Why CMOs Should Care About Psychology

Human brains are hard-wired to seek connection with other humans. Here are a few ways to utilize this principle and bring consumers to your brand.

Have you ever wondered why, for decades upon decades of marketing, we still see images of families or friends bonding with each other in our ads? It’s fairly simple, really. Brands want to be associated with bringing people together.

Forming connections and uniting people are powerful marketing tactics. And how do we know this? The science backs it up.

Connecting the Dots (and the Neurons)

Neuroscience tells us that human connection is a deep, physical need for humans. Rather than being driven by self-interest alone, as the common assumption would have us believe, the desire for emotional connection is actually hard-wired into our brains. Positive or negative social interactions manifest as physical sensations — that’s how strongly we crave connection. According to Matthew Lieberman, author of “Social,” “We don’t focus on being connected solely in order to extract money and other resources from people — being connected needs no ulterior motive.”

This principle has wide-ranging applications in the business world, from incentivizing employees to determining the very products and services companies offer. And this same principle of seeking connection can be applied in the marketing world, too.

“Connecting with consumers in a way our brains are designed is a powerful proposition,” says Charlotte Blank, chief behavioral officer of Maritz. “Insights from behavioral science can help us grow beyond counting likes (which don’t necessarily mean much) toward building true engagement.”

But how exactly can marketers utilize this principle to achieve a successful marketing initiative? Here are three tips to get you moving in the right direction:

1. Point to social proof.

Social proof, which author Robert Cialdini describes as “the tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it,” is a powerful motivator for consumers. Leveraging outside opinions can raise your brand’s legitimacy and lead to an increase in sales.

Whether from experts and celebrities or average users, positive recommendations from others can do much of the work for you. “If your company collects testimonials, sprinkle them throughout your website on the pages you know will be seen often,” says social proof expert Neil Patel. “A plug from someone who says they learned valuable lessons from my content can help persuade a visitor who’s not sure whether or not to complete the form.”

Three important factors impact the value of these reviews: quantity, quality, and authenticity. Hundreds of five-star ratings will obviously win over a small handful, but having a smattering of lower-star ratings can actually help you rather than hurt you. They prove that your brand isn’t hiding negative responses, which makes the positive reviews all the more credible — and valuable. As long as your reviews lean in a praising direction overall, you’ll reap the benefits of social proof.

2. Craft shared experiences.

Experiential marketing is a hot buzzword these days, but a properly planned event can do wonders for inspiring real-world connections among consumers and with your brand. The best experiential marketing events bring out an emotional response, teach a practical lesson, and connect with the brand in a way that flows naturally from consumer desires.

Look at Lean Cuisine’s recent #WeighThis campaign. The company installed scales throughout Grand Central Station in New York City and invited participants to “weigh in” by writing down the accomplishments for which they want to be weighed rather than the dreaded numbers they were acquainted with. This inspired camaraderie between participants and established Lean Cuisine as a comrade in the fight for body positivity.

There’s also the opportunity to add a touch of surprise and delight when you’re bringing people together. Guinness did just this with its Guinness Class experiential campaign. In an effort to raise its profile to the ranks of luxury brands, Guinness had representatives dress in flight attendant uniforms and enter bars all across Britain, offering a random prize to anyone who ordered the brewer’s signature pint. While some participants received just a small keychain, others received an all-expenses-paid trip to Dublin, raising the campaign’s excitement level — as well as consumers’ positive associations with the company.

3. Build an engaged community.

What better way is there to inspire people to connect than by creating opportunities for consumers to do so under your brand’s banner? Companies can use online forums or groups to share resources and bring together consumers and audiences with similar interests.

One great example of this strategy is led by MDR, the education division of Dun & Bradstreet. The company created WeAreTeachers.com as a robust community that shares resources and brings together educators in a supportive, encouraging environment. By extension, it helps establish the company as a trusted resource for its educator audience.

There is no need to press an advertising agenda with these forums. In fact, it’s better to avoid overt promotion and let the community atmosphere speak for itself. Save the hard sell for a different marketing channel and allow your forums to act solely as an opportunity for consumers to gain trust with your brand.

All of us — brand advocates, product developers, and consumers alike — crave connection. It’s basic human nature. So lean into that desire and provide your audience with the means to interact. Chances are good they’ll respond in kind, making connections with your brand that can bring you the next level of success.

Chirag Kulkarni is the Chief Marketing Officer of Medly, a digital pharmacy. Forbes ranked him one of the top 25 marketers and he’s helped brands like Expedia increase their revenue on the web.