5 Psychological Strategies to Influence Consumer Spending

Psychology is not typically top of mind when people think about marketing and advertising, but the truth is, successful marketing includes an essential psychological component. Market research involves systematically gathering data and then analyzing the data, with an objective of gaining knowledge about a company’s ideal customer and target market wants, needs, and preferences.

Most people who work in marketing and advertising are not psychologists. However, psychology is interwoven into all marketing even it is a behind the scenes driver. This dynamic reflects one of the many reasons companies hire a professional market research company to design, conduct, and analyze consumer behavior. Results from a survey can help an advertising firm better understand who their customers are, why they choose their product or service, and what motivates them to buy.

The market research process includes technical elements of psychology, including interviewing techniques (focus groups and one-to-one interviews), questionnaire design (for example, rating scales), as well as analysis (numerical data is quantitative and human experience is qualitative).

Although these examples represent techniques and methodologies in the field of psychology, successful marketing and advertising requires emphasis on how an ideal customer thinks and feels. A market research company is not only able to apply psychological research techniques and methodologies efficiently and effectively, but they are also able to provide valuable insight about the psychology (thoughts and feelings) of an ideal customer.

Understanding what a consumer thinks and feels is applied and utilized for a successful a marketing campaign. When a company appeals to an ideal customer’s thoughts and emotions, they effectively influence that customer to buy a product or service.

5 Psychological Strategies to Influence Consumer Spending

Wondering how to influence consumer spending? Read about these 5 psychological strategies which influence decisions.

Strategy 1: Appeal to Emotions

Humans are emotional beings. Studies have shown appealing to emotions is more effective in marketing than demonstrating features and functionality of a product or service.

Here is a simple example of the power emotions play with consumer buying. Think about when you purchase a new item of clothing. You may like it, or even love it when you see it on the rack. When you try it on in the dressing room and look at yourself, the emotions you experience will influence whether you carry it to the register or leave it hanging in the dressing room. If you feel confident, like you could rock a boardroom in that suit, you are more likely to buy. If you feel beautiful, like the whole room would look at you when you enter the room, you are more likely to buy. If you feel happy as you see yourself in the mirror, you are more likely to buy. Emotions are influential over a potential buyer.

Think about computer advertisements. Computer companies do not solely focus on the technical functionality of the computer. They do not only mention the I7 processor and 32 GB RAM. They advertise those features by appealing to emotions. “Save all your family photos with ease.” (RAM). “Download and stream movies while emailing your clients.” (Type of processor).

Another example regarding a service is cable companies. Cable companies advertise a digital video recorder (DVR) option. This is a more expensive option compared to a traditional cable box, and yet many consumers spend the extra money every month. How a DVR technically works is not the focus of cable company’s advertisements. They advertise desired positive emotions having DVR creates for an ideal customer. They emphasize how you can watch your favorite show anytime (joy), fast-forward commercials (control and satisfaction) and pause so you never miss anything (relief and gratitude).

Strategy 2: Scarcity

Supply and demand play a role in the success of a product or service. The psychology behind this concept is, the rarer the product or service, the more valuable the target market perceives it to be. When a product or service is not easily accessible, the consumer is more likely to act fast and purchase before they are no longer available. Ferrari is a perfect example of a company that implements the scarcity principle. Over the years, Ferrari has launched several cars with limited availability, meaning only a certain number of them are manufactures and once they are sold they become scare. With a price tag sometimes in the millions, scarcity becomes a psychological marketing strategy that Ferrari uses to their advantage.

Strategy 3: Reciprocity

When a person receives a gift, it creates positive emotions toward the gift-giver. Psychologically, due to the fact this individual has created a positive emotion, the receiver will desire to reciprocate and give something back to them.

This psychological phenomenon involving emotions is used consistently during marketing campaigns. Think about all the samples given away at kiosks in the mall, grocery stores and liquor stores, or the number of advertisements that boast a free trial sample that will be delivered right to your door.

You can enter Macy's, walk to a make-up counter and receive a free makeover without purchasing a product first. There are companies offer a free consultation. With each of these marketing techniques, the company is triggering the natural desire of the consumer to reciprocate kindness and generosity, which translates into buying the product or service.

Strategy 4: Exclusivity

You might be familiar with Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs,” which conceptualizes a pyramid format of human needs to be met in a specific order. Maslow’s pyramid starts with physiological needs, followed by safety, love/belonging, esteem, and topping it off resides self-actualization. Esteem refers to the need to feel included and accomplished. Marketers can appeal to this human need to feel important and included.

Think about membership to a country club or organization. They promote exclusivity. Even American Express uses the tagline, “Membership has its privileges,” appealing to the human need to be included, as well as implying a non-member is missing out on the privileges.
Fear is a powerful emotion and fear of missing out (FOMO) is hardly new in the marketing industry. Generating a little jealousy, when done respectfully and tastefully, can establish an emotional connection with a target market.

It is natural for a human to desire inclusion and want to be part of something exclusive.

Strategy 5: Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity has been around since the early 1970s and discusses how the human brain is constantly adjusting behavior and response based on new experiences. The quick and constant evolution of the human brain is an important neurological factor to consider in marketing. Advertisements are everywhere we look. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and are present on multiple marketing platforms. Marketing campaigns must account for the human brain’s ability to quickly adjust, adapt, and evolve in order to maintain the attention of the ideal customer. For this reason, you will notice advertisements change at a rapid rate in the marketplace. Companies are changing their advertisements to stay fresh, new and relevant, always providing new experiences for the ideal customer


Although marketers are not known for being psychologists, successful marketing includes an essential psychological component. An ideal customer’s feelings influence spending behavior. By appealing to positive desired emotions in marketing, a company can increase a customer’s buying potential. Other psychological aspects used to persuade a consumer to buy include scarcity, reciprocity, exclusivity, and accounting for neuroplasticity. By interweaving psychology into marketing, a company is more likely to launch a successful and profitable marketing campaign.

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Consumer Behavior