An interesting piece was published this week on, a Gawker Media site that focuses on science, fantasy and futurism. In the post, the author breaks down a few psychological motivators that encourage people to take action. The basic psychological principles explained apply to every facet of marketing, from designing sales promotions, organizing loyalty programs, and creating ongoing brand experiences.

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The human brain loves to be engaged, tantalized, and most importantly, rewarded. The best way to keep people motivated to continue to take action is to set them up to successfully achieve small goals in the pursuit of a bigger goal. A punch card for free cup of coffee after purchasing 6, or a video game in which you collect tokens are great examples of this.  Click here for the full post, or read our Cliff’s Notes version below:

  • When people feel like they've gotten something for free, it motivates them. A punch card that requires 12 punches for a free drink, with the first 2 holes punched, with motivate people far greater than a fresh new punch card with 10 un-punched spots. Somehow, the required 10 drinks to purchase seem more obtainable, when the first 2 are free.
  • Uncompleted tasks are more memorable. A task in which the first step is done is an uncompleted task, and people can't let an uncompleted task go. 
  • Perceived progress in achievement is what matters, not the actual value. Making it easier for people to accomplish small goals with small rewards will keep them working harder. In the punch card example, giving away a free $10 item more regularly will breed more repeat sales than giving away a $50 less often. By providing tokens or the satisfaction of crossing off small goals, they'll keep working.
  • If there is an obstacle to accomplishing the action, move it to the end of the process. Do you need to collect sensitive information, or demand that the consumer performs a specific task? The closer people are to the reward, to the end of their action, the harder they will work to complete it. If there is an obstacle to the completion of the task, make sure it's near the end.
  • Make it feel meaningful. A special that is offered to a customer for a reason will make the recipient feel favored, further motivating loyalty. Telling customers that this offer is available to anyone walking in off the street eliminates the meaningfulness, and therefore it becomes less attractive.

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