Inside consumer minds

In a dynamic landscape of marketing, promotions stand as the linchpin in driving visibility, desirability, and sales for brands.

Abigail Hickey

In a dynamic landscape of marketing, promotions stand as the linchpin in driving visibility, desirability, and sales for brands. With every brand strategy being meticulously tailored to captivate and retain customers. However, at the heart of these promotional campaigns, lies a fundamental truth: understanding customer behaviour is the bedrock of success. There are a myriad of factors that shape and influence customer actions and preferences. By understanding customer behaviour, the process of crafting compelling promotions becomes not only simpler but more effective.

Rooted in social psychology, the reciprocity principle emerges as a key player, giving businesses a persuasive tool to deepen this approach involves extending offerings of value to potential buyers, ranging from complimentary samples to exclusive gifts or specialised offers. By doing this, businesses can plant the seeds of reciprocation, fostering a sense of indebtedness that often compels customers to re-engage positively. Operating as a catalyst, this principle sets in motion a series of consequential actions, spanning from amplified purchase volumes to fervent brand advocacy, culminating in the robust fortification of relationships and an accelerated trajectory in sales performance.

Complementing this principle is the phenomenon of social proof, which capitalises on the human mirror inclinations to mirror the actions and viewpoints of others. Utilising customer testimonials, and ratings, and encouraging user-generated content validates the product value and cultivates a sense of trust. When brands incorporate phrases such as ‘as seen on TV’, this can help influence consumers' decision-making processes as it may have an impact on their perceptions of a brand.

A deeper exploration reveals how scarcity and urgency emerge as psychological triggers that shape consumer decisions. The notion that a product is limited in quantity or time still instils a heightened perceived value, evoking the prevalent ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ (FOMO) among individuals. Messaging such as ‘limited editions’ or ‘while stocks last’ propels consumers towards swift decision-making, compelling them to seize the opportunity before it vanishes. This can be greatly effective in promotions when people know the competition is an instant win they may be drawn to enter due to the thrill.

Creating an emotional connection is a powerful strategy in marketing, including promotions. When brands tap into consumer emotions, values, and aspirations, helps establish a deeper, more meaningful relationship.. This approach not only can help boost a brand's identity and storytelling, but by aligning with customer values it can resonate deeply with customers who share these values and strengthen the brand-consumer relationship. When tapping into consumer's emotions, brands can foster loyalty, advocacy, and a sense of belonging, ultimately influencing purchase decisions. Emotional connections go beyond just a product; they create a deeper relationship that extends to how consumers perceive, engage with, and remain loyal to a brand.

In addition to establishing emotional connections, the integration of personalisation and individualisation tactics further amplifies marketing strategies. This involves employing tailored offers, personalised digital & messaging, and individualised recommendations to enhance consumer engagement and resonance.

The anchoring effect stands as a compelling factor that shapes how consumers perceive and assess discounts and promotional offers. By presenting promotional prices alongside their original counterparts, businesses harness the anchoring effect, leveraging the initial price as a reference point for consumers to gauge the value of discounts. Similarly, emphasising savings percentages from the original price, particularly in limited-time offers, has proven to be effective. This understanding allows marketers to strategically position prices and discounts, shaping customer perceptions. However, it is crucial to uphold transparency and fairness in pricing strategies, as this plays a pivotal role in fostering trust and credibility with customers.

The decoy effect, a cognitive bias, subtly shapes consumer preferences through the introduction of a less appealing 'decoy' option within a set of choices. The strategic placement of a decoy effectively makes certain options more appealing, subtly nudging customers towards desired choices or enticing upgrades. Leveraging this effect in promotions becomes a high-powered tactic, skillfully directing consumer decisions while ensuring that the presented choices align seamlessly with overarching business objectives.

When we talk about value perception it refers to the subjective assessment consumers make regarding the worth or desirability of a product or service in relation to its price. This evaluation plays a pivotal role in guiding purchasing behaviour, shaped by diverse contributing factors. Elements such as perceived quality, durability, performance, design, and the brand's reputation intricately interweave with the assessment of functional benefits, collectively influencing how consumers perceive and weigh the value proposition of a product or service.

The psychological principle of aversion emerges as a potent force guiding consumer behaviour. We can leverage this principle through various strategies. Limited-time offers capitalise on the fear of missing out on a time-sensitive deal, enticing customers towards a purchase due to the feeling of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Offering free trials or money-back guarantees alleviates the perceived risk of loss for consumers, encouraging trials without the fear of financial loss. Discounts that emphasise the potential savings rather than the price paid, tap into loss aversion, enticing consumers to act by feeling that they are avoiding a loss through the offered discount. Understanding and integrating these principles into marketing strategies offers brands a powerful toolset to influence consumer behaviour, navigate preferences and shape purchasing decisions.

Remember, when running a promotion it’s crucial to follow regulatory compliance. For example, in the UK, the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) stands as a guardian of ethical advertising practices operating independently to regulate advertising across diverse media platforms. Tasked with upholding the integrity of the UK Advertising Codes, their oversight spans multiple areas including broadcast, online, print, and direct marketing. By meticulously scrutinising advertisements, the ASA ensures adherence to these codes, fostering responsible and transparent advertising practices within the UK. This commitment to ethical advertising standards maintains consumer trust and credibility within the advertising landscape, safeguarding the interests of both consumers and businesses alike. The key rules under the CAP code for promotional marketing are:


Promoters are responsible for all aspects and all stages of their promotions.


Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.

Protection of consumers, safety and suitability


Promoters must do everything reasonable to ensure that their promotions, including product samples, are safe and cause no harm to consumers or their property. Literature accompanying promotional items must give any necessary warnings and safety advice.


Alcoholic drinks must not feature in promotions directed at people under 18. Alcohol must not be available on promotion to anyone under 18.


Promotions must not be socially undesirable to the audience addressed by encouraging excessive consumption or irresponsible use.


Promoters must do everything reasonable to ensure that unsuitable or irresponsible material does not reach consumers or other recipients.


No promotion or promotional item should cause serious or widespread offence to consumers.



Special care must be taken with promotions addressed to children or if products or items intended for adults might fall into the hands of children. (See Section 5: Children)



Phrases such as “subject to availability” do not relieve promoters of their obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing participants.


Promoters must be able to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable estimate of the likely response and either that they were capable of meeting that response or that consumers had sufficient information, presented clearly and in a timely fashion, to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate - for example regarding any limitation on availability and the likely demand.

These are just a few to be made aware of, more can be found on the ASA website.

In summary, the intricacies of promotional psychology reveal a nuanced interplay of human behaviour, cognitive biases, and ethical standards within the marketing domain. Grasping these dynamics not only equips brands to create compelling campaigns but also nurtures lasting relationships, mutual trust, and ethical advertising practices. This collective understanding contributes to the cultivation of a marketing landscape where both consumers and brands flourish in harmony.

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