Online Marketing

11 Primal Psychological Triggers That Get People to Talk About Your Business

marketing psychological triggers to get people talking about your business
Written by Josh Rueff

Not everybody’s a Freud fan, and not everybody has an Otaku personality.

But you want people to talk about your business.

Praise it.

Preach it.

Rave and rant about it.

This is how we’ll make that happen, in the least amount of time possible. (It usually takes at least a month to start seeing measurable results for most of my clients, but it could take longer, depending on which Otaku strategy you go with.)

Let’s start by digging deep into the human mind.

The most ridiculously effective marketing strategy (in my experience) orbits around the oddball planet of Otaku marketing.

We’ll cover that in full detail soon.

But let’s first hone in on the primally psychological premise of the Pleasure Principle.

The Pleasure Principle

freudian psychological marketing principle

Freud’s attempt to push cocaine as a cure-all failed, and so did his mother-boy Oedipus complex theories — thank GOD.

But the Pleasure Principle holds up, both under rigid scientific scrutiny and good old fashioned common sense.

What is it exactly? It’s basically a person’s primal instinct to avoid pain and search for pleasure.

If you want to get all “bill nye the science guy” about it, here’s your technical definition:

Pleasure Principle: “The instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs.”


The pain part of the puzzle is fairly straightforward.

Give your customers really good customer service.

Make sure your products or services are well organized, simple, and easy to navigate.

Provide them with hassle-free returns.

Don’t strangle anybody.

Easy right?

But the pleasure part — that’s where it gets tricky.

Pleasuring Your Prospects

carrot stick marketing

“If you build it, they will come.” (Old movie — sorry if you missed the reference.)

For instant word of mouth success, change that timeless quote to “if you pleasure them, they will care” (you thought I was going to say something else didn’t you?).

Because let’s face it, nobody cares about the carrot.

If they don’t see pleasure at the end of the stick, they won’t look twice.

But give them what they want and instinctually need — and people will start caring. And caring means sharing.

Get them to care and they’ll share.

Here’s how.

Mercenary Marketing

word of mouth marketing and psychology

This is not so organic, and not very “evangelistic”, but it does work. People will spread word about your business if you pay them. But nothing’s more effective than true believers.

The Believer

Evangelism marketing is an advanced form

Also known as the evangelist. These are the people who truly love your brand, and would bend over backwards to tell people about you. They are believers in you and your business. There’s two highly effective ways to attract believers and evangelists to your business:

1. Provide an experience that shines like a diamond in a heap of dung covered rocks.

2. Find out what people get obsessed about, then create it. This is where the Otaku concept comes into play — the concept of obsession. We’ll cover that more soon.

Coyness and Cleverness and Crap Like That

smug clever coy marketing prospects (1)

One of the greatest pleasures is being right. I love being right. You love being right. EVERYBODY likes being right, and the more clever people think they are, the happier they are. So create sharable content that makes people look clever when they share that information.

The Philanthropist


Lots of people have genuinely good hearts, so I don’t want to take away from that. But it’s hard to disconnect the pleasure we instinctually know is coming when we help people. Give people the chance to make a difference, and in a big way — but keep it as simple as possible on their end. No pain, their gain.

“Did You Hear?”

anne hathaway tooted meme

The world is stuffed with two kinds of people. Those who love being in the know, and those who pretend they don’t. That may be a bit over the top, but the truth is, we all feel special when we know things others don’t.

When you give your customers valuable inside information, they’ll spread the word, because it makes them the people who know. Knowledge is power.

The Loyalist

loyalist marketing

Not this guy per se…

The Loyalist isn’t typically as effective as the believer, but they’re pretty darn close. Loyalists get pleasure from comparing brands — they’re the people who start their google search with “iPhone 5 vs”, and then read every one of the vs posts until they’ve justified one brand over the rest. And then their pretty much loyal to that brand for the rest of eternity.

Because after they make the decision, choosing a different brand would be admitting that they were wrong. How do you reach out to Loyalists? Have bloggers write vs posts and comparisons — your brand vs others. Just make sure your product or service really is better first.

Altruism is Rare, But it’s Still Here.


You just have to look a little harder than most people do. Find the Altruists, and befriend them. Again, they’re rare, but one Altruist is worth nine Mercenaries.



Tightly knit tribes look, sound and smell like cults. Telling you to start a cult sounds creepy, so yeah, don’t do that… but if you read up on Tribes, you’ll learn how to attract a community of believers who will market your business on auto pilot.

Fully Baked

apple logo marketing

This is an old marketing strategy, but it’s extremely effective. ALWAYS bake your brand into the product or service. Always. Apple does this well, with their half-eaten apple logo beacon of light, shining from the backside of every Macbook, iPhone and iPod. It’s free marketing that borders humbly on the frill of evangelism.

Seth Godin likes to note how nobody pulls over on the side of the road when they see a cow — because it’s a cow, and cows are boring.

But if you saw a purple cow? Then you might get interested.

Every week the #1 DVD changes. Why? Because it’s new — it may have a mediocre plot with subpar actors, but it’s number one because it’s not old news.

Don’t let your business become cow-boring old news.

And here’s my favorite concept Seth likes to teach — the Japanese word Otaku.

The Otaku


Otaku are people with obsessive interests. In Japan, manga, Ramen noodles and Starcraft top the charts for Otaku.

In America, there are many similar Otaku. Perhaps more unique to the United States are the examples of Nascar, comic books, chicken and waffles, fishing, duck hunting, coin collecting, pigeon racing, guppy breeding, erotica collections…

You get the point.

Why do I bring this up?

Because Otaku are the holy grail of word of mouth marketing.

They’re obsessive, evangelistic believers who are super-glued to their interests like a Loyalist on crack.

You can bribe them and turn them into devout Mercenaries, but if you give them quality information, service and products related to their interest, they’ll rave about your business like the semi-lunatics they are. (I say that with affection, because I happen to be an Otaku myself, in many areas. And yes, marketing is one of my obsessions that tiptoes on the tightrope line between sane and not so sane.)

Otaku get the most pleasure out of their obsessions, and the more of their obsession you give them, the more they’ll evangelize about you.

Find them and feed their addiction.


Go to the forums, blogs and websites they frequent.

Frequent the local clubs that have already been formed around the product or service you’re selling.

Go to their events. (Think events like Comic-Con if that can be relevant to your business in some way.)

Can’t find a club, web community or event for your business?

Start one.

If no one shows up after the first 90 days, you may want to reconsider what you’re selling.

Use the psychological triggers of pleasure and form a tribe of Otaku evangelists.

I’m not sure if there is a more effective marketing strategy!

I seriously doubt you can, BUT, if you can think of a more effective marketing strategy, let us know in the comments below!



Brand Evangelist Image Source

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Carrot on Stick Image Source

Loyalist Image Source

Tribe Image Source

Apple Logo Image Source

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About the author

Josh Rueff

Josh Rueff is a digital marketer, copywriter, minimalist nomad, fisherman, literary nonsense poet, Marine Corps vet, lover of every form of chocolate, and keeper of very large dogs. He believes that specialization is for monkeys and insects. He's recently published a book called Rock Paper Root, and has two other pieces in the works: Minimalist Living in Ancient and Modern Culture, and a children's poetry collection in the writing genre of literary nonsense, Periwinkle Yetis and the Yvinosiop.