At our roots, human beings are creatures of habits. Like every other animal, some patterns are hardwired into our brain, tendencies that recur over and over that influence how we behave. Marketing teams around the world are constantly utilizing these patterns to attract customers. Much of marketing is based on human psychology and tendencies in consumer behavior. Understanding why we act the way we act is an important step in reaching consumers in natural ways.
Influencer marketing is a modern form of digitally reaching customers, but just because it is a virtual advertising method doesn’t mean it doesn’t take its influence from psychology. There is a deep-seated psychological basis to this form of digital marketing that uses several different inherent human traits to reach new customers.
Understanding the psychology behind influencer marketing is an important step to understanding the appeal of this marketing format, so let’s explore some of the ways influencer marketing utilizes consumer habits to drive growth for businesses.
The halo effect is something that is at the root of influencer marketing. The influencers we follow on social media tend to be people we look up to and aspire towards. They are people that generally, we have a positive impression of. No one wants someone they dislike on their social media feed, so we follow people we respect. The halo effect is our tendency to allow our positive feelings of a person, brand, or product in one area, positively influence our feelings about them in another area.
Take, for example, an influencer that has risen to become a trusted content creator in the home improvement sphere. If they post an advertisement about an energy drink, their followers will inherently trust their opinion on this product, regardless of the influencer’s level of experience with energy drinks.
This is what influencer marketing is built on: our tendency to trust the people we put on a pedestal. People who follow influencers value their opinions because they look up to them and respect them as people, giving brands built-in consumer trust.
Attractiveness bias is based on the human tendency to see attractive people as more intelligent, competent, and social than less attractive people. This cognitive bias dictates many things in our society, such as who becomes famous, who gets hired, and some studies say, who becomes political leaders. This bias is one that marketers have been using for decades, with attractive spokespeople and celebrity endorsements. It is also something that influencer marketing is based around.
This bias doesn’t hold true to all influencers, as many of them are renowned simply for their prowess in a specific area. However, if we’re honest, many influencers reach an elevated platform due to their attractiveness. That is attractiveness bias at work.
Influencer marketing uses people’s tendency to value the opinion of an attractive person more by giving marketers a team of appealing spokespeople to market their product. Similar to the halo effect, attractiveness bias is hardwired into the individual and society as a whole, and marketers should capitalize on it through influencer marketing.
The Exposure Effect
Have you ever seen a person or brand pop up on your social media feed, over and over, until eventually, you felt some compulsion to click follow or make a purchase? This is a normal psychological phenomenon where our exposure to something increases our fondness for it. This is known as the Mere Exposure Effect. The more we see something, the more familiar it is, the more we tend to associate that thing with being good. All animals make decisions based on feelings of comfort, and familiarity is comfort.
This translates to social media marketing nicely because the people we follow are the people we see most consistently on our feeds. They become a consistent part of our lives, we follow their day to day, and they become ingrained in ours. Because we see these influencers so much, we feel fond of them. Their opinion holds more merit to us because we have been exposed to them so consistently. This makes us more likely to make purchasing decisions based on what they say.
This also works in favor of influencers that become brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors more consistently post product from the company they work for, so consumers will see those products on a more consistent basis. The consistent presence of that product in their newsfeed is likely to lead to familiarity, and as we known, familiarity leads to positive association.
Lastly, there is a psychological imperative to fit in with the group. Humans are inherently group animals, and pack dynamics enforce the idea that what is popular is good. It has been proven that the brain rewards us for fitting in. It is part of our brain’s chemistry that we want to blend in with the pack and keep up with its leaders.
Influencers are put on a pedestal as some of the trendiest, “coolest” among us. Essentially, they are different scales of celebrities. There are smaller influencers that are minor celebrities, and then there are influencers like the Kardashians that are some of the most influential celebrities around.
Many consumers consider influencers as pack leaders and thus want to keep up with the trends and products they promote. People are motivated by a desire to fit in and be a part of what is popular. Influencer marketing uses people that have social influence and cultural cachet to promote products, leading to consumers trying to fit in by purchasing what they’re promoting.