The Psychology Of Influence 

Jack Carlin
Jack Carlin

How do we make decisions? How can brands sell two analogous products at drastically different prices? And more importantly, how can they both be popular? The psychology of marketing and consumer behaviour is a large and growing field, encompassing everything from building brand loyalty to creating curiosity, and it’s as valuable to you both as a consumer and as a marketer. 

Traditional economics takes the view that humans are rational, predictable creatures. For example, when Homo Economicus (the model economic human) is choosing a product, it will weigh up all the costs and benefits of each available item, one by one, and make a decision that will provide the best outcome for them. But how many times have you bought a certain brand of pasta not based on value, but on previous habits because you’re time poor? Or chosen the same pair of runners as last time, without doing any research, because you know they will fit?

This is where behavioural economics comes in. As Dan Airely says in his book Predictably Irrational, humans are unpredictable and irrational, rather than cold decision making machines (aka our new friend Homo Economicus). The good news is that we are irrational in the same ways, and we can use these predictions to help drive specific decisions. In your venue’s case, this could mean inspiring potential consumers to buy a ticket and go to a gig. 

How? Glad you asked… here are a couple of suggestions to get you started. 

The importance of consistency 

An ad pops up on your facebook feed and there are 3 immediate questions that follow in your mind. In no particular order, they are “what am I seeing?” , “who is showing this to me?” and “am I interested in this?”. Only once these questions are answered in the consumers mind will you be able to start generating purchase action. 

The benefit of visual and verbal consistency in your communications is that over time, these 3 questions can reduce to 1. How so is simple and intuitive; if all your communications are easily recognised as a part of your brand, the “what is this” and  “who is this” questions are answered. Are you a pub always showcasing rock gigs? If all your ads look and sound the same, soon enough your consumers will become familiar with your voice and look. Once this happens, and it’s quickly obvious I’m seeing an ad for a rock gig at a pub, there is then more energy left for the most important question: “am I interested?”

How can I create marketing consistency?

Achieving visual and verbal consistency deserves an article on it’s own, but there are a few quick wins you can focus on:

  • Develop a basic colour palate which represents your venue/brand, and ensure these appear in some way in all your marketing material 
  • Define how you want your logo to appear in all pieces of creative, and make sure it stays this way
  • Pick a tone of voice. So long as it suits your vision, your voice can be anything from gruff to funny, direct or abstract. But make sure you always keep it in mind when reading and writing your marketing collateral 
  • Choose and commit to a structure on how to order the images, text and logos on your ads.

As the evidence suggests, there is a “strong direct relationships between communication consistency and brand trust and loyalty”, and it’s with brand trust and loyalty that purchase decisions are most easily made. 

Gap theory of curiosity 

Curiosity has been described as “a cognitive induced deprivation that arises from the perception of a gap in knowledge and understanding”. This is about as relatable as science language gets, but it’s still not that clear… translated to our language, it means that people become interested in something when you give them just enough information to show them the gaps in their knowledge.

This is George Lowensteins “Gap Theory of Curiosity”, and is a common concept found in behavioural economics. It’s the theory that applies to movie teasers, newspaper headlines, and in the modern world, clickbait. 

It’s a simple theory, but it can be hard to implement. The ‘gap’ you choose has to be just the right distance; too small, and your audience will put the pieces together too easily and lose interest. Too vast, and your audience will be confused, belittled… and lost interest. 

How can you use this theory for your gigs? First off, we are in no way advocating clickbait. As we all know it will drive clicks, but will ultimately leave a bad taste in your customers’ mouth. But, there are some easy things you can do to harness this concept – the most important being to focus on your headlines: don’t give everything away, and make sure they are compelling and relevant to the content that follows. 

Social Conformity 

If you’ve ever had a bad idea and made the mistake of vocalising it to your mother, you might have heard the predictable response “Oh really? And if [insert friend] jumped off a cliff would you do the same?”. This is your mother’s fear of social conformity. And while her grim fantasy was always unlikely, the power of social conformity is strong and should definitely garner this level of respect. Mothers… they just know everything. 

Social conformity is rooted in the all-too human desire to be accepted by our peers. Humans are tribal animals, with natural tendencies towards groups, teams, villages and communities. With this in mind it’s no surprise that we find it hard to resist the pull of needing to fit in. Whether it’s with a low carb fitness crowd or Melbourne shuffle pioneer group, we have all felt the need to belong to a crew. 

You can see the tug of social conformity every time you scroll Facebook. You can see that 5 friends have joined a hiking fan page, 25 have reshared a post about COVID and 100 are attending a music event in 2 months. And when we see our friends are interested in something, we are inherently likely to be more interested ourselves. 

But social conformity is also relevant to less specific groups. For example, if you know that people in your city, suburb or hotel building are more likely to engage in a certain behaviour, chances are so will you – despite being total strangers. This is neatly illustrated in one of my favourite, and most famous behavioural economics studies.

Turning to your gig, the relevance is simple – just make sure you have some marker which lets people know how many people are attending your gig. This may mean installing a plugin on your website, or, more simply, just make sure you are posting all your gigs to your venue’s social media page!

The Power of Brand Loyalty 

A close cousin of social conformity is brand loyalty. This is likely another concept you’re familiar with, but it’s worth a deep dive nonetheless. It’s sometimes described as the Darwinnian evolution in the market place, where brands that generate loyalty survive, and those that don’t, don’t. 

There are a thousand ways to generate brand loyalty, the simplest being relatively intuitive and well known.Knowing your audience, treating them with respect, and providing accurate information are some of the first and most important steps. But the less often discussed, and arguably more important technique in generating brand loyalty is to actually establish your brand. Without a known brand, how can there be loyalty?

This is the continuation of “the importance of consistency” theme. When all your advertising collateral is part of the same family, you are building your brand and establishing a base on which your supporters can stand. Eminent examples like Nike and their constant push towards action, or Patagonia and their overt concern for our environment are good examples of consistency, which can and does lead to brand loyalty. In turn, brand loyalty will have its own benefits in turn. 

Generating loyalty towards your venue’s brand is where services like Muso can help. Having access to any artist which will fit within your venue’s theme, you have the opportunity to further develop your venue’s brand and increase your brand loyalty. Brand loyalty doesn’t always make sense, and according to traditional economics, is frankly irrational. But, “it is irrationality that defines humans as a social species.”

Behavioural Economics and the success of your venue 

Understanding human decision behaviours are key in developing good brand, product and advertising strategy. And despite the sometimes illogical, often absurd behaviour of humans, the patterns behind these decisions are grounded in science – the science of behavioural economics. 

Social media has powerfully harnessed many of these decision traits, with far reaching effects. While the benefits of their influence is questionable, you can use the same tools for the good of promotion your venue, events, and the bands they feature. 

The tips offered here are by no means exhaustive, but if you are consistent in your communications, can write attention grabbing headlines and use the social conformity mechanics for good, you’ll go a long way in driving brand loyalty and increasing your venue’s live music success.