As a marketer, you are always looking for ways to connect better with your consumers. Understanding what they want and how they behave are the two key pillars of creating content and campaigns that create long-term value for your brand. 

To do this, marketing psychology is your best bet as it combines science and creativity. It helps you combine the science of human behavior patterns and allows you to build on existing studies and principles to create a targeted campaign. From choosing the right color to leveraging FOMO, marketing psychology helps you create successful campaigns. 

This guide will show you how psychology affects email marketing and look at some of the principles you should use to keep your subscribers engaged and your click-through rate high. 

Let’s dive in!


Marketing psychology uses a range of psychological principles to inform your marketing, sales, and content strategies. It helps marketers understand human behavioral patterns, including how they purchase, how they react to words and colors, and what they look for in a campaign. 

It is instrumental for marketers to know the whys of human behavior if they want their campaigns to connect with their target audience. It becomes easier to create content that connects with people when you know what they want to hear and see. 

If you’re interested in exploring this subject, work by Dr. Robert Cialdini on Principles of Persuasion is just priceless! 

But why should you use marketing psychology to promote your brand? In the next section, we will look at the importance of marketing principles for your brand. 


Psychology is useful in marketing as it is a scientific way to understand our audience, enabling us to put our marketing metrics in perspective. For example, suppose your consumer responded well to a campaign that offered a time-sensitive discount. The psychological basis of this is the fear of missing out, or FOMO, a psychological principle that states that humans are wary of losing out on a rare opportunity. 

Psychology also helps you tap into your audience’s emotions to make a long-term connection with them. Read this interesting article on how advertisements are using emotions to influence buying behavior if you want to learn more! 

Finally, it enables you to create a relationship with your customers that goes beyond the product you are selling. Psychology helps you fill in the gaps in your buyer profiles and understand your consumers better. 


Psychology plays a significant role in encouraging your subscribers to open your emails and click through to your site. Everything from the subject line to the colors and images you use affects your consumer’s subconscious mind and plays a role in their decision. 

A study by Salesforce elaborates on why psychology is essential for email marketing. It throws light on an interesting principle that is the basis of a widespread email marketing practice. All successful marketers segment their email lists to deliver personalized mass emails to their subscribers. 

This practice is rooted in the human psychology of the first impression, which states that you have just seconds to make a good impression on your consumers as they decide to open your email (or not). When they see their name in the sales email subject line, for example, it tells them to expect a personalized correspondence rather than a generic marketing email. 

Source: WP Forms

Email marketing has trumped social media as one of the most effective ways to promote your product and is a vital aspect of any marketing campaign. However, it relies heavily on your consumer’s willingness to open the email.

Unlike social media, where ads appear unprompted, consumers have a lot of control over the content they consume via email. For this reason, it becomes crucial to use precisely the right combination of words and images so that your message hits the mark with your target audience. 


Psychological insights can boost your email marketing campaign by equipping you with the right motivational starting points for your audience. Since you get only seconds to make a case for why someone should read your email and take action, they can help you tip the scales in your favor. 

Considering you have taken care of email deliverability and other important metrics, this section will look at some of the ways you can use marketing psychology principles to create a better email campaign based on consumer behavior. 

1. Use scarcity

Scarcity, or the idea that something is limited in supply, is an excellent motivator for purchase as it signals that it is a rare opportunity. 

In 2013, scarcity became FOMO (fear of missing out) as people on social media flaunted what they purchased, and others wanted in on a trend before the product or service ran out. The idea is to create a sense of urgency in their decision-making process.

The rarer the product, the more buzz around it, and the more it creates demand. Remember the Starbucks unicorn frappuccino (above) that stirred up Instagram? The leading coffee chain announced its new drink that divided coffee lovers but was sold out on its first day. 

The “limited time offer, buy now” is also an effective way to encourage purchases. These offers are frequently used to sell commodities from hotel rooms and airline tickets to apparel and other consumer products. 

It implies that the product or offer will not be available after a particular time, prompting people to buy quickly to avoid missing out. It also ties to the loss aversion theory, where people are more likely to buy something now if they think it will not be available later.

Scarcity gives an exclusive quality to your products that also boosts your brand value. Take a look at this article that lists some other brands that have used the “less is more” principle to get more sales. My pick is Supreme, the clothing brand that launches its collections as “limited drops” and has amassed a loyal following. 

2. Reciprocity

The reciprocity principle is simple: if you give your subscribers something for free, they are more likely to want to pay the favor back by purchasing from you. As a business owner, this may seem counter-intuitive, but reciprocity has proven to be an effective way to drive consumers to take the intended action. Pro tip: Use A/B testing to determine the most effective freebies to offer your consumers. 

You can give away a free tutorial, free shipping, discounts, or a product combination offer. It draws on the psychological principle that when you do something nice for someone, they may want to return the good deed.

Ironically, one of the most critical factors in using the reciprocity principle in email marketing is keeping the gesture genuine. The “gift” has to be given with no strings attached. Take a look at Copyblogger (above), which offers free training if you sign up for its email list and has a variety of online resources that can be used to create content, as a shining example of this theory in action. 

3. Social proof

Social proof is the idea that consumers adapt their behavior according to what other people are doing. It’s the simplicity of word-of-mouth with the massive reach of social media and email marketing.

Social proof can flow from celebrities, experts, user testimonials, reviews, and recommendations. It is also the underlying theory of influencer marketing, wherein a person with a massive online following heavily influences their audience’s purchasing decisions.

Source: Ad Espresso

When someone shares their positive experience with your product, it reaches their circle and helps you build value for your brand. It makes your potential customer feel that they can trust your product. 

Use important milestones, awards, and endorsements to add to your email content to give it more credibility. Take a look at Tripadvisor’s email (above) that is highlighting the positive reviews of different hotels. 

4. Price anchoring

Anchoring is a method that involves setting the baseline for something, usually price, to indicate a product’s relative value. It uses the cognitive bias that makes a thing seem less expensive when placed next to a higher product price. For example, if you set the anchor price for a shirt at $10, then a shirt that is retailing at $30 would seem like an expensive option. 

There are two ways in which price anchoring can work. One, show an expensive product first and then follow it up with a less expensive product. The second product will seem more attainable and be seen as better value for money. 

Two, show the old price and then the new price. This is instrumental during sales when marketers can use it to show the reduced price of their products.

Source: Omnisend

Take a look at this example from Alial Fital that has set the caps’ anchor price at $42 but has slashed it to a special price of $32. The consumer will be more likely to buy this product in the given period because it is retailing at a lower price than the anchor point. 

5. Consistency

Being consistent in your email marketing approach is more than just a way to stay in touch with your subscribers regularly. The practice is based on the “foot in the door” principle, which states that you should start with a small request. Once a person agrees to it, they are more likely to say yes when you later ask them for something bigger. 

Brands use this principle by placing a small request like “Watch The Video” or “Click To Know More”, and then asks to sign up for their newsletter or buy a product. The foot in the door technique states that people are consistent in their behavior, and one yes often leads to another yes. 

The idea here is that you cannot expect a customer to jump straight away to the last stage in their decision-making, which is usually a purchase. You have to reach out to them with smaller options consistently, building up to the big ask. Doing this helps you drive your conversion rate and engage with your consumers more authentically. 

6. Choose the right color

Your email’s color scheme is one of its most important factors, as email marketing relies heavily on its content’s aesthetic appeal. A study suggests that its respondents make up their mind about an email in the first 90 seconds, and 90% of that decision is based on color alone. 

The color of both the call to action (CTA) button and the rest of the text plays a significant role in determining your email’s success. Typically, the call to action should be a solid color on the other end of the color spectrum than the one used in other parts of the email so that the CTA stands out. 

Source: Get response

The reason behind this is that different colors elicit a different emotional response. For example, color psychology states that yellow is the color of optimism and is quite successful in grabbing the shopper’s attention without seeming too aggressive. 

On the other hand, red signifies urgency and has been used to denote limited time offers like clearance sales. For example, look at the email newsletter above which uses a red-colored CTA button that stands out. 

7. Keep it simple

The adage “less is more” is also rooted in psychology; people respond better to simple processes and can only process a small amount of information at one time. Showing them too many variants or complicating a function with too many steps negatively impacts their decision. 

The landmark Jam study first proposed the “keep it simple” approach in 2000. Two psychologists created an experiment to prove when you keep it simple, you drive sales. They kept a table with 24 varieties of jam and offered a discount of $1 on any bottle if the consumers sampled the spreads. 

On another day, they had six types of jam with the same offer. While the larger display attracted more attention, people who saw the large collection were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the smaller table. 

For marketers, this means that your email copy should not be cluttered with too many product images or multiple calls to action. Keep your email sequence simple, with fewer choices at each stage. 


Marketing psychology principles offer a peek into your consumers’ minds and allow you to tailor your email campaigns. Understanding the psychological triggers behind purchase decisions enables you to create the most effective combination of text, color, and message. 

Use these principles of psychology to tap into the emotional and psychological responses from your target audience and create successful campaigns. With psychology, you can turn your customer’s inbox into your high-performing promotional vehicle. 

So, what are you waiting for? 

Author Bio

Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.

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