Our brains are hard-wired to resist change. Research has shown that people are much more likely to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs than they are to consider facts that contradict them.
In other words, the human mind is like a little yes-man that compulsively echoes whatever it is you already believe.
This “confirmation bias” results in some very real challenges for marketers – but it also presents an interesting opportunity in how you position your brand with your target audience.
Let me explain.
Most marketers will tell you that fighting confirmation bias among their target audience is a never-ending battle. What’s worse - if you can't conquer this little stinker in your own mind, you don't stand a chance of outwitting your competitors.
If you’re particularly focused on one marketing tactic being the “right” approach, confirmation bias can make it difficult to consider a different approach that might yield more impressive results. Your bias will even go so far as to interpret mild successes of “your” tactic as more important and impressive than they actually are.
What does this mean for your marketing campaigns? It’s very easy to just keep doing what you think is the right thing to do. It takes a LOT of self-discipline to recognize that the status quo may not be the best approach.
So how do you conquer this little gremlin? As they say – recognizing the problem is half the solution.
On the flip side, the little yes-man in people’s brain can be a pretty nifty tool to have in your arsenal of marketing tactics.
By using research and audience insights, you can identify what your audience would like to believe and reinforce this in your marketing.
Let’s say you operate a home improvement company. People hire you to complete small projects in their homes – like take down wallpaper, install light fixtures, put in tile etc. By and large, your services are similar to those of your competitors. And in the marketplace you are all positioning yourself in the same way. To the consumer you all pretty much look the same.
How can the consumer differentiate service providers and select you and not your competitor?
Here’s where confirmation bias can work to your advantage. One example: Put together a little campaign that’s built around the idea of a home improvement “code of conduct.” You outline all the things you already do as part of your service – such as call before you arrive, tell the customer how long they can expect the project to take, take of your shoes when you get there, clean up after you leave, place a follow up call to ensure everything looks as expected and so on.
Then, you really begin to play up this code of conduct. You talk about it in all your external messaging – your website, your collateral pieces, your print and radio ads, on social platforms. In the minds of your customer, you are actively positioning your company as the one that follows this code of conduct.
Now, when customers and potential customers interact with you, they don’t only notice all these little things, they also interpret the evidence as proof that the service you are providing is indeed great. They will recognize it and they will like it.
For this to work, the thing you’re highlighting needs to be at least semi-impressive. What if customers asked for your help and the service you provide is far from impressive? Ruins everything right?
So, figure out what your “thing” is and make it out to be the best thing since sliced bread. Your customers and prospects will begin to believe that it really is great, and find evidence to support that it’s everything you’ve made it out to be.
There are two sides to the confirmation bias story. By recognizing both the challenge and the marketing opportunity in this human trait, you’ll be one step ahead of the game.