Psychology plays a role in everything – including Digital Marketing


Psychology plays a role in everything – including Digital Marketing ...

Recently myself and Matt, our Media Planning Manager, were invited to give a careers talk to Undergraduate Psychology students at Reading University. This invitation caused much discussion in the Media team in terms of what role psychology plays in the world of digital marketing. As a recent psychology graduate I found this topic fascinating and thought it would be a great opportunity to highlight how a psychology degree can provide you with the fundamental skills needed to succeed in our industry. 

The Psychology of Marketing

The study of individuals and groups and their attitudes and behaviours holds a huge relevance when it comes to marketing. Without knowing much about the advertising industry, it can be difficult to determine the relevancy between our sector and the world of psychology, particularly when you are a second year undergraduate, wrapped in a university bubble.

An individual who studies psychology will identify a hypothesis and then seek data to support it, for example in my final year project I hypothesised that pressure in sport will affect a sportsperson’s performance and that there will be differences between professionals and amateurs. Following this hypothesis I collected data to prove or disprove my hypothesis. This is a clear example of using data to drive decisions and thus provide insight. This is exactly what we do in our role as digital media planners and buyers when optimising our digital campaigns. For example, data can allow us to identify the line items within our programmatic display campaigns that are performing strongly in terms of conversion and which creative within that line item is the strongest performer so we can continuously look to optimise and exceed forecasts. This echoes a similar sentiment to what Sian, our Senior Ad Operations Executive, has highlighted in her ‘Why maths matters’ blog post’.

Understanding the why…

As media planners we also need to understand why certain results have occurred, for example, if we have seen a spike in client performance we need to understand why this has happened. It may be due to seasonality, competitor activity, because TV coverage started over the weekend or due to additional targeting being implemented. Similarly, once a psychologist has their results it’s important for them to understand why these have occurred. For example, why does an increase of dopamine within your brain increase susceptibility to schizophrenia? What is it that causes this deficiency and what is it about this neurotransmitter imbalance that increases this susceptibility? Having insights and understanding the why are crucial in both.

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…And explaining it well

Presenting information in a clear and concise way is imperative to both those in the field of psychology and digital marketers alike. When we are presenting to a client we need to be clear about what it is we are saying and the implications for this e.g. when highlighting viewability and how we measure this, we need to clearly explain how bidding for impressions with a higher viewability threshold may have an impact on campaign reach. As a psychologist, whether it is verbal or written communication, they need to present their research findings in a way that is understood, ensuring they highlight the implications of their research. For instance some psychological research has found exercise can improve concentration therefore what implication does this have for schools and work places alike?

Understanding how consumers behave is crucial!

Consumer behaviour and understanding the decision-making process is an important consideration within the world of media planning and buying. What is it about a display ad or PPC copy that influences a consumer to engage and/or click through to the website? In psychology you may ask what it is about the road markings that cause you to brake when approaching a junction. How people perceive the world and its variables, is just as important in both psychology and digital marketing.

When running digital display campaigns it is important we understand our audience. Audience insight means we can target our campaigns to the right people increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion. Psychologists also need to understand their audience in order to ensure this doesn’t influence their results. For example, studies have highlighted gender differences in cognition therefore if a sample is purely female this could have implications on the results a study has driven.

Working with data

Our planning team at equimedia need to consider what their sample consists of and the statistical significance of this when profiling audience data. This ensures we are only drawing reliable conclusions from this data which in turn shapes our media plans and targeting strategies. Similarly psychologists have to consider their sample as they too need to ensure their conclusions are reliable.

A crucial part of our role as digital marketers is ensuring we don’t just take results at face value - we dig deeper. We look beyond the last click to look at attribution and paths to conversion to provide deeper insight for our clients ensuring we are feeding this insight back into our planning. This is exactly the same in psychology, for example it can’t be concluded that everyone diagnosed with anxiety has learned this behaviour from their parents. It may be genetic, it could have been a result of a trauma or it could be due to biological abnormalities.

Both those that study psychology and ourselves here at equimedia will consider all factors before making an informed decision. Whether this is a diagnosis or a cross-channel media plan the skills learnt within each discipline hold some interesting similarities. 

If you are interested in being part of our team please view our current vacancies here.


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