You Are Here: Home » Corporate » Conferences and Meetings » It’s Psychology, Not Technology

It’s Psychology, Not Technology

Communication takes psychology and strategy (Photo cred: CURSORCH via SXSW there are hundreds of vendors (some with really great services) offering tools for measurement, communication and engagement. Yet too often communications professionals forget strategy and psychology and let the tools drive. They get excited by all the bells and whistles and may miss the big picture or get distracted. The tools aren’t the car that gets us to our destination – they are the tools that tune the car up and keep it running so we can get to our destination.

On the second day of SXSW in Austin, a number of sessions obliquely pointed this out and drove home the importance of strategy and psychology in communications and that what is old is often new again. One of the deep seated psychological triggers for people is the power of images compared to the written word. Human language started as pictographs, and with the rise of emoji, infographics and YouTube, I would say images are more powerful than ever and are starting to be used more as a language by themselves. Some have already achieved that – If I send the Nike Swoosh or the Starbuck’s Mermaid, people know what I want. It’s only a matter of time before more brands start including emojis. It’s a good reminder to all of us that we need to think visually for all our campaigns. If you look at all the viral campaigns of the past few years – it was video and images that drove spread and action. When it comes to spreading content and driving change – it is grounded in strategy and psychology and enhanced by tools. It is important to keep in mind that even today it is not all about technology. According to Jonah Berger from Wharton, only 7% of word of mouth is online. He also shared his six STEPPS for virality:

  • Social Currency
  • Triggers
  • Emotion
  • Public
  • Practical Value
  • Stories

Many of these are obvious, but I found what he said about triggers to be the most interesting. It really comes down to – make sure your content isn’t evergreen. For example the Geico Hump Day campaign its catchy, but by tying it into Wednesday they have a built in trigger that causes people to share. According to the analytics, every Wednesday the Geico commercial and image shares spike and account for 66% of all shares of the campaign. We need to always ask ourselves what triggers we can include. To conclude, I want to reinforce something most presenters said today – It’s not about virality. It’s not about shares. It’s about using psychology to reach a business objective. Successful, effective communication uses relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood audience. Define and understand the audience. Make the content visual, valuable and you will see real change.


Photo credit: CURSORCH via

The following two tabs change content below.

Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

Latest posts by Mark McClennan (see all)

Leave a Comment