What are cognitive biases?
Have you ever seen the results of an election and thought to yourself, “I knew it!” This is a common tendency, and it is a universal occurrence. Events in the past seem more predictable than they were in reality. We overestimate our ability to predict outcomes because our brain is biased to think that.
A cognitive bias is an error in judgement that we make subconsciously, that is, without being aware of it. Does that mean every wrong decision is a cognitive bias? Not really. These errors are systematic and appear to be true across people of different ages and cultures. Cognitive biases are errors made by the brain when trying to generalise and dissect a complex world.
How does marketing utilise cognitive biases?
There are several ways content marketing utilises cognitive biases to prompt people to make purchasing decisions. Here are some ways that companies use to influence people:
● Scarcity Effect
Does this look familiar to you? Notice how it says ‘Only 1 left in stock.
The scarcity effect is the unconscious tendency to put more value in things that are scarce or available in a low quantity. This is why markets prompt us to buy products soon before the stock gets over.
● Loss Aversion
The loss aversion bias is why brands continue to offer us free trials and sample products.
You see, according to this cognitive bias, people tend to go to extra lengths to avoid losing what they already possess. Once we get a free sample or trial, chances are we will continue through to a paid membership rather than give up our access to the product or service.
● Bandwagon Effect
We are more likely to do something when we know others are doing it too. This is the bandwagon effect. Websites often tell you that “3 other people are looking at this” or “2 others have booked this room.” This marketing technique exploits the bandwagon effect. Prominently placed product reviews and testimonials are also a way for companies to highlight that their products have widespread use.
Should marketers watch out for any biases too?
Businesses are people too. Yes, there are a few cognitive biases that content creators and marketing teams should watch out for themselves.
The first is our brain’s tendency to generalise things and overlook specific details, which can be detrimental to a content strategy.
The next is the optimism bias or the belief that the worst ‘couldn’t’ happen to us. Every business should prepare for every contingency, believing that anything is possible.
And finally, brands can fall prey to the cognitive bias known as Occam’s bias, that is, our unconscious preference for more straightforward solutions. Brands should manage their unconscious biases for a more robust strategy.