FREE guidE

The Psychology of Promotions

Are you part of a £100 billion crime? If you run promotions as part of your trade marketing activity, then chances are, you are.

Understanding the psychology of promotions frees you from a never-ending cycle of needlessly giving away margin.

Over recent years, I have uncovered more than 450 specific psychological insights that can have a dramatic impact on a promotion's likely performance. For instance, the visual appearance of a promotional message is often more influential than the deal itself. Other learnings include:

1. Syllables

Each syllable of a price in a supermarket reduces its chance of being remembered by 20% (£62.30 more memorable than £77.61) - Smoother, round prices stick with us

2. Size matters

When looking at 25% off or save 50p, shoppers will find the one with the biggest number disproportionately appealing - Go for communicating in the way that promotes saving using the biggest number.

3. Loss aversion

Because humans have a hard-wired fear of loss, the word FREE is processed as no risk (no way of losing) and so appeal is increased.

The psychology of in-store promotions driving sales.
4. Power of limits

Special offers with restrictions ‘limit two per customer’ or ‘offer valid only until a certain date’ lead to higher sales than the same deals without restrictions due to the fear of missing out.

5. The % sign

Shoppers look at the ‘%’ without paying attention to the number to which the ‘%’ applies! ‘50% bonus pack’ sold 71% more than a ‘35% discount’

6. Charm pricing

23% more shoppers bought a product whose price ended in 9 (£39) compared to when it was £34. There was no difference when the product was priced at £34 or £44


I firmly believe that if brands and retailers understood the psychology of the offers and deals they run, they could add literally millions to their bottom lines. In one category, shoppers arrived expecting to spend an average of £7. They actually spent a mere £4.20, due entirely to the unnecessarily aggressive promotions.

When I talk to shoppers, they almost always say that they evaluate and calculate in-store promotions intelligently and would never fall for anything that wasn't an exceptional added value offer...

...but in actual fact, most of us very often do!

Want to improve the appeal of your products on shelf? Or perhaps you are just curious to know what makes for better product appeal? Either way, let’s talk.

About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

If you think there is value in this article then please, please share it, thank you.

Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

More from Brainsights

What is Positioning in Marketing?

Positioning refers to the ability to influence consumer perception of a brand or product.

Read Story

Consumer Behaviour is Changing

As we all know, Covid-19 had and is still having massive impacts on consumer behaviour. Shopping experiences have changed and retailers have had to adapt.

Read Story

Tell me about a time you 'FAILED'!

How do you answer “tell me about a time you failed”? Here are some tips and strategies for crafting a compelling answer.

Read Story

Get the latest brainsights straight to your email box

We will never share your email address with third parties.

Are you fascinated by how shoppers think?

If you’re as fascinated by how shoppers think as I am, check out my books on Amazon for more insightful, provocative and stimulating information.

Got a question?
Let's talk

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.