Psychology in marketing

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One of the questions I got asked by students when I visited the University of Derby was ‘How important is psychology in marketing?’

And, well, my answer is quite simply ‘Very.’

Marketers around the world, for any brand or company, use psychology in marketing campaigns (whether they intend to or not). From simple colour schemes to detailed audience profiling, we build a character in our minds and decide how we think they think. This shapes the way we market our products and services.


Psychology is essential for being customer-centric

In any PR and marketing campaign, we need to be customer-centric. For any and all decisions we make, the customer has to be the focal point, and we must anticipate their pain points, and their needs, to find a solution (your product). To do this, and to do it effectively, you need psychology.

Here are some of my favourite examples of subtle psychology in marketing:


Colour Schemes

Everyone in the United Kingdom can easily recognise the solid blue and white of the NHS logo. Whether it on their signage, their letters, their website, even some of their uniforms, the blue is always there. A constant in a time of fear and uncertainty.

According to the NHS guidelines, ‘87% of people spontaneously recall these two colours when asked about the NHS Identity.’

But how does this relate to psychology in marketing?

When you think of the colour blue, what do you think of? Maybe blue skies, or maybe the ocean. (Personally, I think of the Nielsen McAllister logo 😉)

Now think of the colour red. Stop signs, gore, fire, danger.


Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing; it affects us mentally, rather than the physical reaction we have to red. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought and lighter, soft blues will calm the mind and aid concentration. Consequently, it is serene and mentally calming. It is the colour of clear communication.’


Can you see now why an organisation for healthcare might not go for red, or even purple? Your subconscious is being tricked into remaining calm. Psychology!

And the white has a similar effect; as it feels clean, sterile, hygienic. Which is exactly what you want when you’re in a hospital. I’ll say it again: Psychology!



People want to belong somewhere, to have others around them who have common interests. Creating this sense of togetherness is an excellent psychology tactic. You are no longer just selling a product or service, you are selling an experience, a group.

Additionally, you are playing the long game! Creating a community creates loyalty, word of mouth recommendations, and in return: more sales.

My favourite and most interactive example of this tactic is LEGO Ideas. This is a place where people can post their creations and others can vote on how good the designs are and leave comments.

LEGO have created an environment that encourages people to buy, use, and review their products. At the end of the day, LEGO is a toy, and what better way to play than with others? Psychology!



Easily my favourite example of psychology in marketing is slang. As someone who spends all day every day working with words, and then goes home to a family that talks the most incomprehensible version of English (for context, I’m from Ilkeston) slang is a vital part of my vocabulary.

Companies use the language of their audience – albeit not always very well. A lot of brands that target the younger generation, for example, will jump on trending phrases to appear more human and relatable. This is where slang comes in.

KFC’s use of British slang in their ‘don’t be a tosser’ campaign was a stroke of genius. They are walking the line of offensive with ease, knowing the British humour well enough to get away with it. We all use this word and seeing it in this context makes it funny; but most importantly, memorable.

Changing your language to accommodate others is not a new idea, we do it to sell ourselves without meaning to. Accommodation Theory was put into practice most famously by the late Queen of England, who changed her thick Received Pronunciation (RP) accent over the years to sound more common and relatable to her subjects. Psychology!


There are so many examples of psychology in marketing that I cannot possibly name them all. A lot of companies use ‘limited edition’ or ‘exclusive’ to make their audience feel more unique. Some use ‘pro’ and ‘expert’ to give them more authority. The list is endless.

So, next time you see a perfectly placed advert, try to see how many of these tactics you spot.


(See how easy it is? I just gave you a task and you’ll think of this later when you’re scrolling, whether you mean to or not. Psychology!).

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