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Get to Know These 3 Cognitive Biases

Evelyn Ritzi
Communications Specialist
Evelyn Ritzi
BY: Evelyn Ritzi ON September 27, 2017

Cognitive Biases in Marketing

We all experience cognitive biases. These are our innate tendencies to think in certain ways that affect our thinking and decision-making, sometimes leading to irrational and distorted thinking or behavior. Often studied in social psychology and behavioral economics, these tendencies are completely natural and affect us every single day.

You see, our brains like to take mental shortcuts when processing information. We each have unique perceptions, which shape our thoughts and decision-making. While our cognitive biases often lead to irrational decision-making or thoughts, they may not always have such negative consequences. Cognitive biases can help us make quicker decisions and are used in daily social skills. If you’re looking for new ways to understand your audience, it may benefit you to understand some of the cognitive biases commonly used in marketing and advertising.

The Framing Effect

Framing involves drawing different conclusions based on how the information is presented. Framing is not about what is said, but rather how it is said. For example, individuals can be subconsciously influenced by words or phrases that they’ve seen before. Words such as “high-quality,” or “hero” have certain connotations that marketers can use to frame a product or service in a positive or negative light based on word choice alone. Another way we see framing used is when online stores offer free shipping if customers spend a certain amount. Offering a “free” service can shift the customer’s attention away from what is normally a more expensive purchase to a perceived deal. Try paying attention to how framing influences your own purchasing decisions and consider how you can use it to craft more effective messages for your audience.

Loss Aversion

Can we all agree that we really, really dislike losing? Loss aversion refers to our tendency to do everything in our power to avoid a loss. In fact, behavioral economists believe that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. When we’re faced with the threat of losing something we need or want forever, it can shift our priorities, causing us to put extra energy into keeping it. Loss aversion is the reason we see offers framed in terms of loss, instead of in terms of gains. By reminding consumers that they’ll miss out if they don’t “act now!” you can take advantage of the loss aversion principle.

The Bandwagon Effect

You may have heard of this one. According to the bandwagon effect, the perceived popularity of a product, behavior, or service acts as a catalyst to encourage more people to “hop on the bandwagon” and participate. Short-lived fads from Furbies to fidget spinners are prime examples of the power of the bandwagon effect. As more and more people come to believe that something is popular, valuable, or interesting, others will follow suit, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Influencer marketing is one way to harness the power of the bandwagon effect. It involves hiring people of influence (celebrities, athletes, politicians, social media stars) to endorse products or services and reach a larger audience. This technique can be used to establish a brand’s credibility, increase its reach, and influence consumer trust.

Influencer marketing–especially on social media–is so popular that some advertisers and brands are afflicted by ad fraud from fake accounts. One agency even created a bogus influencer account as an experiment to reveal how easy it is for accounts to purchase followers and secure paid brand deals. While some platforms have caught onto the deceptive practice and can now detect fraudulent accounts, it’s important to vet potential influencers before offering them paid deals or free product.

Final thoughts

There are dozens of cognitive biases that have been studied over the years by behavioral economists and social psychologists. If you find them as fascinating as I do, check out this list of cognitive biases. And if you’re looking for creative ways to implement concepts like these in your own marketing strategy, contact us today to learn more.





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