3 brain science principles to improve your marketing

March 21, 2017 McKenzie Gregory

If you've spent time on the Emma blog, you know we're BIG fans of brain science around these parts. From quick blog posts like this to full-length guides and webinars, we love diving into the smart ways brands apply marketing psychology to their email campaigns. 
It's been a while since we've shared any new brain science principles, so I gathered three more examples of how big-name brands use the workings of the human mind in their email marketing. It’s fascinating stuff, so read on to see how you can use these principles in your own email strategy!


1. Entourage Effect 

This one might feel a little counter-intuitive: While VIP and loyalty programs are built around the notions of scarcity and exclusivity, research shows that exclusion may have its costs. 
In life, being a VIP is all about social recognition, right? So if no one in your social circle can participate in your VIP status, it won’t actually mean that much to you. Here's the deal... 
  1. VIPs don’t want to be lonely.
  2. They want public visibility of their social position.
  3. They want to be able to share their resources with others.
  4. They want to create a feeling of indebtedness 
That’s why widening VIP treatment doesn’t dilute its value – it amplifies it. If a brand wants to make a VIP feel really special, it should adapt its existing program to let his or her peers get in on the action.
How to apply it to your email marketing
If a segment of your audience has opted into some sort of VIP or Rewards program (or if your entire email program is framed that way), allow those subscribers to share exclusive offers and invitations with a friend. It’s a win-win: They’ll be able to show off their status, and you’ll be able to bring more potential customers into the fold. 
By allowing their customers to "share the love," Rent the Runway's user base does the selling for them.

2. Price-Value Bias 

How we frame a product’s price and features naturally affects its perceived value. But seeing how that actually maps out is a great way to build your pricing strategy. Research found that: 
• Consumers tend to think greater functionality means greater value...
• ...but when people are made to believe that price is an indicator of ease of use (as opposed to its level of functionality), they’ll choose the simpler product.
How to apply it to your email marketing
  1. “Same price, more features.” If your product has more features than others in the space but falls around the same price range, use the similar price as the anchor and contrast your superior functionality. 
  2. “Same features, lower price.” If your product has a similar level of functionality as others in the space, use the lower price as the anchor.
  3. “More features, higher price – but designed better.” This works especially well when getting someone to upgrade: A product’s superior features will prove irrelevant if they’re difficult to use. However, consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are easy to use and will save them time. 
Here, Grammarly positions their Premium offering as something that will make their users' day-to-day work easier.
Grammarly positions their "Premium" offering as something that will make their users' day-to-day work easier. 

3. Sunk Cost Effect

When we've already put time and effort into something, we’re motivated to make it work. Because of that,  informing customers of a cost that’s already been incurred can help increase sales. 
How to apply it to your email marketing
Take this example from Dollar Shave Club.
Since it’s a subscription-based service, customers have already invested a certain amount of money. So when they this message allowing them to "toss more in," it can dramatically increase average order value. It does this by reminding folks they've already ordered and highlighting how small the extra sum required would be to "complete the set," which plays on our inherent desire to complete collections.