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The Social Psychology for Marketing Series

By Wired Messenger Email Marketing


Part 1:  Using Social Proof for Content Development and Email Marketing to Influence specific desired outcomes in Consumer Behavior.

“The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife”

-David Ogilvy 

Let’s table Mr. Ogilvy and his famous quote and come back to how it applies to you as a content creator & email marketer revisit this a little later in the article.

What is Social Psychology?

Social psychology is the branch of psychology that deals with social interactions, including their origins and their effects on the individual (Merriam Webster)

It is the scientific study of how people’s innate thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by and influence the actions of others deliberately, un-intentionally or otherwise.

Both social psychology and marketing are voluminous and expansive fields of study and are not new.  These concepts  are as old as time itself and for evidence of this we only need consult the Greeks.

Plato is held as one of history’s most effective marketers given his ability to educate an audience and build movements – literally classic conversion.  Xenophon, also a student of Socrates is widely considered one of history’s first social psychologists, especially in the area of political ambition.

The key here is that the concept of marketing using social psychology to affect behaviour leverages certain traits with which humans are born and have always had.

As content creators and email marketers, we can draw on these concepts  and ethically  apply them to  develop and shape interesting and engaging content relevant to our audience and marketing targets .

In Part 1: of The Social Psychology for Marketing Series we will focus on using a very specific element of the concept of Social Proof for the development of effective and actionable oriented content and messaging.

Social proof is a term that was originally coined by Robert Cialdini in his seminal work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Cialdini’s concept of social proof maintains that a person who does not know what the proper behavior for a certain situation is, will look to other people to imitate what they are doing and to provide guidance for his or her actions.  In short -we look at the behaviours of others to determine our own behaviour.

Some  of the most common and ubiquitous  examples of  social proof in marketing can come in the forms of customer reviews or testimony on a recent purchase of a product and/or service or the customer’s buying experience with a vendor

Just think, how many times you have been on Amazon to make a purchase and have been flooded with an almost unmanageable number of buying options.  After filtering by price and brand how do you ultimately make your final buying decision?  More often than not you either quickly skim or intensively study the customer review section.  Why?  Because when we don’t know the correct buying decision ourselves; or even in spite of the fact that we may even do, we look to others to determine our own behavior.

Using reviews and customer testimony in email marketing is nothing new.  But as marketers we can do better.  In Fact we can do way better.

Lesson from the towel experiment

Click here for an AUDicast – an audio excerpt from the article describing this famous experiment and commentary.

In “A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels” – The conclusions from Cialdini’s towel experiment (detailed in the article and summarized in audio form here) are fascinating and prove without question that people look to others to determine what they should or should not do in any given situation.

Moreover, people are more likely to act and are more motivated to engage in a desired behavior when they are made aware of the actions of their peers or similar others.  And the last part here is the critical piece. The “actions of their peers”

The conclusion of the study is: One of the most effective methods in eliciting desired behaviour in a target is to point to the desired behaviour exhibited in cohorts in the very same peer group. And the more specific one can get in describing the peer group and the desired behaviour, the better

In Ciadini’s experiment, the adoption of the concept of the reuse of towels by guests in hotels (for cost reduction and environmental purposes) improved dramatically when specific desired behaviour of cohorts in specific peer groups was cited.

A general message posted on signs in hotel guest rooms asking patrons to reuse their towels citing environmental reasons had a respectable adoption rate of 75%.

When the messaging was changed to read “75% of the guests who stay in this hotel  use their towels more than once” the adoption rate of the desired behavior improved by 26%.

When the same messaging was changed to read “75% of the guests who stay in this room use their towels more than once” the adoption rate skyrocketed by 33%

The study illustrates that we can dramatically improve adoption rates of desired behaviour by simply pointing to the behaviour of cohorts within a peer group. We look at the behaviours of others to determine our own behaviour.

Savvy marketers can apply these lessons and concepts to content development and email marketing.

So much has already been written elsewhere on the general use of social proof in the development of content and in email marketing so we won’t go over it all here.  Instead we will highlight a very specific tactic to elicit a specific outcome based on the science we just outlined in the above.

Lets’ first go back to Amazon who are among the rare few to effectively employ this concept.  We have already addressed product and purchasing reviews.

When shopping for any given product Amazon highlights other products with upsell potential using this language “Customers who bought this item also bought…” Sound familiar?  Its an elegant example of a very simple of underused tactic. We look at the behaviours of others to determine our own behaviour.

Unfortunately Amazon does not publish any data that documents the efficacy of this strategy but we can make some logical inferences and conclude that is is highly effective upselling tactic based on its continued use by Amazon.

As content creators we can take this even one step further…

Working with a very sharp digital marketing firm, a large well established carpet cleaning company recently conducted an analysis of their customers.

They uncovered that the majority of their carpet cleaning appointments were made by women. More specifically those appoints were made by a mother in a family.  Even more specifically by young and/or expectant mothers.

The company  changed the persona of the content in certain sections of their website to reflect this.  For example they modified their FAQ  to emulate the tone and content of the carpet cleaning related questions  new or expectant mothers would ask and answered those questions in the very same tone.  The conversion rate improved.

We look at the behaviours of others to determine our own behaviour.

Voila -Social Proof effectively and ethically employed in carpet cleaning!

Now let’s take this even one step further…

With the avalanche of specific consumer data that is available today we can identify with laser like precision specific desirable behaviour of cohorts within a peer group.

By combining the right messaging with readily available and highly detailed consumer data a very simple yet highly effective email marketing campaign can be designed and executed

Putting this in action in the carpet cleaning example  and replicating the towel experiment the messaging might look like:

  • “75% of expectant mother’s get their household carpets cleaned before the arrival of their newborn. Book your appointment with AwesomeZuper Carpet cleaning by clicking here”
  • Or better “75% of expectant mothers in the city of Richmond Hill, Ontario get their household carpets cleaned before the arrival of their newborn. Book your appointment with AwesomeZuper Carpet cleaning by clicking here”
  • Or best “75% of expectant mothers in the city of Richmond Hill, Ontario  get their household carpets cleaned two months before the arrival of their newborn. Book your appointment with AwesomeZuper Carpet cleaning by clicking here” (*in this example we would target expectant mothers exactly 2 months out from their due date)

 

Obviously the numbers cited above are place holders but  all of the actual empirical supporting data for these assertions are readily available if you know where to look or if you are working with a reputable digital marketing/email marketing company that does.

Having said that, for reasons of efficacy and ethics it is of the utmost importance that all supporting evidence and data be 100% true and accurate.

Now if you really want to show off, the messaging might look like “75% of new mothers in the city of Richmond Hill, Ontario  wished they had gotten their household  carpets cleaned two months before the arrival of their newborn. Book your appointment with AwesomeZuper Carpet cleaning by clicking here”

This combines social proof with another highly effective social psychology marketing tactic that will be discussed in the next edition of The Social Psychology for Marketing Series.

So let’s finish where we started:

“The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife” 

–David Ogilvy 

changes to

“The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife; with whom you live in Richmond Hill, Ontario; in the nesting phase of pregnancy; who is expecting a newborn due to arrive on March 15th 2020 ”

–A really super savvy email marketer

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