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Giurgiu Anton, IAA Romania Young Professionals Member

Decision making and marketing

So, why would we need decisions in our field? What would be the link between decision making and marketing? What sort of benefit would this bring, judging the fact that our strategy is well built, and in line with our proposed objectives?

In his book, Matthew Willcox - "Marketing to Consumer Instincts", refers to research into how people make decisions. Many of the processes that lead to decisions are made at an unconscious level, and often, people in relation to these processes start from their "subconscious".

From Freud and Jung to nowadays, this word still represents an ambiguous approach to cognitive research. Psychology and neuroscience have abandoned the term "subconscious" in favor of the unconscious and pre-conscious terms.

"The term "unconscious" makes me think of people who are not only unaware of their cognitive processes, but also, they pretty much unaware of anything."- Matthew Willcox

People usually think that their decisions are made due to consciousness, but they arise because of the two cognitive mechanisms which control the information filters and the cognitive error network:

1. Latent inhibition (a part of the brain's sensory filter).

2. The cognitive bias (decision-making shortcut).

Here is an example of a cognitive error which occurs in everyday life:

Confirmation Bias - occurs when we choose to denigrate the information we receive in order to support our expectations or beliefs. Often, this cognitive error occurs in religious, political and scientific beliefs.

Why? In such situations, the refusal may come into play. Better to say, we choose not to look at things in a rational way, and this is because of our values. We need to reconsider more perspectives, more opportunities, opening ourselves to new alternatives and, of course, in order to evolve, we clearly need to verify them.

Considering this perspective, outlined above, let's apply it to the field of marketing. If cognitive biases affect people's decisions, and the marketing field influences their decisions, we can assume that the exploitation of these cognitive biases can lead to better results.

Here are a few examples of cognitive biases which can be applied:

  • 1) Bandwagon Effect - whether we're talking about discounts or something that we rapidly welcome into our lives, it appears the most as long as it is socially acceptable. It assumes a tendency to accept an idea, an action, a belief, just because many of us buy/believe it. It is an effect that encourages product/service popularity through its already existing popularity.

We can apply this cognitive bias, by social proof. Either illustrating an increase in the company or by simply recommending a product by a well-known vlogger, user reviews, number of purchases. A cliché example, in this case, could be a large number of fans who are looking forward to the launch of the new Apple product.

A 2011 study at Stockholm University showed a positive correlation between the appreciation tendency and the large appreciation of a Facebook post. The more appreciated the post, the more likely was to receive even more appreciations.

  • 2) Confirmation Bias - as written above, this error assumes that our tendency is to perceive and value the information associated with our beliefs. We can already see some opportunities here. Offering information to customers in which they already believe to be true (in relation to their beliefs) to build loyalty. Another study, coordinated by Michael Cipriano and Thomas Gruca, has shown that, although we have concrete evidence, we tend to take into account our beliefs, and we often apply the incorrect conclusions.

3) The "zero risk" Bias - it starts with our cognitive defense mechanism and assumes our tendency to strongly favor the kinds of offers that seem to have no risk or consequences associated with them. The more you secure your customers, the more you will earn their trust. In this study, respondents were informed of two dangerous sites that caused a certain number of cancer deaths each year. They were given options of how many cancer cases they could save. One option assumed the reduction of all cases in one place (risk-zero), while the other assumed the elimination of more cases from both places, but not reducing them all. 42% of them opted for the first option that eliminated all cases in one place.

It's hard to tell how and when these cognitive errors can be applied, but they already exist in many situations.

Taking into account the above situations, we can assume an opening to psychographic analysis, which is strong enough to be added to any marketing strategy.

But, let's not see this lecture as a "persuasive" approach ready to be applied to our clients, but rather an approach to understand in depth what is behind the purchasing decisions. A more detailed understanding helps us look through another pair of glasses, not the "consumer’s" ones, but rather through an ordinary person’s glasses.

We are all looking for sincerity not only in people, but also in brands, and we often spot something when it's not in their natural order or dishonest. In this case, we can apply these cognitive errors to build sincerity and loyalty for our brand. And, let us not forget that everyone has every right to choose what they prefer.

This article was written by Giurgiu Anton, International Advertising Association Young Professionals member, Romanian Chapter.