18 Powerful Psychological Principles that Drive Direct Marketing

by Dean Rieck

Too many direct marketing gurus profess simplistic ideas about psychology. They insist that people — perhaps the most complex biological creatures on Earth — can be understood with a checklist of motivators or pyramid of needs. I even once had a consultant stand up during one of my lectures and claim that the only fact anyone needs to understand is that people act out of "fear." Period.

What nonsense! I can't even figure out why the bagger at the grocery checkout puts three hundred cat food cans in one bag and a single stick of celery in another so that I'm forced to lurch to my car leaning to one side. How can I possibly encapsulate the whole human experience in a five-point checklist?

Such simple solutions are attractive, but ultimately limiting. When it comes to people, you have to learn what you can, but always keep an open mind. Because just when you think you have everything figured out, someone does something you never expected.

That's why I so strongly advocate endless testing, insist on thinking carefully about every marketing challenge, and remain a dedicated student of that fascinating, bewildering, and wonderful creature, Homo sapiens.

So in no particular order, here are some of the tidbits I've learned about our credit-card-wielding species.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface. Psychology is a deep and eternally revealing line of study. And while I don't believe in making things more complicated than they have to be, I think there is great benefit in knowing not only what people do, but also why they do it. It's the only way to become a master of the techniques you rely on.

Copyright © 1998 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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