What Is Reverse Psychology?

How Does Reverse Psychology Apply to Marketing?

Henry Foster
Last updated: Aug 14, 2020
Originally published: Apr 11, 2019


Reverse psychology is a process to promote a belief or behavior that causes an opposite reaction you desire a customer to have. This is more likely to happen when a person has a negative emotional reaction to being persuaded.

Reverse Psychology Examples:

Selectivity: Using reverse psychology, you can motivate potential customers to take action that identifies they are a better fit for a product or service. For example, in some lead generation campaigns, marketers outright encourage you to unsubscribe when you first join their email list. This does two things:

  • Tire kickers and people who are not interested in your product will remove themselves from your marketing activity before you waste more dollars marketing to them
  • Those who stay are more more likely to buy because they chose not to unsubscribe

Product Bashing: What are the bad qualities of your product or services? Using reverse psychology you may speak about features you lack in order to highlight benefits. In 1966 Volkswagen ran advertisements with NBA star Wilt Chamberlain with the main message being that he couldn’t fit into the car.

The benefit for the average consumer, as the ad explains, is that even though the Volkswagen is small, anyone under 6 foot 7 can enjoy lots of head room and leg room, along with excellent MPG.

Promote Anti-Causes: A library in Troy, MI was going to be closed due to a decrease in tax funding. In order to get funding, a town committee started promoting a “Book Burning Party.” The “Book Burning Party” brought a lot of attention to the cause, mostly negative.

However, it was this negative sentiment that made people think “A vote against the library is a vote for the book burning.” Of course, nobody was comfortable with a book burning, so they voted in favor of the library.

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Henry Foster

Henry Foster is a digital marketer from Boston, making money for B2B companies by generating leads via paid search and social.

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