Psychology of branding: the top 5 things you need to know

7 minutes to read • Published 19 October 2020 • Branding & Identity

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Regardless of whether we are aware of it, or even if we’re willing to accept it, psychology is all around us.

If we consider psychology to be the study of the human condition, it stands to reason that our every decision, choice and action has a background in this science. 

As a result, psychology is not just an abstract concept best left to medical professionals. Any successful business should bring psychology into their branding. 

In the 21st Century, consumers have never been more spoilt for choice when choosing a product or service.

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This overwhelming number of options frequently leads to increased brand loyalty, as a customer prefers to stick with the tried-and-trusted over taking a chance over a new, potentially disappointing alternative.

This provides opportunity for your business. By understanding the psychology of your customers, you can ensure they continue to return to your offering over that of your competitors. 

There are five core components to psychology that you can bring into your branding, ensuring that your business remains at the forefront of the mind of customers – consciously or otherwise.

1. Meeting needs

The first, and most critical, step in branding psychology is meeting the needs of a customer. This can be a minefield. The world is changing, and consumers are growing increasingly demanding.

Simply reacting to the requests and expectations of a customer is no longer sufficient. A business is now expected to anticipate the wants and desires of their customer base.

To achieve this, build a profile of both your business offering and your customer base.

Consider why your customer is approaching you in the first place. You are offering a product or service that they consider valuable or essential to their everyday life.

This is why they are content to pay for it. In times of economic hardship, every penny counts – clearly you are doing something right.

Build your offering around continuing to meet this core, fundamental requirement – and check in with your customers periodically for feedback as to how you can do more.

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In the business world, stagnation is as harmful as taking a step backward. Your competitors will be looking to improve their offering to match your success, so you’ll need to do the same.

2. Emotional connection

To truly retain the heart and mind of a customer, you’ll need to provide more than just good service. You will also need to forge an emotional connection. The relationship between brand and consumer is not unlike a marriage. If you grow complacent, and stop paying sufficient attention to your customers, their eye will start to wander.

By building an emotional bond with your customers, you can turn them into brand ambassadors. It is possible to convince consumers to connect to a brand in much the same way they do a favourite musical act or sports team. It’s about making the customer feel like they matter, and they are part of your offering. Examples of this could include:

  • Sending well wishes by email or post on the customer’s birthday
  • Checking in to say thank you for displaying loyalty, potentially offering a discount or bonus service on anniversaries of service use or following large purchases
  • Personalise your communications, interact regularly, and don’t be afraid to bring a little humour to your social media presence
  • Build your brand around emotionally impactful core values, such as eco-friendly credentials or superior customer service

Don’t get too cute or cloying – that will turn a customer off. Equally, though, do not keep a barrier between yourself and your consumers that makes them feel like nothing more than cash cows.

Ultimately, your aim is to remind your customers that there are a team of hard-working human beings behind their favourite brands and products. This will encourage them to invest in your success. 

3. The power of colour

When building your brand, the psychology of colour can never be underestimated. Colour choices impact the human mind in ways that we may not wilfully comprehend. Bright colours will attract attention and potentially inspire impulsive purchases, with more muted shades can inspire a greater sense of trust and loyalty.

  • Blue is considered a calm, trustworthy and stable colour
  • Red is a powerful shade that demands attention, but it can denote risk or danger
  • Green is the colour of calm and good fortune
  • Black is a confident, cold and striking colour, albeit occasionally a little too dominant
  • White is a peaceful and innocent shade – a helpful contrast to bold power colours
  • Orange is an excitable, attention-grabbing colour that some deem vulgar or tasteless
  • Yellow is bright, energetic and positive – there’s a reason the golden arches of McDonalds invoke an emotional response in so many
  • Purple is the colour of mystery, deep thinking, and even spirituality
  • Pink is widely deemed an affectionate, welcoming colour

Keep these reactions in mind when designing your corporate standing and identity. Colour will influence a customer’s decision-making. Turn this to your advantage by selecting an appropriate pallet for your website, logo and other form of communication.  

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4. Status symbols

Humans are not as evolved as we like to think that we are.

If we did not crave the approval of our peers and seek to impress others with displays of status and power, sites like Instagram would not exist.

The human condition is one of seeking status.

Build this attraction into your brand identity.

  • Consider with your branding design carefully. Avoid anything too gaudy that looks cheap – that may attract attention, but it risks losing it just as quickly
  • Choose your words carefully when writing copy for your website and press releases. A sophisticated but approachable vernacular will denote an air of class and reliability
  • Turn your brand into a byword for excellence by delivering excellent results on a consistent basis. Most consumers will immediately purchase a pair of Nike or Adidas shoes over a cheaper competitor as they associate these brands with quality
  • Regularly fine-tune and update your offering to denote the latest and greatest advances in technology and manufacturing. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Take a leaf from the book of Apple, who convince people to queue outside their stores overnight for the most basic of product upgrades

Next time you are out in public, look around you. You’ll find that many people are basically walking billboards.

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They’ll display the Starbucks logo on their coffee cups. They wear clothing that loudly and proudly bearing the logo of a major high street chain or designer.

They ensure that the latest smartphone is clutched in their hand, striding purposefully out of a shop with their head held high after paying for purchases with their phone or watch.

This is all sending a message, whether intentional or not – “look, fellow humans. I work hard and can thus afford nice things.” This is the level of status that you should aspire to bring to your own brand.

5. Creating an experience

Above all, the psychology of branding should create an experience for users – whether online or off. This is particularly important to Millennials and Generation Z, who value the experience of a product over functionality or results.

In many respects, this is an amalgamation of all the techniques we have already discussed. In order to truly tap into the psychology of customers, you need to make them feel something.

Efficiency is no longer king. You need to marry this with user-friendliness and approachability.

This means that you should not rely too heavily on technology or AI, no matter what your business model entails. There is no denying that tech is important, but do not lose sight of what really matters to a consumer. 

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Users of your product or service do not just want a mechanical, professional delivery or product. They want to feel that your brand truly understands them and is willing to take them on a journey through your world.

Build your offering, including a focus on interaction, packaging and web design, around this desire.

As you’ll see, psychology pays a pivotal role in any successful branding exercise.

You do need to be a qualified student to successfully exercise psychology in your branding.

You just need to understand, and empathise, with the needs and desires of your customer base. If achieve this, success and prosperity will follow.

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