Timing is everything. The more personalized an ad experience is, the better. The privilege to recommend is based on trust. Emotional connections are always stronger than superficial ones.
Chances are, if you’ve been in the marketing world for any amount of time, you know all of these principles and more. You probably employ them, or at least assume their truth, in some way every single day.
But do you really understand why they work?
What is it about the human brain that relies on trust and emotion over hearsay and superficiality almost every time? And how does this effect differ from person to person? Most of these principles boil down not to basic marketing truth but to basic human psychology. And having an understanding of that consumer psychology is imperative to fully exercising those marketing principles.
In Dr. David Lewis’ new book The Brain Sell (Nicholas Brealey Publishing), you can take a dive into how consumer psychology impacts ad viewing, consideration, and purchasing, which reflects the things marketers are doing right (and wrong). And better yet, he does it all from the perspective of the digital marketing trend, bringing tried and true principles into the modern day, still holding their own.
How Frito Lay Leveraged Common Teenage Behaviors to Grow their Market Share
Perhaps one of the most interesting campaigns Dr. Lewis discusses is one created in 2008 by Frito Lay called Hotel 626. The game was a computer-based adventure where players had to fight to escape a haunted hotel, interacting with other players and the program via webcam, microphone, and mobile devices. It was, all in all, a terrifying experience available only at night, and the teenagers loved it.
The campaign was an effort to bring “back from the dead” two unpopular Doritos flavors, and it was wildly successful. First of all, they were able to hold the attention of the players for an average of 13 minutes, which is an eternity for food marketers.
Second of all, they were able to jumpstart their Twitter presence (the platform was still gaining popularity at the time). Of course, if you’ve read any of the previous blogs on the 60 Second Marketer, you know we’re all about ROI, so the important thing is whether or not the campaign generated sales revenue.
Boy, did it ever. The campaign cost less than $1 million, pocket change to a huge conglomerate like Frito Lay, and inspired sales of more than 2 million bags of the relaunched flavors within just three weeks. The campaign won the Cyber Lion that year, and the company recreated the game as Asylum 626 the following Halloween (which was exactly as horrifying as it sounds, though also very successful).
Some of the coolest aspects of this campaign were the technologies involved. In the re-created version, Asylum 626, the webcam actually employed head-tracking capabilities, requiring players to physically dodge attacks. In both versions, players could ask for help via a live Twitter stream, and their friends could help rescue them by banging on their keyboards. They were even shown pictures of multiple Facebook friends and asked to choose who would live.
But perhaps even cooler than the technology is the psychology behind the phenomenon. Until that point, Frito Lay had been putting a lot of effort into marketing to moms. But they realized at some point that it wasn’t working, and they decided to turn their attention to their actual consumers: teenagers. To do that, they needed to endure one of the hardest tasks in psychology: to understand the minds of volatile teenagers.
Actually, what they found was both simple and accurate. Teenagers don’t yet have fully matured prefrontal cortexes, meaning they are not as capable of making mature decisions and are especially vulnerable to fear-related stimuli.
Basically, it means that the easiest way to get a teenager to eat a high-fat snack is to scare him into doing it while rewarding him simultaneously. By forcing the teens to make decisions under high-stress situations, the campaign created a connection between high-stress situations and the desire for certain flavors of chips.
Manipulative? Maybe. Genius? Definitely.
Every marketing decision should be made with psychology in mind, because every purchasing decision is.
Hotel 626 is just one fascinating example of the case studies found in The Brain Sell. Click here to find the book on Amazon, and don’t forget to consider the psychology of your consumers the next time you evaluate your marketing strategy.
About the Author: Samantha Gale is a social media and content marketing specialist working for 60 Second Communications, a full-service marketing agency working with brands around the globe.