The Science of Making People Love Your Product – Persuasion Triggers

Why do people spend billions of dollars on the products that they know are bad for them – Mcdonalds, Pepsi, and Cigarettes? Why did you choose Hyundai car instead of Tata car? All this has to do with the psychology of what makes people buy things and do actions on your products.

Let’s try to dissect and understand what psychological triggers make people buy things.

Let’s talk about Behavioural Economics

Every time someone is purchasing a product, he is making a decision. Just a month back, I went to almost 5 shops in order to purchase a dull, drab, and simple black shoes. I was silently comparing prices, quality, and brand value. In the process, I was also listening to the views of my girlfriend, who wanted me to purchase a bit more fancy shoes (which I didn’t ). There were countless factors that affected my decision, making it tough to figure the real reason for choosing a particular shoe.

The entire field of behavioural economics seeks to understand purchase decisions – the complex science behind ditching Samsung for Apple. Marketers are fascinated by the understanding of behavioural economics, as even a slight improvement in information about this field can drastically improve your business metrics. Just today I ran three test just to figure the right creative for my retargeting ads. A perfect understanding of behavioural economics would have saved all these efforts.

How do people make decisions? Today, let’s talk about few models that every marketer should know.

BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Model

BJ Fogg's Behaviour Model for Growth Marketer

As per the model, behaviour trajectory is the function of motivation, ability, and trigger. The action line is the point where the trigger such as notification and discount coupon can result in action.

When people are incredibly motivated then smallest of triggers can result in action even if the action is really hard to do. For example, when your car breaks down on mid road, you take the car to nearest mechanic even if that’s a pretty tough thing to do. Therefore, for a persona whose car has broken on the road, just a small hoarding mentioning the address of nearest mechanic will be an effective trigger.

Similarly, when the job is easy to do, then again smallest of triggers work despite the low motivation. For example, suppose that you have yummy frozen yoghurt in the milk. Now if you start feeling hungry (trigger), you will eat that yoghurt even if you aren’t motivated to work a bit for it, as you just have to open the fridge door to fetch the yoghurt.

The difficult part is to find the trigger for a difficult and boring task. For example, sometime back I downloaded the Duoligno app. It’s one of the best-designed apps with best-crafted notifications. However, the notifications trigger were extremely ineffective on me, as I wasn’t motivated to learn Spanish and learning a new language is certainly a difficult task.

This model also talks about different core motivations for taking action:

  • Pleasure (Makeup) vs pain (Medicine)
  • Hope (Lottery) vs fear (Insurance)
  • Acceptance (Facebook) vs rejections (Formals for corporate parties)

This framework can help you plan your marketing campaigns. Try answering following questions for your users:

  • Where are my users on the scale of motivation and ability?
  • What emotions and triggers you want your customer to experience through the touchpoints?

Once you determine what emotions you want your customer to feel, then you need to find a right trigger.

Take the case of Facebook. You wanted acceptance, so opened the Facebook app and started scrolling. The photos and post triggered social acceptance feeling. Now, the next time you feel bored and alone, your brain knows what to do.

Robert B. Cialdini Model of Persuasion

Robert is the writer of “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion“, one of the best selling books on influence and persuasion. In this book, author talks about 6 different ways in which you can influence people. These are 6 physiological tools for marketing to anyone and designing your triggers. These triggers if mastered would be extremely powerful in persuading people to use your product. Right from smoking industry to chocolate industry used this triggers to make you buy products that are not even good for you.

Let’s talk about these 6 triggers:

  • Reciprocity:

Give and take always works. Pandits will put “Tika” on head first, and this makes you obliged to pay. This work even for the product! It’s an extremely powerful tool.

If you give a small gift, users are much more likely to buy your product. That’s offering free trial (or freemium) version works so well. If you were trial or free version made a significant impact on the life of users, they have much higher chances of buying your product or services. Likewise, when you are offered free ebook or gift on website visit, you feel like you owe something to blogger. It’s damn powerful!

Just to imagine the magic of this trigger – gift your friend or girlfriend a box of chocolate or wine, and just see the result. They will want to payback in someway 🙂

  • Commitment and consistency

If people have committed publically or told a group of people that they will do something, they are much more likely to do, as that’s congruent to their self-image. People have obsessive desire to be consistent with what they have done.

As per research, people at the racetrack are much more confident of their horse’s chances of winning than they are immediately before laying down the bet. Once they have taken the stand (placing the bet), the need to be consistent will make them believe that what they have done is right.

For example, when people commit to 30-day challenge, the probability of people following the fitness regime increases drastically.

  • Social Proof

Social proof makes people follow the crowd. Therefore, when you go to market, and you don’t have any other data point apart from the number of people at the restaurant, you are more likely to sit in a restaurant, which has a larger crowd. Further, for the same reason, canned laughter in sitcoms works so well. It causes you laugh even more.

This is why reviews, testimonial, and reviews work. In fact, apps that convey social proof worked better in attracting users. For example, the social feed in Facebook is an excellent example of social proof. When you land at the feed in Facebook, you see two things – shows that your friends are also using Facebook and shows how they are using.

Here is a great video on Venmo used social proof to increase app retention and usage. As a marketer, you can make great use of this trigger – testimonials from an average person on the street and messages such as “join the community of 10,000+ bloggers”.

  • Liking

You generally buy groceries from the store, whose manager is likeable. This is one of the obvious triggers – we generally buy from someone we know and like.

For example, a study of the Canadian federal elections found that attractive candidates received more than two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates. Similarly, in India, a bigger race between politicians is to prove that they are a common man – Modi clearly won the race last time with his tea seller card.

  • Authority

We have a deep sense of duty to follow authority. Let’s discuss the experiment conducted by professor Milgram of Yale University. In the experiment, Milgram measured the willingness of participants to obey an authority, who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal choice. Participants were told by the experimenter, who exhibits authority by dressing as a scientist, that they are assisting in an experiment – a scientific study of memory and learning, in which they had to administer electric shocks to a learner for an incorrect answer. These fake electric shocks were gradually increased to levels that it would be fatal had they been real. Surprisingly, a very high proportion of people obeyed the instructions.

This experiment shows that people follow authority. In fact, as per ‘First Theory of Conformism’, a subject who has neither ability nor expertise to make decisions, especially in a crisis, will leave the decision making to the group and its hierarchy.

As a marketer, you can use this by positioning yourself as an authority on the subject. Titles are one of the bug sources of authority. Just a title of engineer makes your opinion on engineering issues credible.

  • Scarcity

Ever wondered why people generally interrupt an interesting face-to-face conversation to answer the ring of the unknown caller? That’s because the caller has one feature that face-to-face partner doesn’t – potential unavailability.

It’s a simple rule – opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited. Scarcity – only five product left or limited time sale – always helps to sell more product and build interest.

The idea of potential loss plays a larger role in human decision making. For example, pamphlets with the slogan “you can lose several potential health benefits by failing to spend only five minutes doing weight measure” will fare better than “you can gain several potential health benefits by spending only five minutes measuring weight”.

Psychology of Colors

As per research, consumers take mere 90 seconds to form an opinion of the product, and 60-90% of that interaction is determined by the colour of the product alone. Here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Women don’t like grey, orange, and brown, and they prefer blue, purple, and green.
  • Men don’t like purple, orange, and brown, and they like blue, green, and black.
  • Bright primary colour is better for the call to action. The “add to cart” button is generally yellow.
  • Use plenty of white spaces to create a sense of freedom, spaciousness, and breathability.

pyschology of color - marketing persuatiion triggers

Colour What it represents
Blue Trust, peace, order and loyalty
Yellow Warning – Makes babies cry
Green Environmental, organic, and outdoor
Orange Fun, haste (limited time offer), and cheap
Black Luxury and value

Phew! That’s a lot of theory.

One good way to master these theories is to start analysing the advertisements of different firms and figuring out their physiological triggers and emotions that they are trying to target. 


About the author

Product Manager at Google | Kellogg MBA '20 | IIT Delhi Graduate

I am passionate about product management, startup, and fitness not in any particular order.

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