How Marketers Influence with Cognitive Bias

Marketing Strategy
by Maddy Osman
Cognitive biases relate to the field of psychology, and they represent the systematic way a person rationalizes an illogical way of thinking. Clever marketers use their understanding of cognitive biases to persuade people to make purchases. Understanding cognitive biases can help marketers impact how we buy, sell, feel, think, and interact.

Here are some common cognitive biases that can be used to influence prospects that are exposed to your content marketing.

Attention Bias

According to Bart Schutz of Online Dialogue, attention bias is the tendency to pay more attention to emotionally dominant stimuli and to neglect other relevant data when making decisions.
How does attention bias affect people? The more often people see the name of your company or logo, the more likely they’ll be to purchase from you. In essence, the more familiar you are with a brand, the better.
To use attention bias in marketing:
  • Place a call to action on your landing page.
  • Place ads in areas where your most relevant prospects are most likely to see them.
  • Be active on social media.
  • Create a consistent blogging schedule.

Bandwagon Effect and Social Proof

Both of these cognitive biases include the tendency to “go with the flow” and act in a way that you perceive others to be acting. Those most greatly affected by the bandwagon effect and social proof are easily influenced by what is mainstream or what the majority is doing (also related to group thinking).
How does the bandwagon effect/social proof affect people? Customers think that everyone else is using your product/service, which makes them more likely to use your product/service.
To use the bandwagon effect/social proof in marketing:
  • Identify a niche community, and work with the most influential members on a promotion featuring your product or service.
  • Create a group mentality within your focus niche.
  • Add social proof signals to your website (e.g., “100,000 satisfied clients” or written out customer testimonials).

Postpurchase Rationalization

Postpurchase rationalization is the tendency to overlook any faults or defects on a product/service in order to persuade yourself that the purchase was a good value.
How does postpurchase rationalization affect people? A survey in 2013 showed that over 50% of people often feel buyer’s remorse immediately after a purchase. When this happens, they use rational arguments to tell themselves that the purchase was a good idea.
To use postpurchase rationalization in marketing:
  • Create a postpurchase message that highlights the good features and benefits of the purchased product.
  • Use positive words in this messaging to reinforce consumers’ thoughts that they made a good purchase.

Other Cognitive Biases

There are many different cognitive biases a marketer must understand to be effective in creating messages that resonate with others. Here are a few more to consider:
  • Anchoring: The tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information available on a given topic.
  • Backfire effect: People react negatively to evidence that goes against what they already believe. You can counter this negative cognitive bias by researching the beliefs and values of your prospects and by working with what you know instead of trying to go against it.
  • Humor effect: Humorous items are easier to remember than nonhumorous items. People tend to share things they find humorous with others, which results in widespread content sharing. However, be sure to be careful when using humor, because it can affect the clarity of the information.


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