What is reverse psychology and how to use it as a business and commercial weapon? Yes, let’s see how it is possible to integrate them into our strategies to sell more .

There is a huge variety of resources in which to invest your efforts when promoting products or services within a digital marketing plan . In addition to time and money, which are always necessary, have you ever wondered if you lacked any other important resources to discover?

What Is Reverse Psychology?

The reverse psychology is a psychological technique created by the behavioral psychologist Viktor Frankl . This technique consists of defending a belief or conduct that is contrary to the desired one with the expectation that this approach will move a subject to act as is really desired. That is, (generally) contrary to what is suggested.

It is something that its creator also called paradoxical intervention , stating that it is a behavior that many people use more or less consciously.

In short , it is nothing more or less than suggesting to do (or not do) the opposite of what you want to get just what you want.

Yes. You read correctly. This technique is based on the psychological phenomenon of reactance, in which a person has an opposite emotional reaction to being persuaded and guided by the laws that govern society.

The concept of psychology education. Emotional intelligence concept, communication skills, reasoning and persuasion.

Thus, this person chooses the opposite option to the one that is inducing him, reaching a state of supposed “freedom” against those rules. Reverse psychology is also a technique that (well used) can work wonderfully in marketing, and especially in advertising, since:

By forbidding a certain action or promoting something that may not be right, you automatically manage to attract attention and provoke an opposite reaction.

But why? Because you challenge to do just the opposite. And that’s up to three times more effective than just asking for it . As we will see below, there are three terms to keep in mind when we talk about reverse psychologyreactance, threat and freedom .

Reactance Parameters And Effects

There are five parameters (or conditions of possibility) within which the reactance can be activated. These are:

Expectation Of Freedom:

The reactance will only be activated when the person feels that he is really free in his actions, and the freer he feels, the more reactance will be activated.

Quality And Importance Of The Threat:

The stronger the threat, the more reactance there will be. Always keep in mind that the threat promotes action, whatever the result of it.

Quality Of Freedom:

If a person perceives his freedom as something very important, surely there will be more reactance, since he will defend that gap of freedom at all costs (even if there is only one way out for it).

Related Freedoms:

The more freedoms are threatened, the greater reactance there will be, and this also depends on the type of threat that the subject perceives.

Legitimacy Of The Threat:

How legitimate is the threat? Is it a real or fictitious threat? Is it more or less limited to action? Here we are referring nothing more and nothing less to the authority of that threat, to greater authority, greater reactance.

Now, these five parameters can give off three effects or consequences on the behavior of the subject.

What Is Reverse Psychology And How Can I Use It To Boost My Sales?

They are:

  • A-> Direct restoration:

Where freedom is recovered by carrying out the suggested action in the face of a direct threat.

It is the most basic of all and works especially well in children and adolescents or with people who do not have much freedom or capacity for action.

  • B-> Indirect restoration:

Here, the person makes a “detour” in the face of a threat, on the one hand complying with it, and on the other hand, maintaining his freedom.

Obviously, it is a “superior” response to the previous one (psychologically speaking), since it demonstrates a greater amount of subjective resources available.

  • C-> Subjective responses:

Where there is an “original” and own response to the threat.

It is the one with the highest level of responses, since an unpublished response implies a greater amount of subjective resources available when faced with a direct threat.

Therefore , we must start from the premise that people are not wrong  and that they are much smarter than we think .


In fact, we can be forgiven many things, but we will never miss an obvious attempt at manipulation .

Exactly the opposite: if people perceive the mechanisms that we put into operation, they will react completely opposite to our objective and will soon turn their back on us.

Examples Of Reverse Psychology Used To Attract Potential Clients

There are clear and legendary examples of reverse psychology to attract the attention of reluctant or tired customers of conventional advertising. Although there is none better than a study done with (of course) children and toys.


Reverse Psychology: Study carried out with children and toys:

In this study, a group of children (group A) was selected to play with different toys without any prior rule.

Children could freely choose which toys to play with and which ones not.

Once they had chosen, the least attractive toy was observed and a different group of children was selected (group B).

They were told to play with all the toys available   except the one that had been unappealing to the first sample group, and this is where it gets interesting.

The results were conclusive:

Those in the second group chose the “forbidden” toy  over all the others much more frequently than those in the first group. Thus demonstrating how the “forbidden” exerted an enormous attraction that it did not have before.

Although the experiment was conducted with children, we adults are not that different.

This is why some phrases like these are usually so effective:

 “Don’t buy here”

 “Only for women, if you are a man do not enter”

 “Do not read this message”

As you can imagine, these phrases usually act as an advertising magnet since they create expectation (or prohibition) by themselves.

This challenge to carry out a certain action (or not to carry it out) catches the subject, who will either try to verify that what we say is true, or understand why we prohibit it … inevitably falling into the “trap”.

It goes without saying that without a certain resistance to what is established by people this technique would not work, which also raises a moral question.

Why? ⇒ Because in itself it involves a manipulation of the individual, whose behavior we are “alienating” .

The moral question does not lie in the fact that this technique is “good” or “bad” in itself for people, but in the purpose pursued with it.

Here we should ask ourselves: does the end justify the means?

Flat tiny prohibition no gesture person concept. Symbolic warning, danger or safety caution information. Forbidden entry or restricted area ban or blocked road alert.

What has been said: it is not the dog’s fault, but the one who feeds him.

Or in other words: the technique itself is not harmful, but the use of it. Here I want to highlight something I already said above: you have to be very careful with the implementation of this technique and be very careful to appear very obvious or very direct. Using this technique poses a danger that the subject perceives manipulation.

Neuromarketing And Reverse Psychology

In marketing, there is a tool so similar to reverse psychology that one cannot often speak of one without resorting to the other. I am talking about Neuromarketing.

Just as one uses the tactic of defiance or prohibition to obtain the opposite of what we state, the other “plays” with different emotions of people to encourage them to go in the direction we want. This is precisely why they go so hand in hand. You cannot, for example, challenge anyone without the feeling of self-love at stake.

Now, to better understand this subject of reverse psychology in the world of marketing and sales, we will now analyze (from a bird’s eye view) what are the emotions that we can use to boost our sales .

According to Neuromarketing, we can use:

  1. A stimulation of the feeling of adventure
  2. Provide a sense of security through prevention
  3. Appeal to the sense of abundance
  4. Challenge pride
  5. Offer something new and different

We will not go into detail on each of these emotions (this is an exhaustive topic for another article), but we will return to focus exclusively on what concerns us.

How Can We Apply Reverse Psychology Directly To Our Marketing Strategy?

Here we come to the central point and the raison d’être of this post. And for this we are going to take as an example the parts of an online text that we can enhance in order to increase its visibility and attractiveness, as well as our website.

There are different ways to make a writing or our website more striking, among which I would highlight:

➤A Title Written According To Reverse Psychology

A heading that directly prohibits something or is a limitation, such as:

⇒ “Do not read this article: it can change your mind forever”⇒ “Be careful what you read”

⇒ “If you read this, do it at your own risk”

➤ Graphic, Metaphorical, Humorous And Surprising Examples

“Sensual”, so to speak. There are different ways to exemplify, and there is nothing more tempting than what is graphic or what evokes the senses.

➤ Contradictory, Curious, Sarcastic And Vividly Colored Images

There’s not much more to add here: an image is worth a thousand words (and even more if it’s in the header itself).

It is not necessary to resort to many examples in this section, just simply take a look at the world of advertising: it has a lot to say about the image, and it is something that should never be neglected.

➤ Block Content From Our Website

For example, a newsletter subscription can be placed on our website as a precondition for accessing exclusive content, known as Content Upgrade:

⇒ “Restricted access, only for subscribers” or “to access more free content, sign up with us by clicking here”⇒ Or: “Protected content: to access the content, you have to carry out any of these actions on social networks”

With this you will simply achieve not only more subscribers but also more visits thanks to the fact that the readers themselves have had to share what you have written as a previous step to access something that benefits them directly.

This is nothing more and nothing less than pure reactance.

In addition, this has another added value: the reader will feel that, in a certain way, he has a certain exclusivity, since he is receiving something that the common mortal does not have.

➤ Call To Action Inspired By Reverse Psychology

Text sign showing Call To Action. Conceptual photo Encourage Decision Move to advance Successful strategy Man holding megaphone loudspeaker blue background message speaking loud.

A closure with a call to action that involves a questioning, a challenge or directly an impossibility or denial:

  • Don’t you dare to …?
  • You are sure that…?

Remember what I said at the beginning of this text: there is nothing more tempting for many people than a challenge or provocation of a certain action.

All right! You have already seen some examples of what you can do to sell more or achieve greater visibility using this technique, but since everything has its “B side”, there are risks that you should take into account before launching into it.

Therefore, and thanks to the collaboration of Juan Manuel Escudero (Bachelor of Psychology and one of the members of my team), now we will tell you:

The Dangers Of Using Reverse Psychology In Your Business

Dangers of using reverse psychology in your marketing strategy

It is important that you know, first of all, that many times the fact of avoiding recourse to obvious things or mistakes will be a psychological exercise in itself, since you will be achieving originality .

Now, within what you should avoid in reverse psychology, keep in mind the following:

➤ Beware Of Looking Too Obvious

Many times, with the intention of selling more, you can use very obvious or obvious tactics.

Be very careful, because doing this you will get the opposite result: many people will notice and, instead of winning, you will lose customers … And readers.

Hide your intentions, disguise them. Say what you want, but above all be subtle .

➤ Beware Of Looking Repetitive

No one wants to see the same thing over and over, or to be told the same story a thousand times.

Try to be creative and say something that no one has ever said before.

You will ask yourself: How do I do it?

It is very easy, use a personal example, your own experience, and thus you will kill two birds with one stone.

On the one hand you will be original and on the other the reader will feel that he is witnessing a part of your experience and intimacy.

➤ Beware Of Associating Too Many Negative Messages With Your Name Or Brand

It’s okay if you do it once in a while, but pay close attention every time you do it. But above all, do not abuse it.

➤ Get To Know Your Target Audience Better

Traditional marketing, or as we have known it until now, is said to be on the verge of extinction.

But many times, and especially because of the emotional tone of your readers, it can still be the most effective weapon when you try to sell something.

It is impossible at this point, and after what you have read, that you sell something just by simply offering it on your website.

As you can see, it is much easier to sell if you appeal to the senses and the most basic instincts of your clients, although to do it first you have to know your clients very well.

Of course, you should also carefully analyze many other non-emotional factors that naturally influence the steps of the purchasing process, although that is another matter.

Colorful vector illustration of scientists studying human brain and psychology on blue background.


Source: josefacchin.com