The emotional marketing trick that never fails
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Some studies show that losses are twice as powerful psychologically than gains


This post originally appeared on the Conversioner blog

Standing in the supermarket, you have two options:

  1. Buy the regular $5 bottle and get 20% discount on it.
  2. Buy the regular $5 bottle with no discount but with an extra gift: a traveling bottle.

What would you chose?

If you chose to pay the original price and get the gift, an emotional trigger which psychologists call “loss aversion” motivated you.

A while back I wrote about the emotional trigger “Anchoring” used by Steve Jobs, that improves conversion dramatically.

In this post I want to talk to you about ‘loss aversion’. The same researchers whom determined “anchoring” determined this emotional trigger: Tversky & Kahneman.

Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies show that losses are twice as powerful psychologically than gains. It implies that one who loses $100 will lose more satisfaction than another person will gain satisfaction from a $100 gain.

Loss aversion is used a lot in the world of marketing as people will make an irrational decision to avoid the loss. For example, manufacturers of books, washing machines etc. send out their products without requiring prepayment. They say, “Use them a week, and if you don’t want it, send them back.” Most people don’t.

Increase conversion using loss aversion:

  • The world of free trials: Loss aversion is the exact reason companies offer full free trials for a limited period of time. It’s based on the fact that once you have this product and you get used to it, you’re not going to let a little thing like a payment issue, get in your way.
  • In the 1970’s cigar salesmen used to give packs to their customers and tell them to smoke 10 of them. If they don’t like them, they can send them. I wonder who sent them back..

A good example from the online world is Kaspersky. Dealing with your computer security, once you’re protected, you’re not going to go back to the insecure world…are you?



  • It’s all about timing: A limited time offer with an expiration date on it triggers that exact emotion. People are people, and they do not want to be the ones losing out on an amazing one time offer.

A while back ago we used the loss aversion trigger on the banners we designed for one of our clients. As you can see below there was a counter working it’s way backwards warning users of the amount of time left for the one time sale.



  • The world of unknown: Rather than talking about what people may gain from your services or product, researches have shown that talking about missing out on a special offer will increase your revenue much more than talking about gaining from it. Interesting strategy for PPC campaigns.
  • Wheel them back again: A good example of bringing back the customers is the punch cards people collect at coffee shops. As apposed to a 10% immediate discount on their daily coffee, most people will prefer a punch card that grantees the 10th coffee for free. People will keep going back every day to get that coffee and not miss out on it.

The key to conversion optimization is recognizing your audience’s emotional triggers and using your messaging and design to express them.

People don’t like losing things they already have, or are very close to having. So much so they will often make irrational decisions to avoid the loss, and as we already know 90% of all our decisions in life are irrational so why not use it to your advantage and increase your conversion?

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Talia Wolf

About Talia Wolf

Talia Wolf is the VP of Business Development at – a conversion optimization company that specializes in improving funnels, landing pages, mobile pages and more.

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