Cognitive bias, a strategy to boost sales

Cognitive bias, a strategy to boost sales

Franco Brutti

Jan 12, 2024

Jan 12, 2024

Jan 12, 2024

Cognitive bias, a strategy to boost sales
Cognitive bias, a strategy to boost sales
Cognitive bias, a strategy to boost sales

Cognitive bias has become a marketing technique that has evolved greatly in the current era.

In the past, strategies to drive sales were limited exclusively to the traditional idea of advertising and selling branded, globally recognized products. 

However, this basic and primitive way of selling and advertising changed radically thanks to psychology. 

The application of Cognitive Bias seeks to create awareness of a brand's products or services in the minds of the audience that has the possibility or affinity to buy.

Do you want to know more about this sales technique and how to use it? Then you can't miss all this material, where you will learn its concept, causes of this thinking, the best types of bias, influence, benefits and more. 

If you are ready, let's get started!

What is a cognitive bias?

In an era of ever-growing content marketing, new strategies are required, not only to sell, but to influence the audience's mind.

A cognitive bias is a systematic deviation from objectivity in people's processing of information. However, this adaptive human trait helps people make quick decisions based on certain stimuli.

In simpler words, a Cognitive Bias processes information irrationally, with an illogical interpretation or inaccuracy; that is, data and reality are probably not logical or unrelated, regardless of whether they are facts for or against someone or something.

They are divided into social biases, memory biases and behavioral biases.

In many situations, immediate decision making can make the difference for survival over a detailed analysis of alternatives.

An example of this type of thinking is when we are presented with some fact of life that is confirmed by a study. Thus, we tend to believe information based on how it has been presented and the source that talks about it.

These biases affect how we perceive, remember and evaluate information. In the context of marketing, cognitive biases are critical because they influence the audience and the purchasing decisions they make.

The causes of this type of thinking

Factors that cause cognitive bias include: emotions, limitations in mental capacity, personal motivations, high social pressure, among others.

In other words, age, as a mental limitation, can be a cause of this type of thinking, since cognitive flexibility decreases. Likewise, the influence of culture, since in different contexts we can be more self-conscious or spontaneous.

However, there are no causes that allow us to understand the specific action or origin of cognitive biases.

Cognitive biases and digital marketing

Cognitive bias is one of the psychological resources that brands use to their advantage to advertise.

By nature, human beings do not tend to be rational when making any decision, not even those that they overthink or over evaluate. Generally, they decide on the first options presented.

Today, the way advertising is done focuses on the audience, even above the product.

The best cognitive biases to leverage in marketing

It is at this point that we present these resources, which are essential for sales, because they influence the rational capacity of the audience.

Learning to use them is essential for brands or companies, since all people receive daily advertising impacts, which represent intangible ideas about products that awaken an irrational need to have what is presented. 

For this reason, we explain below the most important cognitive biases.

1. Aversion or fear of loss

Did you know that there is a greater feeling in losing 100 euros than in gaining the same 100 euros? What's more, we can say that loss generates more than twice as much emotion as gain.

The first type of cognitive bias applied to marketing is fear or loss aversion. This bias is based on making decisions in what is known as the comfort zone.

Loss aversion encourages the fear of missing out on a possible offer on a product, and is currently one of the most commonly used sales tricks. The longer a product or service is enjoyed, the more the audience makes it theirs.

The idea is to create a mental image in customers that implies that if they do not buy a product now, they are likely to lose it, either because the product is out of stock or because the offer expires in days or hours.

On the other hand, offering discounts for a specific time also generates the feeling: it's now or never. 

In general, the key point of this bias in marketing is a mechanism in psychology that drives people to feel more strongly about loss than gain.

2. Confirmation and justification

In the case of confirmation and justification, the way of thinking is directly influenced, strongly supporting the decision taken and disbelieving anything that contradicts it.

The subconscious mind has great power when it comes to making decisions at the time of purchase. In fact, in marketing terms it is more likely to buy impulsively and then justify and confirm the decision.  

If a sales strategy is effective, the buyer will create a positive and uncontrollable image of the product and a strong desire to purchase it will have arisen in his mind. 

However, he needs confirmation that the decision made is logical and correct, to create the illusion that a good investment has been made.

This bias is desirable in marketing:

  • When seeking to capitalize on clichés.

  • When seeking to appeal to those problems frequently encountered by the audience.

  • When you want to offer positive experiences.

  • When questioning the assumptions that customers have reached.


3. Anchoring bias (first impression)

The anchoring bias, or also called heuristic procedure is a cognitive bias and is widely used to drive sales by creating a memory or a judgment in the consumer's mind. 

This is widely used in stores, which use the first information to capture attention, anchoring the customer to choose based on a feature, either by price, data or aspect of the product to then make the customer feel the need to make a decision. 

From that moment on, it makes it the basis for all other judgments to be made.

It’s an important bias for those who run businesses, guiding the customer to what they really require or to have a ready conscience when buying a product.

An example of this type of bias is represented in the sale of products in technology stores or wholesalers. In this case, two similar options are shown but differ in terms of price. 

While it is true that both products have similarities, one of them is shown on purpose, and will serve as an anchor for selecting the second option, which may have the advantage of being cheaper. 

4. Availability bias

The next bias refers to availability. It’s nothing more than a technique or mental shortcut in which an idea that we turn to (or that is presented to us) quickly is more important than another idea that we remember later. 

For Marketing, this translates into giving greater relevance to a brand that covers any need because it is the one that comes to the audience's mind first. It’s important to know the audience's problem or requirements.

This type of bias is usually used to:

  • Present a real problem to enhance an emotion in the audience, which will be fixed in the memory. 

  • Show the successes brought by the product or service to other customers or celebrities.

  • Make a memorable launch.

  • Make a repetitive message that is easy to record and remember. This can make a brand better positioned to the audience's needs.


5. Cognitive exposure bias

Among the most important cognitive biases we have the mere exposure bias, where people tend to develop a preference for things, brands or other people that seem more familiar to them than others. 

It is common knowledge that people choose brands that are well-known or recognised over others that are new, even if they are the best in their segment. This bias is also known as image or reputation bias.

An example is when the favorite athlete is seen drinking a beverage, and possibly the next time a customer buys a product, you will choose the brand of their athlete's choice. Therefore, when millions of people do the same, the advertisement becomes lucrative.

6. Bandwagon Effect

The Bandwagon Effect, also called carryover bias, is another type that has a presence in product marketing, mainly in new launches.

There is a reason why people go to the extreme of waiting outside a store for days for a high-potential product before its launch or a day after its launch. It's called fashion, and it's to trust that something is good because a lot of people consume it. 

Examples include a limited edition of a wallet, a dress, a video game or a phone. Even political campaigns fall into this type of bias.

The Bandwagon effect occurs when a product achieves great popularity, and this increases when this product is purchased by a large number of people and, also, publicized by big celebrities. 

This means that people will make the decision to buy it just because others are buying it and they do not want to feel obsolete.

7. Zero risk bias

Zero risk is a mental shortcut that refers to a type of bias in which the audience interprets that it is better to use something that completely eliminates risk, rather than using something that only reduces it. 

One way in which this type of bias can occur is in advertising products or services that, should they fail to generate compliance or trust, the audience can return them without losing the money invested.

It also includes those campaigns that enhance quality or safety. The application of this type of bias in advertising campaigns requires a lot of ethics and balance of information.

8. Framing bias

Another of the most important biases has to do with the way in which brands present their products or services, always maintaining a positive perspective.

This is the framing effect. This means that the audience will make a decision based on how the information about a product or service is presented. 

In this case, the framing effect refers to the way in which the information is presented according to two different possibilities, even if both want to convey the same message.

It should be remembered that the market will always be convinced or choose something that shows gain or advantage over loss.

9. Relevance bias

This is another type of bias that has its origin in the human tendency to prefer those products or services that distinguish themselves in a relevant way from others. 

It is likely that if a product has relevant, unique or more attractive packaging or features, customers' minds will tend to highlight and therefore choose it. Puns are also used to denote its uniqueness.

10. Illusion of truth bias

It is one of the most commonly used in marketing, and it is responsible for repeatedly placing statements or information as a consideration, so that, at some point, it becomes true, regardless of the validity of the argument.

It is one of the most common techniques in advertising and politics, with simple messages that are repeated over and over again, achieving the desired impact.

11. Decoy bias

This type of bias is very similar to anchoring bias, although it is more oriented to pricing strategies. 

It is a type of bias (also called asymmetric domino) that conditions the audience's decision when buying a product or contracting a service.

In order to have the desired effect, there should generally be at least 3 options, i.e. two options and a decoy.  

Top cognitive biases to leverage in marketing

Influence of cognitive bias on the audience's mind

Cognitive Bias is a strategy that influences the audience's thinking, because people are not usually rational when making decisions.

The human being, on average, makes 30,000 decisions a day, and many of them are not even thought about, but are part of the subconscious.Therefore, with many of the things we buy, the decision is made on the first option presented to us.

Successful examples of cognitive bias application

Finally, here are some examples of success in the application of the cognitive bias technique to achieve more and better sales:

  • Coca cola is one of the companies that has many slogans or campaigns that use biases to move their audience. The bias of the illusion of truth is the most commonly used, which are nothing more than messages that are easy to assimilate. Such is the case with the Open Happiness campaign. 

  • Oral B, a very famous personal oral care brand, uses a lot of authority bias to position its hundreds of products. Experience in the dental field by employing experts in the field is what it uses as a hook.

And this has been all about cognitive bias. By the way, did you know that those who read our posts are twice as successful in everything they set out to do? 

So, now you know. Much of what you see in advertising is determined by these types of strategies. 

If you liked our post, we look forward to hearing from you in the comments about other important examples of cognitive biases you've seen.