By Bridget Yu (Bugle Team)

There is no doubt that knowledge from psychology can be applied to almost everything. For example, when we sell an object, we promote it in a way that customers will want to buy it. Or when we study history, we may also try to give reasons to what our ancestors do. Psychology does the same thing! Many psychologists develop their own theories first by observation, followed by a hypothesis. Therefore, some psychological theories may be able to explain marketing strategies. Here are a few of them.

Before stepping into a store, advertisements are probably one of the most important aspects of marketing. Advertisements are basically everywhere. But how can one stand out from the others and leave a great impression on consumers? A study done by Amy Dalton and Li Huang (2013) found that people are more likely to remember advertisements that are related to their own identity. According to some researches, when advertisements are pitched to a certain group of consumers, say UCL students, then people in this identity group will be more likely to remember this advertisement when compared to students from other universities.

The Decoy effect (Huber et al. 1982) is one of the most common marketing strategies. Have you ever tried to order a drink and had three different sizes to choose from? Instead of there being equal differences in price between the three sized-drinks, medium drinks tend to be closer in value to the largest drink. Consumers will be more likely to buy the large-sized drink instead of the small one even when they intended not to buy a large drink in the first place! This may be one of the reasons why people waste money on things that they don’t necessarily need.

Price-the-decoy-for-pop-corn                                                               Image Credit:

People tend to have a list of ‘essential’ items in their minds. However, we never seem to be able to justify why exactly these items are essential. With reference to Barrett’s (2012) findings in emotion, there may be two reasons for this phenomenon. First, the subjective meaning of the product, which may be related to the culture of the corporation. Setting aside the function of the product, the corporate culture of its brand facilitates purchase. For example, Apple represents technological advancement and MUJI embodies a simplistic lifestyle. Second is the subjective emotional meaning which is given to buyers from the item. For example, MUJI products are simple in design and the relationship between MUJI products and simplicity will be implanted into consumers’ brains. Therefore, buying and using MUJI products would give consumers the subjective feeling of showing others how much they value minimalism in life. These reasons combined result in desire to purchase a product. This in turn leads to the purchase of unnecessary and expensive items, for the sake of owning a branded product.

There are many more fun marketing strategies which can be explained by psychology theories. Find out more about consumer behaviour using the link down below!


Barrett, Lisa Feldman. ‘Emotions Are Real.’ Emotion 12, no. 3 (2012): 413–29. doi:10.1037/a0027555.

Dalton, Amy N., and Li Huang. ‘Motivated Forgetting in Response to Social Identity Threat’. Journal of Consumer Research 40, no. 6 (2014): 1017–38. doi:10.1086/674198.

Huber, J., Payne, J. W., and Puto, C. (1982). Adding asymmetrically dominated alternatives: violations of regularity and the similarity hypothesis. J. Consum. Res. 9, 90–98. doi: 10.1086/208899

‘Six Sneaky Ways Sales Spur Spending’. Psychology Today. Accessed 20 January 2016.

‘Why I Covet the iPad’. Psychology Today. Accessed 20 January 2016.