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The art of influence. Impacting how people think, feel and do with your brand and marketing:

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

A fundamental aspect of creating great brands, advertising and marketing is to understand human psychology and the impact of language, semiotics, and communication on how people act, behave and feel.

As a strategist in brand and marketing much of my job is focused on considering what people think and feel and how brands can make customers and prospects think and feel certain feelings and thoughts that will impact positively on the businesses goals and outcome this could be increasing sales or it could be creating long term brand preference.

Much of my work is consumed with considering what people currently think, feel, and do and what a business or brand ideally wants them to think feel and do. From this I work out a strategy for behaviour change and persuasion via message and media – hey presto you have a strategy and a brief for creative team to work off.

The current fuel crisis has made me think about the tactics we use in marketing and advertising and it has drawn me to share my thoughts on the effect the language used in media and by government has had on people “panic” buying and responding to the fuel crisis.

In real terms, from a psychological perspective those people that rushed out to top up and fill their tanks were not morons (as some have cried out) but… they have responded in a psychologically predictable way to the stimulus they had received.

Consider….. I.E you read a headline that alludes to a shortage in fuel and even tells you not to panic…. How does the average, normal person respond…? they think there must be a reason to panic and start considering what fuel they need for the next few weeks, they feel increasingly uncertain about what will happen next, will fuel become a real issue? How will they cope if it does not resolve itself…? What should they do to maintain their normal life and routine? they panic, they go into self-preservation mode……they join the que and buy fuel……. Maybe a little maybe a lot but they buy fuel to ensure you can keep living your normal life…

In marketing we use psychological techniques such as Priming, Loss aversion, Scarcity, Reciprocity, Social proof, Verbatim effect, Anchoring, Clustering and Decoy Effect all the time to attract, convince, and convert more people into valuable customers, in real terms using psychological tactics to get them to change what they think, feel and do to meet a company’s goals. Consider Black Friday – the whole premise is based on Loss Aversion, Scarcity, Social Proof, Decoy effect and anchoring.

In the recent fuel crisis, if we consider how people have acted by rushing out to the pumps to fill up - people have acted in response to Priming ( messages of panic and even telling someone not to panic has the opposite effect), Scarcity (a real fear of there not being enough supply was presented) Social Proof ( Come on…. At least one of you reading this joined a petrol que because there was a que…..) Anchoring ( the first piece of information received about the fuel situation held the strongest sway, the media presented a crisis and as such people has responded, any attended to undo this need to be double or triple to have an impact.)

This sounds quite sinister, you may have thought or still think that we are all perfectly rational people, making logical decisions, but psychology tell us this is simply not quite so, we all act and behave in rather interesting ways based on the signs, symbols and language we are presented with.

If you are interested in learning more about the topics I have touched upon:


Dan Ariely – Are we in control of our own decisions?

Daniel Kahneman in conversation


42 Courses offer a wonderful short course lead by the incredible Rory Sutherland, I attended this last year and thoroughly enjoyed this.


Hubspot have written an incredible blog that references semiotic work by Dan Airey, Daniel Kaufman and more.

Read: A few books to get you started….

The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy

Richard Shotton

The upside of Irrationality

Dan Ariely

Thinking Fast Thinking Slow

Daniel Kanhman


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