Blog / Marketing psychology: 13 cognitive biases that improve your marketing
Marketing psychology: 13 cognitive biases that improve your marketing
Maurice – August 31, 2023 – 10 min read
Marketing psychology is central to every marketer. This is because it uses insights from neuroscience and cognitive science to show what influences customers in their purchasing decisions and how companies can use this to their advantage.
To help you reap these benefits, too, this article focuses mainly on 13 cognitive biases that can help you make your marketing more effective.
What is marketing psychology?
Marketing psychology draws on insights from neuroscience and cognitive science to address how people think, feel, and behave when making decisions about products and services.
Marketing teams then use this knowledge to better understand consumers and develop strategies that influence their target audience ‘s purchasing decisions. By understanding the psychological principles behind consumer behavior, marketing teams can maximize their success in reaching their target customers.
What are cognitive biases?
Many valuable insights have been gained in the field of marketing psychology. But the human psyche is complex. Most people believe that they act mostly rationally and make rational decisions.
But this is exactly not the case: Many decision-making processes run subconsciously and produce irrational decisions. Thus, a purchase conclusion can be influenced by stimuli that our brain perceives. Such influencing stimuli may be cognitive biases.
Cognitive biases, or biases, describe mental shortcuts that the human brain uses to process information more quickly and draw conclusions about the world around us.
Biases help us in an automated and subconscious way to save time in the course of our decision making, but they can also lead to misjudgments if we are not aware of them.
But how do you use this knowledge in your own online marketing?
13 Cognitive Biases for Your Marketing
One way to use this knowledge is to implement our 13 cognitive biases of marketing psychology into your own marketing.
By understanding these 13 specific cognitive biases, you can create more targeted campaigns based on them and make sure you’re understood correctly at all times.
And who knows, you might even manage to consciously incorporate some of these biases effectively into your marketing.
The following 13 cognitive biases will help you with your marketing:
- Anchoring Bias
- Availability heuristic
- Confirmation Bias
- Status Quo Bias
- Loss aversion
- Bandwagon effect
- Authority effect
- Endowment effect
- The Priming Bias
- Mere Exposure Effect
- Hyperbolic Discounting
1. The anchoring bias
Anchoring bias is when a consumer uses the first piece of information they receive as the basis for further purchasing decisions. For example, if you offer a discount on an originally high price, the customer is more likely to make a purchase even though the actual cost wasn’t that high.
By offering your customers very specific options with different prices or features, you can create an anchor point that leads them to the desired outcome.
For example, let’s say you sell a product with three different pricing options (low, medium, and high). Your goal is to get customers to buy the most expensive option. To accomplish this, show the high-priced alternative first and only then present the lower-priced options. This way, customers are anchored with and more likely to buy the high-priced option than if all three options were presented at once.
Marketing Tip – Anchoring Bias
Always show those things first that you want to anchor.
2. The availability heuristic
The availability heuristic indicates that people are more likely to use easily retrievable information (whether it is correct or not) to make decisions quickly.
For example, if your product has been mentioned recently in the news or in advertising, consumers are more likely to remember it when making purchasing decisions. By using current events to your advantage, you can create a strong presence for your product and influence customer behavior.
Marketing Tip – Availability Heuristic
Your customers need to find you easily. So get your SEO in order, when someone searches for your brand you want you to be the first to deliver information to a potential customer.
3 The Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias shows that people tend to look for information that confirms their existing beliefs while ignoring evidence to the contrary.
For example, if your product has received positive reviews or testimonials, you can use these to create a trusting environment for the product. Customers are more likely to buy a product if they trust it and feel confident in their decisions. Marketing teams should look for opportunities to showcase positive reviews, testimonials or other content that validates the quality of their products.
Marketing Tip – Confirmation Bias
Keep in mind for your content marketing that your potential customers are looking for validation, create content that gives them that validation.
4 The status quo bias
Status quo bias forces consumers to stick with what they know rather than try something new, which can make it difficult for marketers to introduce them to new products or services.
Marketing teams should therefore look for ways to remind customers about existing products or services. This may include emails or ads that contain special discounts or promotions that apply only to existing customers. By offering them incentives to stay with your product, you can increase customer loyalty and conversion rates.
Marketing Tip – Status quo Bias
The fact is that customers like to buy what they have always bought. It’s your job to keep your competitors from offering your customers a better deal. So you have to stay present. Think about a newsletter and tell your customers as often as you can that your products are still available.
5. The loss aversion
Loss aversion describes that people prefer to avoid losses rather than strive for gains. This means that they are more willing to forgo a potentially advantageous opportunity if they have to take risks.
Marketing teams, to take advantage of this bias, should look for ways to remind customers of upcoming deadlines or limited-time offers, for example. This could include emails or ads with limited-time special discounts or special offers to motivate them to take immediate action. By incentivizing them to act quickly, you can increase customer loyalty and conversion rates.
Marketing Tip – Loss aversion
By highlighting what customers would be missing out on if they don’t buy, you can get them to act quickly and make a purchase. Potential customers must have something to lose, a discount, an opportunity or something else, only then will they act.
6. The bandwagon effect
The Bandwagon Effect shows that people tend to conform to the behavior and opinions of those around them.
Marketing teams, in order to take advantage of this bias, can look for opportunities to post positive reviews or testimonials from existing customers. This may mean that you include these reviews on the product page or in ads to show potential customers that your product or service has many satisfied users.
Marketing Tip- Bandwagon Effect
You need to highlight what other people like about your product and what connects those people to your potential customers. It’s about making your prospects feel comfortable in your customer “community.”
7. The authority effect
The authority effect describes that people tend to listen to and trust “experts” more.
One way for marketing teams to take advantage of this bias, for example, would be to look for opportunities to leverage influencers or key opinion leaders (KOLs) who have a good reputation in the industry. This could mean teaming up with these well-known personalities for product promotions, or including their reviews on the product page to gain potential customers’ trust in your brand..,
Marketing Tip – Authority Effect
Analyze which people your target audience listens to, also like to ask them which people they look up to and then try to attract those people to your brand.
8. The framing
Framing is a cognitive bias in which people’s decisions and opinions are influenced by how information is presented to them.
Marketing teams, if they want to use framing, should look for ways to portray their product as the best solution to a particular problem or need, for example. This may mean that it is the most cost-effective solution, the most innovative option on the market, or simply the most popular choice among customers.
Marketing Tip – Framing
Framing is the art of niching. Good framing allows you to turn any product into a niche player, you just have to put it in the right “frame”. As an example, you may not have the best SEO agency in Germany, but maybe the best in Berlin or the best for ECom clients. It comes down to framing. Present information to your customers, place yourself and your product accordingly and provide conclusive reasons.
9. The endowment effect
The endowment effect describes the human tendency to value something more when it is already owned.
Marketing teams can leverage these effects when they make customers feel like they already own an item. You can do this by telling a short story as an example and incorporating your customer’s problems into it. Be creative with your storytelling!
Marketing Tip – Endowment Effect
To achieve this, you can, for example, highlight unique aspects of your product, such as customization options, personalized services, or a unique design. Personalize your product through information and stories and you won’t have to sell it anymore, because the behavioral patterns of your Customers will assume they already own it.
Reciprocity describes the human feeling of being obligated to return favors in a certain reciprocity. Therefore, marketing teams should also offer their customers something of value before asking them to buy.
These could be exclusive discounts or promotions, lead magnets, free consultations, or more.
Marketing Tip – Reciprocity
You need to make your customers feel like they are investing their time and effort to get something. Alternatively, you can make them feel that you are giving them your time and effort. After that, they will feel obligated to buy something from you. Occasionally we offer free website analysis as an example and usually many new customer relationships grow out of these offers.
11. The Priming Bias
Priming means as much as “preparation” and stands for a process in which persons are exposed to a so-called “preparatory stimulus” or the prime, which can produce an intended reaction at a later point in time (purchase decision).
“Snow, sugar, clouds, white:
What does the cow drink? – Milk … Oh no: water.”
Through the previously mentioned words associated with the color white, our brain is influenced. The list of words form a preparatory stimulus that ensures that “white” is activated in our brain. When answering the question what the cow drinks, the brain tries to squeeze the answer into the schema activated by the preparatory stimulus and finds a drink in white, milk.
Primes can be images, sounds, smells or terms.
Thus, the priming bias or priming effect describes that people are more likely to make decisions based on their recent experiences.
Marketing teams, for example, should look for ways to remind customers of the benefits of a product or service before they make a purchase decision. This can include pictures or videos showing customers how they like the products, reviews from satisfied customers, or the opportunity to try the product or service before they buy it.
Marketing Tip – Priming Bias
By evoking positive feelings in potential buyers, you can increase the likelihood that they will make a purchase. But be on your guard. You should always be the first to talk about your products because that’s the only way you control how they are perceived. Always use priming techniques wisely.
12. The mere exposure effect
The mere-exposure effect describes the human tendency to prefer things they have seen or heard more than once.
One way to use the mere-exposure effect is repetition. Marketing strategies such as email campaigns, social media posts, and online ads should focus on repeating messages about your product or service to create familiarity and comfort with potential buyers.
Another strategy is to give customers multiple ways to interact with your brand in different ways. By offering interactive experiences like contests, demos, and product trials, you can build a more personal relationship with your customers.
Finally, using visuals such as videos or pictures of customers enjoying the product or service can help build customer familiarity and trust in your brand. By showing potential buyers what they can expect from your products or services, you make them feel like they’ve already established a relationship with you. This can encourage repeat purchases and ultimately increase sales.
Marketing Tip – Mere Exposure Effect
Use strategies like repetition, interactive experiences, and visuals to build customer engagement and trust in your brand. The fact is, you don’t annoy your customers! If your products are good, they like to hear from you. So get the email address of your customers and write to them!
13. The hyperbolic discounting
Hyperbolic discounting is a phenomenon in which people prefer smaller rewards that come earlier to larger rewards that come later.
One way to use hyperbolic discounts is to offer discounts or incentives to customers who order quickly. By offering an incentive to act immediately, you can get customers to make the purchase decision faster, rather than waiting for something better.
You can also offer limited-time promotions or offers, such as “buy one get one free” deals or discounted product bundles. These strategies encourage customers to act quickly before the promotion expires, increasing the likelihood they will make a purchase.
Marketing Tip – Hyperbolic Discounting
Use strategies such as discounts or incentives for quick purchases, limited-time promotions or offers, and referral programs.
So how do you use all these biases for your own marketing?
Basically, I understand that in the first step it seems to be difficult to use all these biases at the right moment and therefore we have created a matrix for this purpose to show you what goal can be achieved by using the different cognitive biases:
Basically, it’s about using the right bias at the right moment, in the right way, and for the right product.
As an example, it is easier to achieve a purchase with the Endowment Effect than with the Mere Exposure Effect, which serves rather to increase the perception of your products.
Likewise, the ultimately emotional tone is very important.
In other words, it is critical to know which bias operates on the basis of negative emotions and which operates on the basis of positive emotions. This is because it can sometimes happen that potential customers see through manipulative marketing psychology measures and these then have the exact opposite effect.
Therefore, we caution against inflationary use of cognitive biases that operate on the basis of negative emotions.
Marketing psychology is part of every marketing campaign
Whether you like it or not, as a marketer you have to deal with marketing psychology because whether you want to use these techniques, strategies and tactics or not doesn’t really matter. Because all your marketing, ads, content, social media posts and everything else will always have an impact and it can only be beneficial to be aware of that impact.
If you want to learn more about marketing psychology and get to know more practical biases, we recommend our course “Marketing Psychology for Growth Marketers” in which we provide 50 biases with examples and possible applications and also present 20 principles of marketing psychology in growth marketing. Don’t miss out on this service.