It’s no secret that incorporating a range of psychology principles into your online marketing is a clever and effective technique. Knowing what your consumers want to read and share is half the battle when it comes to content marketing.

“Consumer psychology” studies how human thoughts, beliefs and feelings influence the different ways in which people relate to goods and services. The concept falls heavily on the ways in which a consumer’s behaviour can be changed or influenced.

psychology-content-1 6 Psychology Concepts you Should be Using in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Changing consumer behaviour is important for the majority of brands, as whatever product or service they offer, the likelihood is that their potential consumers were already using a competitor or alternative to achieve the same results as your product or service will give them.

To develop a good content marketing strategy, it is important to understand how people operate, and learn the key principles that can really help to take your content from good to great:


According to the principle of reciprocity, humans feel that when they are given something or offered something, they should reciprocate by offering something back.

You may have encountered this principle in every day life, when you are at a bar or restaurant and a friend or family member has bought you a drink or some food. Even if they have offered you something without expecting anything back, you naturally feel like you want to reciprocate in some way.

reciprocity 6 Psychology Concepts you Should be Using in Your Content Marketing Strategy

This theory can be used in your content marketing – if you give your consumers something for free, then they are likely to trust you more and want to build up a relationship with you. You don’t have to give them anything huge, it could just be a discount code or branded pen, but even something that simple can go a long way in terms of the reciprocity theory.

Verbatim Effect

The verbatim effect suggests that consumers tend to only remember the gist of your content, rather than the long, detailed version of it. This means that however much effort you put into the body of optimisation guide, readers may remember that it was about how to conduct on-page optimisation on their site, but not exactly what you were going into detail about and what steps you suggested they should take.

In the modern world we live in, news, advice and guides come at us from all angles, on a range of different devices, meaning we can be swamped by the information being provided. Humans tend to be headline hungry, as they can make a quick decision from just the title of a blog or article about whether the content is something they want to look at and potentially share.

Headlines aren’t very long, but you need to use them wisely and make them memorable. Check out our post on creating great headlines.


Researchers have found an area in the human brain that responds better to novelty than it does to familiarity. This area is responsible for regulating human motivation and rewards, and releases dopamine when the brain discovers a novel concept, encouraging us to try and find out more.

Novelty 6 Psychology Concepts you Should be Using in Your Content Marketing Strategy

The way the novelty theory works in content marketing, is that something new to our brains makes us want to explore further into a blog or website, and learn more about those behind the content.

You can use this by either creating content in a range of different formats over a set period of time, giving consumer brains the feeling that the content is novel, due to the fact you have published it as a video or picture, or you can actually delve into your analytics and find out what interests your consumers the most and develop something new around that.


The perception of authority can have a big effect on the human brain. Have you ever felt nervous when driving past a police car or felt concerned when your boss has called you into an unplanned meeting?

Human obedience to perceived leaders was established during the Milgram experiment in 1962 and shows that people are predisposed to obeying authoritative figures.

Being a thought leader should always be part of your content marketing strategy, but it isn’t always that easy to do. Writing tons of in depth whitepapers and blog posts around a topic is one way to become authoritative, but the easiest thing to do is to partner up with someone who is already a thought leader in your area and create some content together. The authority that the professional you’re collaborating with will then rub off on you in the eyes of your reader.


More and more research seems to point towards emotions being the biggest factor behind content going viral. Fracti carried out a study that found certain emotions to be more likely to lead to viral content than others.

viral-emptions 6 Psychology Concepts you Should be Using in Your Content Marketing Strategy

The study found that amusement, interest and surprise were the top 3 emotions responsible for driving viral content. All three of these should be considered when developing your strategy and creating your content

Information Gap Theory

This theory is both informative and actionable, but needs to be done correctly to see the best results. When creating ideas for content or blog topics, you need to think past what your readers need to know and really consider why they need to know it. Think about the emotions mentioned above and use them to generate content that people want to read and will feel compelled to share.

When it comes to your strategy or editorial calendar, sit down and really consider whether the headlines you have in mind will generate the emotions you’re after and whether the rest of the content will be engaging enough for people to share it. The “social smile” concept suggests that humans experience joy when they offer positive, emotional content to others, as they forge a bond through feeling the same way.