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Psychology & Marketing Series: Reciprocity

posted by: Corrin Magditch on December 22, 2015

Psychology & Marketing Series: Reciprocity

posted by: Corrin Magditch on December 22, 2015

In Part Two of our series linking the understanding of Marketing & Psychology, we will be talking about Reciprocity. In Psychology, reciprocity is viewed as the desire to reward positive action with corresponding positive action. This most often translates into someone having a positive response to a kind action.


In marketing, reciprocity translates into feelings of owing someone because of kind action. Some have described it as,“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” Marketing.  And although it is not necessarily guilt driven, rather having a desire to repay a previous favor, it does hold some influence over action.

We often have unconscious feelings of obligation towards those we owe a debt. This can be as insignificant as returning a phone call, continuing a donation to a charity, or picking up the tab for the next round of drinks. Yet, these small measures add up. As a brand, there are ways to be mindful of the importance of reciprocity and of how to use it to your advantage in marketing. Some examples of this are when companies come together to join in marketing each other’s’ products/services, or when a company uses a giveaway as a way to leverage sales.


Social Media

Social Media is an incredible platform to aid in your brand’s PR. It has a much farther reach than your physical world and should be used to your advantage. One of the best pieces of advice we give to our clients when talking about taking advantage of social media is to put as much effort into reciprocation as you do into your scheduled content. When you acknowledge your followers, reciprocate their comments, and continue the conversation, it will be noticed and appreciated. We used this approach with a client who wanted to get their Facebook following up, and saw a generous return in followers, comments, likes, and post reach, all organically. The reason behind this thinking is that no one likes a social presence that is one sided. If it is always about “me, me, me, me, me” your customers will lose interest. Engaging in genuine conversation bodes well for your brand’s social standing.



It’s not uncommon for two or more brands to come together and team up on a promotion. This is often handy around holidays that are industry specific, such as a hotel and restaurant teaming up to offer a romantic getaway around Valentine’s Day, or a Spa and Chocolate Shop teaming up for Mother’s Day. Outside of Holiday promotions, partnerships are an excellent way to bring another brand into your marketing plan and further your reach. If the engagement is a success, it can open up for more opportunities to work together.


Discounts & Trials

Discounts provide an incentive to customers, often times when shoppers have the intent to purchase regardless. This makes it even easier to justify a purchase and to increase it. Likewise, free trials give the consumer an incentive with an even stronger feeling of obligation tied to it. Both of these are great ways of using reciprocity in a marketing sense to secure more sales. They are expected and commonplace enough to consumers that they are not leery of the tactic, yet it is an age-old method of increasing commitment by your consumer base and creating a desire to counterbalance the efforts.

The theory of reciprocity is more effective than many believe it to be. The practice of giving a mint with the check was found by one study to increase tipping significantly, main due to feelings of obligation/appreciation of the kind action. This goes to show that no gesture is too small to have an impact on client’s feelings and reactions.

To speak with us more about marketing strategy, feel free to give us a call! We’re here to help. Call 610-317-4010 or email Jeremy Jones at [email protected].

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