Marketing Psychologists: What are they doing and how can you do it too?

Marketing psychologists have multiple roles. You’ll find them designing lab experiments to test people’s responses to products. Their experiments also inform marketing campaigns. Psychologists have had a role in teaching the advertising world that creating an ad that people remember doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as creating an effective ad. (Do they remember the message? The name? What is being sold?) http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct02/advertising.aspx

Consumer psychology is put to several uses: to develop marketing strategy, to develop campaigns that shape social behavior, and to improve consumer skills. ~ Lars Perner

Some marketing psychologists act as consultants to help marketers integrate psychology: understanding people’s real needs and delivering the human touch. Some even work for government bureaus. Lars Perner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing, notes that consumer psychology is put to several uses: to develop marketing strategy, to develop campaigns that shape social behavior, and to improve consumer skills (http://www.consumerpsychologist.com).

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers an online Bachelor’s in Psychology modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology and Performance and Sports Psychology. Several Master’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology programs with several emphases to select from as well as a CACREP accredited online Master’s in Counseling. Click here to learn about SNHU and their programs.

Educational Level

So what kind of education do you need to break into the field? There are related jobs that require education at all levels from the bachelor’s on. With a B.S., you probably won’t wear the title “psychologist”. However, you can put your psychology to work in such areas as market research campaigns and product development. You may even be able to use your experimental/ research psychology experience. You may see terms like “user experience”, “user research”, or “consumer insights” in job postings.

Take a recent ad by a natural and organic products company. The position: “Manager of Insights & Planning”. The organization would consider applicants with bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields including business administration, marketing, and experimental psychology; a preference was stated for applicants with master’s in any of several disciplines, including (again) experimental psychology.

An ad for user researcher for UX listed psychology and cognitive psychology among the preferred degrees for the person who would essentially develop “user research practice”. The position was bachelor’ level.

These employers want more than degrees, though. They want a range of skills. You may have better prospects if you seek out related internships and research experiences.

You will find more opportunities with higher levels of education. According to the Society of Consumer Psychology, the following are among the skills you will develop studying the discipline (http://www.apa.org/education/k12/consumer-psychology.pdf):

  • Analyzing human behavior patterns
  • Creating testable alternatives from complex issues
  • Analyzing data and interpreting findings
  • Writing precise reports

Be aware that marketing psychology and consumer psychology are closely related fields; the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Your degree/ coursework may use either term. Depending on your interests, you may consider industrial/ organizational psychology, experimental psychology, or applied social psychology. You will also find a few “consumer behavior” programs housed in business schools.

Marketing psychology and consumer psychology are closely related fields.

Whatever level of education you aspire to, you can begin with a bachelor’s in psychology. The American Psychological Association says that consumer psychology draws from domains like social, developmental, and cognitive psychology — these are subjects that students are typically introduced to at the bachelor’s level.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers several online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in psychology including both clinical and non-clinical specializations. Capella University also offers three online CACREP-accredited programs: MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, MS in School Counseling, and PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, as well as a COAMFTE-accredited program, MS in Marriage and Family Therapy. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

Salary Potential

The University of Oregon put together some data showing with master’s degree starting at $45,000, and those with a doctoral degree, starting at $79,000 (http://pages.uoregon.edu/psypeers/kind%20of%20graduate%20programs/Consumer%20Psychology.pdf).

Marketing and consumer psychologists have a wide variety of duties. You can expect a wide variety of salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median wage for industrial/ organizational psychologists as $80,330.

Marketing Psychology Resources

If you are considering marketing, you may want to explore resources on the site of the Society for Consumer Psychology (http://www.myscp.org/default.aspx#.VE6rrflSiSo). APA Division 8: The Society of Personality and Social Psychology may be of interest if you’re interested in the psychology of social marketing. The Social Psychology Network has also put together a set of resources related to consumer psychology (http://www.socialpsychology.org/social.htm#consumer).

If you are beginning to do research that integrates psychology and marketing, you may want to peruse APA research tips (http://www.apa.org/pubs/librarians/guides/psycinfo-consumer-psych.pdf).