wonder how it is I am supposed to feel delighted.

Forgive me, but every time I pick up my drink on the Starbucks counter, after waiting in a usually long line with others whose cups get placed on the same counter with the same amount of impersonal interaction, I wonder how it is I am supposed to feel delighted. Was it the name on my cup, spelled correctly or not? Or the checks in the “Extra Hot” or “Skim” boxes? Or the fact that I can sit at the table for a lot longer than the five minutes it takes to consume my $5 drink?

Since the decade of “delight” began, companies in all industries have scrambled to come up with their own processes for delighting customers. All with the notion that the more you delight, the more you buy, and the greater your loyalty is. And so we have believed for years. However, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) conducted a study with more than 75,000 people who had interacted with contact center and customer service reps via phone or online channels, and found that satisfaction has little to do with loyalty. Even those free products or service upgrades you might give away during a transaction don’t translate into brand loyalty. What I find especially telling from this study is the fact that 20 percent of satisfied customers for a brand said they intended to leave the company, and 28 percent of those customers claiming to be dissatisfied said they planned to stay. Huh?

So what is a brand to do?

Stop focusing on delighting. Serious attempts to delight customers, in my experience, have resulted more often in customer service protocols employees must follow that are often more irritating than delightsome. When my bank tellers all give me the same carefully rehearsed closing line, verbatim, I don’t feel special. And when I get a phone call 10 minutes after checking into a hotel room to see if I like the room, I’m not delighted. But rather irritated as I know it didn’t come from the heart but rather the customer service training script upon which job reviews are based.

Customer satisfaction, according to the CEB report cited above, is more aligned with making the transaction process as simple as expected. We don’t expect to wait long on hold lines to talk to a customer service rep. We don’t expect to be passed from one department to the next, holding forever yet again, to solve a simple problem. And we don’t expect to get a free gift for every complaint we file, either. We do expect, consciously or unconsciously, to feel good about the brand and product choices we have made, and to feel like we mattered and our business and loyalty are noticed.

Showing customers gratitude, that is sincere and based on the moment, is more likely to win new customers and generate greater recall of a good experience than that name on a cup or a canned “thank you” line behind a stale smile. An article in Psychology Today by Amy Morin, a LCSW, lists seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, whether it be on the receiving or giving end. The first benefit listed relates to the impact gratitude has on your relationships. Morin cites a study by a group called Emotion in 2014 that shows thanking someone you just met makes them more likely to pursue an ongoing relationship with you. This applies to personal and professional relationships. Thanking a potential customer for their time, their interest or their candor about their experience with you can trigger feelings of importance or personal validation for which people are likely to want to return.

Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis has researched the impact of gratitude for years, studying more than 1,000 people of all ages. The social benefits he sees in people who practice gratitude have many implications for marketers seeking to improve customer relationships, not just for those seeking to improve personal relationships.

Per Emmons, the most important social outcomes of gratitude are that it makes us:

  • More helpful, generous, and compassionate
  • More forgiving
  • More outgoing
  • Feel less lonely and isolated

Imagine these traits in your customers.

  • More Helpful: Customers who feel you are grateful for their business are more helpful in helping you help them. Instead of making you guess what they want, they tell you, good and bad, and thus enable you to deliver spot-on service and experiences, instead of guess what will keep them happy and loyal.
  • More Forgiving: Perhaps forgiveness is the most important outcome of gratitude. If customers know you appreciate their business, their loyalty and referrals, they forgive the mishaps along the way – like getting the wrong product in the mail, or having to wait on hold way too long for a quick question, or even making a mistake on a marketing campaign. Knowing you are grateful for their business often leads to second chances, and then some.
  • More Outgoing: We all need dialogue to know what we can do bigger and better. When customers feel you are grateful for their feedback and value their opinions, they will talk, post and tweet about you more often. If you can get your customers to be more outgoing by posting positive comments on Yelp and other social sites, you’ll get ahead faster in the race for acquisition and retention.
  • Feel Less Lonely and Isolated: We all seek to be part of hives with others who have the same values, interests and personalities we do, and are grateful for circles and networks of people who are grateful to be part of our lives, too. Build brand communities that bring people together and show them how grateful you are for their support. They’ll gain more friends “just like them” who use the same products they do, and you’ll have greater loyalty, LTV and evangelism.

Gratitude works both ways. We experience physical, emotional and social benefits such as those above when we practice gratitude, and we also experience similar benefits when we feel others are grateful to and for us. Instead of that rehearsed and practiced attempt to delight customers at every point of sale, try something new. Inspire your employees to find personalized ways to show sincere gratitude every day, the kind that sparks positive behavior and feelings such as those mentioned above. Because gratitude comes from feeling empowered to engage and respond with kindness, not from a script or action-item list, and it gives customers new and unexpected reasons to be grateful for how your brand makes them feel that go far beyond seeing your name on a cup!

Is It Ever Good to Be Bad?

If you were to ask Miley Cyrus the question in this headline, the answer would be “Oh, yeah.” But if you look at album sales for her chronological counterpart, Taylor Swift, compared to Miley’s since she went “twerking,” the answer is clearly “no.” It took a year for Miley’s most

Miley Cyrus vs Taylor SwiftIf you were to ask Miley Cyrus the question in this headline, the answer would be “Oh, yeah.” But if you look at album sales for her chronological counterpart, Taylor Swift, compared to Miley’s since she went “twerking,” the answer is clearly “no.” It took a year for Miley’s most recent album, “Bangerz,” to reach 1 million in sales, and Taylor Swift’s most recent one, “1989,” hit 1.2 million in just one week. That was Taylor’s third album to sell 1 million copies within a week.

So if positive personas, values and public behavior sell more records, why do the politicians keep upping the volume and intensity of negative campaign ads?

According to Wesleyan Media Project research from 2013, presidential campaign ads hit a record new high in 2012 for volume and for negativity. Interesting, given that further research by Dowling, Conor M.; Wichowsky, Amber, as printed in the American Journal of Political Science in 2015, shows that voters actually punish politicians for negative ads.

But do we really punish negative advertisers? Consciously, it’s fair to say that most people claim to reject negative ads, maintaining that we are not swayed by mudslinging personal attacks and we make choices at a higher intellectual level. Yet, unconsciously, those negative messages, repeated over and over and over, get into our heads and linger longer than we might know. Because 90 percent of our thought is unconscious, according to Gerald Zaltman, a Harvard Business School neuromarketing pioneer and author of “How Customers Think,” those lingering, and likely dormant thoughts might, have a different response to negative ads than the leftover 10 percent that guide what rolls off of our tongues.

Ruthann Lariscy, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia who focuses on studying political advertising, suggests those negative thoughts do linger in our minds and have a lot more influence on Election Day than we want to admit, to ourselves and especially to anyone else. As Lariscy, points out in a recent article she wrote featured on CNN.com, we process negative information a bit more to help us better understand the implications of the message and that longer contemplation time enables it to register deeper into our psyches. Thoughts that linger longer, even passively, often resurface at later times to influence our behavior, says Lariscy, who refers to this process as the “sleeper effect.” Per her article, we tend forget the negative things one politician says about another and move on. But come Election Day, when we are standing in the election booth with ballot in-hand, something triggers that negative energy associated with claims made in the past and, in a lot of cases, that is when we punish politicians by voting against that bad memory, even if we don’t recall all the details or the source.

While Lariscy calls it the “sleeper effect,” I refer to it as the “survival effect.” Just like other species on this great Earth, we humans are programmed for survival and that deep-rooted and dominant DNA strand affects much of what we do in our daily lives, and has a lot of influence on our attitudes and opinions. Once something has negative energy associated with it, we unconsciously go into survival mode, and start to feel anxious or uneasy without really knowing why, in many cases.

We get a good example of how negative energy impacts our unconscious drivers from the Iowa Gambling Task. This task, which the University of Iowa originated in the 1980s, teaches us that our unconscious responds to negative energy and affects our behavior well before our conscious mind does. Participants in the study were given $2,000 and four decks of cards. The task was to play cards from the four decks, and earn money or lose money accordingly. Two of the decks had high risks for loss, while the other two had a greater chance of earning rewards. Participants were hooked up to monitor stress responses while playing the game. Among the healthy participants, signs of “unconscious” stress showed up after flipping over just 10 cards. It took between 40 and 50 flips for the unconscious mind to catch up! That implies that it takes our conscious mind four and five times longer to catch up with the attitudes, conclusions and drivers of our unconscious minds!

My conclusion from the above study is that our unconscious minds are wired to recognize stress and threats to our survival quickly and, as a result, put us in “survival” mode when we don’t consciously realize it.

How does this impact advertising? In terms of conscious statements about intent to vote or purchase from a brand, there’s likely not much change. But in terms of unconscious drivers that impact 90 percent of our thoughts and behavior, it suggests a great deal: Negative energy associated with your brand or products can impact sales down the road.

Negative energy can come from statements made by competitors questioning your integrity, ability to keep promises made and even financial stability. It can also come from using colors that create unconscious feelings of anxiety vs. those that put our minds at ease and create a sense of trust. And it can come from us, in the form of bad ads that leave one to question our values and our familiarity with what matters most to our customers.

GoDaddy, more known for its bad Super Bowl ads, perhaps, than its great customer service (which it has, by the way), is an example. For years, GoDaddy has tried to use shock value during Super Bowl games to get people talking about the brand. That goal is achieved, as the ads continue to pepper the top of the “Least Effective” ranks, in terms of generating persuasion, relevance, watchability and other results, as measured by Ace Metrix. In 2014, GoDaddy achieved No. 1 and No. 4 spots for the least effective Super Bowl ads with the “Body Builder” and “I Quit” ads. In 2015, the company went with one designed for even more shock value by having a beautiful top model sucking face with a quintessential unattractive nerd. GoDaddy claims that that kissing ad generated its best Super Bowl scores yet. And, per Mashable’s report on the ad’s results, its best sales day ever, with increases of 45 percent for a single product.

While “shock value, off-beat” ads might work great for short-term gains, in this case it clearly didn’t work for long-term sustainability. Forbes, on Oct. 30, 2015 — a few short months after the ad’s debut — reported that GoDaddy has posted a $71.3 million dollars earnings loss. Per prior years of running weird Super Bowl ads, GoDaddy reported a $200 million net loss in 2013 and, in June 2014, listed its total indebtedness as $1.5 billion. Clearly, there’s a lot more at stake here than advertising, but its fair to say that a brand’s persona and the energy it puts out does have an overall impact. Again, compare Miley Cyrus to Taylor Swift. Two talented female artists who write and perform songs based upon their personal values and those they want to project to the world.

Recently, Bloomingdale’s released an ad that suggested “date rape” for holiday partygoers. After much backlash and media attention, which likely upped its overall brand awareness scores at the time, the brand apologized. Only time will really tell if this likely ploy for attention will impact sales, not just this holiday season but down the road when shoppers can choose similar products from other retailers who don’t engage in doing bad for others while trying to gain good for themselves.

Lesson Learned
What you put out in this consumer-driven world of ours comes back. Maybe not immediately, but eventually it does. Because our conscious minds might “sleep” on bad energy; but in time, our survival DNA brings it back to the forefront of our unconscious drivers of behavior, and often influences us to choose “good” over what feels “bad.” Because success for any brand, large or small, lies in long-term sales, not short-term spikes, it’s easy to see that in this world of ours, in politics and in business, good does and will triumph over bad!

Brands and the Psychology of Fun

What consumers want from brands is not what you think. Best service. Best price. User involvement? Rewards programs? If you’re thinking of the above as the things consumers want most from a brand they patronize, good guess. All apply at some level, but there’s more.

What consumers want from brands is not what you think. Best service. Best price. User involvement? Rewards programs?

If you’re thinking of the above as the things consumers want most from a brand they patronize, good guess. All apply at some level, but there’s more.

While consumers might tell you they want all of the above to keep purchasing from you and refer their friends, there’s another key driver of human behavior you and your customers themselves might not have thought about. Guess again? Hint: Cyndi Lauper did the big reveal 33 years ago.

Yep, consumers just wanna have fun. Yet most of us don’t consciously admit that we respond to fun appeals or humorous marketing tactics. But we do, because unconsciously we are drawn to anything that sparks our curiosity, helps us escape the mundane, or hints at rewarding us for engaging or doing something we didn’t know we could do — like reach a new level on a smartphone game or win a dance contest while totally sober. And when we earn that reward, or even think about it, we get that dopamine rush that makes life feel wonderful and we go back for more.

What we learn from Epicurus, the Greek Philosopher credited with what we now know as the Hedonism theory, human behavior is based upon two emotional premises: the Avoidance of Pain and the Pursuit of Pleasure. As a result of this innate psychological driver, we seek pleasure in life in many ways. That pleasure ranges from knowing we can care for our families, reach our goals, are recognized for a job well done and liked by others, to physical pleasures like the thrill of finishing a long run, getting a soothing massage or downing a favorite ice cream.

In digital vs. ancient times, another “pleasure” we seek is that rush we get when we anticipate an award through our cultural addiction to games. Games on our computers, games on our phones, games we watch on TV, and more. So many games that 1.2 billion people worldwide play them frequently, and 700 million of us play games online, says a report by Spil Games. Another gaming industry company, Newzoo, reports that the 2015 gaming industry is $91.5 billion, up 9.4 percent since 2014.

Another report by RealityMine shows that mobile gaming is increasing substantially every year and that the average session time per game we play is 4.7 minutes. Among the most popular are Words with Friends, Candy Crush and Solitaire, which are played many times a day by many gamers. We also learn that games are not just for teens, as commonly thought. RealityMine shows that 61 percent of gamers are parents with children, more women play games than men, more than 1/3 are 45 years of age or older, and that there are more middle-aged moms playing games than teenagers! Hmmm … sounds like the top consumers for most products today are playing games of some sort every day. If you’re in marketing, this should be added to the top of your “note to self” list.

Why are we so drawn to games? According to psychologists, it’s because so many games help fulfill some basic needs: a sense to compete, feel fulfilled, recognized and that we have achieved something others haven’t. According to a report on gamification created by Bunchball, a leader in the industry, game mechanics fulfill basic human desires that we seek consciously and unconsciously (opens as a PDF). These include our needs for rewards, status, achievement, self- expression, competition and even altruism.

The Fun Theory, a program dedicated to the thought that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for better,” challenges people to come up with fun ideas to get people to do things differently. Ideas that have won The Fun Theory awards include rewarding drivers for not speeding by entering them into a contest to win money accrued by fines paid by speeders, getting people to recycle bottles by making a recycling bin a bottle arcade like you find at an amusement park and increasing the use of stairs by turning them into piano keys that make music. Each of these experiments attracted attention and substantially changed behavior for the better in various cultures around the world.

So does all this talk about fun and games have a place in the marketing world? According to Todd McGee, CEO of Texas-based CataBoom, a gamification company leveraging behavioral insights to create engaging campaigns, it most certainly does.

“From a psychological point of view, ’fun’ engages us in a way that builds trust for a brand,” says McGee. “When customers win, or anticipate winning a prize, they get a dopamine rush that makes them feel good, and customers transfer that feeling to brands. Good feelings result in trust, repeat visits and referrals. So it’s a total win for customers and brands.
For CataBoom, the increases in customer engagement and sales they’re helping to deliver to their clients is just part of the fun of playing games. For one home industry client, the company created a game on Facebook that gave money away every day. As result, 71 percent of the visitors to their Facebook page engaged twice as long. For another company in the food industry, they created a “Spin the Wheel” game for a chance to win free product. People responding set a new record for site visits as they kept coming back to take their chance at the wheel.

Per McGee, CataBoom has seen brands in all industries, from entertainment groups to insurance and financial institutions, achieve not only better engagement, but monetary rewards, as well. Sales have increased as high as 30 times as a result of adding games to a customer experience.

Lesson learned: When life’s routines become a game, and fun is the anticipated reward, behavior changes. When brands integrate fun and games in their customer experience, results can change too.

Takeaways:

  • Have Fun. Its not only the spice of life, it’s the driver that gets consumer behavior moving, trusting and, in many cases, buying.
  • Use humor, when and as appropriate, and watch your attention levels soar on social channels and traditional ones, as well.
  • Spark curiosity to get noticed and introduce your customers to a fun brand experience, persona and happy result.

Make sure your customer service follows the rules of fun, as well. Evo.com and Moosejaw.com are great examples of companies that add a fun twist to routine sales and purchasing processes online. Their fun responses, language and digital conversations make you want to come back for more.

Now get off of your computer and go have fun!

Donald Trump Is Getting It Right by Doing It All Wrong

Ironically, breaking all the rules can sometimes get you way ahead. We all remember those kids who did things differently … dressed to represent themselves instead of the latest trends, took the nerdy classes, or engaged in other behavior that exponentially lowered their cool score. More often than not,

Ironically, breaking all the rules can sometimes get you way ahead. We all remember those kids who did things differently … dressed to represent themselves instead of the latest trends, took the nerdy classes, or engaged in other behavior that exponentially lowered their cool score. More often than not, these were the same kids who went on to become thought leaders in their fields, and pretty much out-achieved the “cool “ kids at the game of life.

Nothing seems to have changed; especially when it comes to this year’s GOP primary race, at least for now. Breaking all the rules seems to have landed Donald Trump around 39 percent of the predicted GOP vote in key states during the week of Sept. 14, the biggest percentage ever earned by a candidate in any primary race in history, says CNN. Amazingly, this same week, a New York Times/CBS News poll showed Trump with the lowest rating for honesty and trustworthiness among the top six key candidates from either party.

So if no one trusts him, why does he have so many supporters? Historically, there might not be many explanations; psychologically, there are plenty. Here’s just a few.

Freedom to Be Politically Incorrect
For years, people have been shamed for intolerance of any kind. With jobs, reputations, political futures and even Facebook friends on the line, many people have feared expressing their true beliefs and opinions. So Trump is doing it for them. Expressing attitudes, opinions and insults society labels politically incorrect and thus giving others permission to do the same is just one aspect of Trump’s brilliant strategy that is defying all odds, all expectations and every political pundit’s imagination.

People seek to be part of a hive that thinks and feels like they do, and Trump’s followers are no exception. Just days before the second GOP debate, Trump drew a crowd of 20,000 in Dallas that cheered and clapped at nearly every breath he took. His position of feeling “just like you do,” seems to be securing a base of people whose so-called “wrong” feelings are suddenly being made “right.”

Real Winners vs. Phony Losers
While we might root for the underdog in a sports game, when it comes to our values, lifestyle, community and ability to control our destiny, we align with winners. Quite often in politics, we do so without even knowing what the current winner stands for and how he or she will really impact our lives. And we align even more with winners who we believe are real, “just like us” and transparent.

Here, Trump again is brilliant. The entire hour I watched of his Sept. 14 speech had two main themes: He is a real person with no canned persona or teleprompter speech, and he is winning the race. Unprovoked, he told how much money he makes and how much he pays in taxes. He showed he was real and had nothing to hide. But most importantly, he raged on about his place in the polls. I am winning here, there and everywhere was and still is his recurrent theme, and voters seem to be buying this line more than any position on any issue.

Winning the Attention Game
Trump has mastered the ability to get his name in headlines — a lot of them. Insulting any opponent who gets a headline seems to be furthering his strategy quite well. Google “Trump insults Fiorina” and see what I mean. The media and his victims support that strategy quite well by reporting and responding, both of which give him more headlines than even he would pay for. And I, too, fell for it, as I couldn’t resist writing about the psychological marketing tactics he uses quite well.

Regardless of what you think of Trump, his persona or his politics, there’s a lot we can learn from how he has risen from an “unlikely” status to the GOP contender who has succeeded more than any other politician this early in a presidential campaign, regardless of party.

Takeaways from Trump include:

  • Validate your customers’ feelings, not yours, and show them you are just like them when it comes to fears, hopes and values. This works in politics and in business. I helped a client change his rosy sales pitch for real estate investment to one of caution in order to validate how prospective investors felt. Once we got their trust by talking about their feelings and not ours, we got their business.
  • Be real and be transparent. Share your revenues, your profits, and contributions to causes and political campaigns. Open your books and hide nothing. Customers will forgive you for a mistake you apologize for but never for hiding a truth or a lie you crafted.
  • Brag up your victories, humbly, and let the world know you are winning at all that matters to them. Show customers and prospects that you are winning the game for customer satisfaction, loyalty, industry reviews, quality and more. Use customers and industry experts to help validate your successes.
  • Finally, create headlines beyond your website and social media pages. Do something others will write about, be it the media or customers. Take on a local cause, take a stand on a social issue and support it, highlight your exceptional talent, or do what Coca-Cola does on its coca-cola.com/happiness site and just share tips on living a happy life. To be newsworthy, keep it real and valuable to others, not just your brand.

In short, brands that learn to appeal to consumers’ psychological needs, show they stand for the same values customers do, and find ways to be top-of-mind for not just great quality but for supporting great causes, will win much more than 39 percent of customers’ loyalty, and gain far longer-lasting results.