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How Psychology-Based Creative is Changing the DTC Industry

How Psychology-Based Creative is Changing the DTC Industry

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

When the Triple Whale team asked me to write a short article detailing the impact of consumer psychology in paid advertising, I knew this was going to be a challenge.

How do you fit hundreds of years of peer-reviewed research, case studies, grand hypothesis, astounding correlations and sensational causations into 1,500 words? The excessive typing alone would probably cause premature arthritis…

But I’m a doer and an obsessive overthinker…so I decided to do what I always do and use humor to try and explain an abstract concept that many marketers find quite itchy…

So the question is: why does consumer psychology matter in paid advertising? And how can Creative Strategist use this information to create better advertising.

Let’s start with something simple…

Four women laughing together, holding drinks.

Fact #1: Customer = human.

On top of that stunning fact:

  1. Subscriber also = human
  2. Engager = human
  3. Follower = human
  4. Visitor = human
  5. Sale = human
  6. And purchaser = human as well. 

Despite our best attempts to label each and every action these people take, this underlying fact will never change:

We are humans who sell stuff to other humans.

Fact #2: Unfortunately, the humans we sell to don’t care about much.

While it’s true that paid advertising isn’t going anywhere, the consumers themselves have developed quite a knack for ignoring most of the messages we work so hard to create.

One study found that consumers view over 30,000 different ads on a daily basis, and that’s on top of their daily social media platform usage.

Every product they have in their house has some sort of branded identity:

  • A tube of toothpaste
  • A bottle of vitamins
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Handsoap
  • Shampoo
  • Potato salad
  • Headphones
  • Books
  • Backpacks
  • And grocery bags…

Everything that has a brand on it has been (at one point) attached to some sort of advertisement within the brain. Which means everything we touch comes with either a bright and sunny (or gross and icky) brain sensation.

But the brain can handle all this because it has a built-in mute button (AKA: Attentional Bias) that it uses on the daily to ignore the majority of those 30,000+ advertisements…including the ones you’re running right now.

Sound scary? Don’t worry. There’s more…Here’s another fact.

A sign on a rocky hill says "Danger: do not proceed beyond this point" and beyond the sign are 6 people exploring the hill.

Fact #3: We’re pretty stressed out by the fact that consumers don’t care about what we care about.

Brands across the globe are on a mission to message to the masses in order to scale.

Our job is to craft a very curated, controlled, and mathematical message that will hopefully strike a chord within the billions of random people our ad is being served to. 

We spend millions of dollars every month delivering a perfectly manicured message, then we hire hundreds of people to test orange buttons against blue buttons and obsessively track this data like our life depends on it.

We stress ourselves out with this stuff because we’re sure it’s integral to converting our customer.

But the customers we’re selling to don’t care about any of that…because they’re human

Fact #4: Humans have no clue why they do things.

95% of our decision-making comes from the subconscious mind. This inner deep space maze is a sophisticated system of well-connected associations, memories, gum commercial jingles, and decades of mental recorded history.

That means even on your worst day, the subconscious is processing 27,500x more data than the conscious mind.

The majority of our actions aren’t actually responses (or well thought out plans of action)…they’re reactions (literally, jumping into a hole just because).

This includes everything from brushing your teeth to buying a car to choosing stock options. And most everything we do is a reaction and not a response, including our customer’s decision to click and buy from our ads.

If this sounds slightly terrifying to you, I’m glad. That means you’re normal and get anxious about things you can’t control.

But there’s one more fact we need to look at before I give you the good news…

Fact #5: Advertising is expensive…because no one is talking to the subconscious.

The disconnect between marketing-humans and consumer-humans is not only devastating socially (think about all the late night TV we could be watching without all those ads)…it’s also highly expensive.

From July 2021 to today, the cost of Facebook advertising went up 89%

CPA’s and CPM’s are on the rise because consumers are lost in a sea of chaotic messaging that’s trying desperately to speak to their reasonable side (which as we now know…doesn’t come online until after about 2 solid minutes of dial-up).

When things begin to get hot in the pot, we marketers know what to do! Grab a spoon and stir like crazy.

Our gut reaction to this system-wide problem of feeling ignored has been to add more to the pot - namely in the form of more and more and more creative

More creative means more messaging in the market which means we’re placing a heavier cognitive load on the minds of our customers…which gives us an even greater chance of being ignored.

The over-generation of creative is so big, in fact, we generated 2.5 quintillion data bytes daily in 2020 alone. And the number just keeps growing. 

With all this messaging flying everywhere, it’s no wonder our customers are ignoring the crap out of us.

A lightbulb glowing in someone's hand.

Fact #6: There is a solution and it’s a no-brainer (pun intended).

We now know that the subconscious mind holds all the decision making cards. Modern-day marketers will need a new set of skills if they’re going to compete cheaply and effectively…

Luckily, there’s a relatively easy way to do this…and it starts with marketing to the mind.

Our customers are desperate to be presented with something that feels right to their brain, which is why it’s going to be essential for us to learn how to use tools like:

  • Consumer psychology
  • Behavior science
  • Economics
  • Mental biases
  • Heuristics
  • Emotional intelligence
  • And self awareness

To help our customers subconsciously react their way into our ecosystems.

It’s time we stop obsessing over A/B tests and start obsessing over how our customers work on a biological level as humans.

It’s time we start crafting messages that fit our customer’s subconscious emotional needs, and present products and services that help them feel better about their life.

This is going to require us to be proactive about (gulp) talking about our feelings.

It’s also going to require us to be accepting of the feelings of others, and even more importantly…it’s going to require us to listen with intent...not just wait for our turn to talk.

Our customers are complex creatures with a beautiful bouquet of personal tastes, strange hobbies, deep hurts, and big, big dreams. If we can take ourselves out of the “marketer’s mind” for a bit and notice our similarities…we might be able to connect on a deeper level and solve some really big problems.

Not only will this help us cut costs in a time of unprecedented advertising inflation, but it will also help us connect better as a society and care for the people who help shape our business, our culture, and our world.

It’s time we clearly understood humans, because we’re human.

(And the good news is, consumers will continue to buy things…whether the platforms track where they buy their daily donuts, or not.)

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