Making a mistake – 5 psychological effects for branding and practice marketing

4 mins

We’ve all done it; spent a few hours hand-crafting a newsletter, or perhaps a brochure, letter or email. We scan it through, maybe do a test or send it to a colleague, and then click send. A few minutes go by, and then you get that sinking feeling realising you made a mistake, and can’t do anything about it. This happened to us recently after sending our Dutch newsletter out, with an old title.

Is that sinking feeling really necessary? After all, it can happen to anyone and you often see communications from much larger companies with errors. Is it always bad? No, not always, sometimes annoying or perhaps embarrassing. In our case, we decided to admit our mistake and create this article. Because in general, mistakes can make a supplier or product more human. This is called the Pratfall effect; where perception is improved because of the mistake.

Due to the mistake in our newsletter, we happen to have a nice hook to highlight some psychological effects of communication and marketing and we give tips on how you could use these in the veterinary practice. And in case you’re wondering, no this article wasn’t a punishment for the colleague who forgot to hit save!

The Von Restorff Effect

This effect states that people are better able to remember things that stand out and are different from the rest. It is therefore important to integrate unique and eye-catching elements in your branding and marketing. You can see this, for example, in a price table where the best or most chosen price has a different colour. This is just a small example, but this is also done on a large scale. For example, think of the big yellow M that you see along the highway. Of course, this is not the only roadside restaurant along your route, but they know how to stand out. This demonstrates the importance of integrating unique and eye-catching elements in your branding and marketing.

The Von Restorff effect in your practice

As a veterinary practice, you can use unique elements such as a distinctive logo or striking or deviating colours. And speaking of those colours, traditionally the veterinary world is full of white, blue, grey, and sometimes green. What if you chose a colour like orange or yellow? Or maybe something completely different, such as a unique house style that you would expect more from a hip and homely restaurant. Of course, striking brand elements aren’t top-of-mind when a pet owner has an emergency, but it’s good to stand out for all the other times the pet owner has to choose between you, a colleague or a service provider such as a pet store.

More information: The Von Restorff Effect

The Pratfall Effect

As mentioned already in the opening of this article, this is our tendency to prefer brands that show a human side. Consider vegan food brand, Oatly, and their history of quirky branding, or perhaps older Volvo and Volkswagen adverts comparing their cars (in an honest way) with those of other automakers. And let’s face it, in the end, we all find the pop star who shows human traits more fun or interesting.

The Pratfall Effect in your practice

As a veterinary practice you don’t have to set up big bold campaigns like Volvo or Oatly; start small. Show the human side of your practice. You may already share a photo of an event in your practice on Instagram or Facebook. Usually, these are pets or special stories; also think of events such as team outings, a birthday or perhaps less obvious: the ordering process or the cleaning of instruments. You may be surprised how much customers love seeing stories from the day-to-day of your practice.

More information: The Pratfall Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect

This effect states that people are better able to remember and recall uncompleted tasks than completed tasks. In the context of marketing, this can mean that it is important to create a sense of urgency in campaigns, for example by offering a time or quantity-based discount or promotion.

The Zeigarnik Effect in your practice

The Zeigarnik effect works very well for veterinary practices, whether for preventative care, regular checkups or annual vaccinations. It’s especially effective when combined with automatic reminders. Informing the owner that a vaccination is due creates an unfinished task for the pet owner. The Zeigarnik effect can be enhanced by using different ways of communication. For reminders, this could be a combination of postcards, email and SMS text messages.

More information: The Zeigarnik Effect

The Mere Exposure effect

This effect states that people tend to develop positive feelings towards brands they see and hear regularly. With brands such as Apple, or Nike, it’s easier to develop this positive feeling, as these are familiar, sometimes daily-used products. However, for the veterinary practice, the Mere Exposure effect is tricky, as you may only see pet owners once or twice a year. But it’s not impossible. For example, hotel companies have a similar problem but can rely on the positive experiences from past stays, or they can benefit from other premium brands they are associated with – perhaps their in-house spa or gym, or even their bedding supplier.

The Mere Exposure Effect in your practice

Ensure pet owners see and hear from your practice regularly, which will help develop positive feelings. This could be done through newsletters, social media and advertisements, and reflected in your practice communications and signage. Also pay attention to consistency, for example, make sure that when you share information about campaigns or regular themes such as February’s dental month, you do this across your practice, so ensure you communicate this in the waiting room as well.

More information: The Mere Exposure Effect

The Peak End Rule

This effect states that people tend to base their memories on the peak of an experience and the end of the experience. The most famous example of this comes from Ikea. They know how to inspire you during the customer journey through the store and let you discover your favourite item and then soften the hassle of payment by offering an attractively priced hot dog or ice cream after purchase.

The Peak End rule in your practice

Try to ensure that every interaction with a pet owner is positive, so they remember your veterinary practice fondly. For example, call owners after consultations or treatments to ask how their pet is doing and provide an opportunity for them to ask questions. The waiting room experience, with a vet nurse or receptionist, plays an extremely important role in this. You should perhaps even see these employees more as hostesses or hosts.

More information: The Peak–end rule

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