Yes, Virginia, there is a psychological principle

By:Josh Simpson, Chief Strategy Officer

‘Tis the season for giving and receiving. Our ritual-filled holiday traditions arrive each year loaded on a psychological-driven sleigh. We exchange presents, hide elves on shelves, fill ourselves with an abundance of sweets and re-watch 50-year old television specials. Why? Because it makes us feel good. Each year the jolly old elf delivers these feelings courtesy of psychological principles neatly wrapped in generosity and goodwill. Gifting is a gesture-driven by the Principle of Reciprocity – that impulse to return a kind gesture when one receives a gift. Moving that dopey elf around each night (Ginger in our house) is a ritual that plays into creating anticipation and delayed gratification for our children’s happiness.

As I settled into my seat in a packed Alabama Theatre last weekend to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas for at least the 50th time, I realized I was subject to the cognitive bias of rosy retrospection. That’s the emotional reinforcement between repeated experiences and behavior. For me, the holidays don’t start until Linus takes center stage. And then the magic occurs. The bickering between my two teenagers fighting over the last of the popcorn can’t overwhelm the strong emotional memories of taking in the music of Vince Guaraldi and the appreciation for the many credited folks behind the graphic blandishment.

As a practitioner of applying psychological principles to marketing strategy, I sometimes get a raised eyebrow from friends who perceive I may be resorting to subliminal advertising. With age I’ve come to learn, psychology is inherent in all forms of communication. It’s merely human nature. I am blessed to work with clients and brands that offer very good things and real value to consumers. And yes, applied psychology can be abused but that bad behavior ultimately leads to bad results.

Better be good, for goodness sake.