1. They “prime” you. This is the idea that being exposed to one idea can make you more receptive to another. For example, if you see a picture of food, you’re more likely to respond to the word “yummy” than if you’ve just seen a picture of garbage. A 2002 study found that this can be used to help direct a consumer’s attention. If a webpage about buying a car had a background that was green with pennies on it, customers looked into the price information. If the background was red with flames, they looked into the vehicle’s safety.
2. Companies use the “illusion of scarcity” to make you think you need to act now or lose a great deal. This was illustrated in a study from 1975 in which people were shown two identical cookie jars, but one was filled with ten cookies and the other with only two. People believed the cookies in the emptier jar to be more valuable. We all understand supply and demand, and they might trick you a little on what the supply actually is.
3. Bigger sales come in small packages. Fun sized candy bars and smaller soda cans might seem like a good way to consume less, but research has found that these smaller sizes actually get people to consume more. They’re so small, I’ll have a couple! Whoops.