Top 10 Cognitive Biases for your Content Marketing Strategy

Although modern technology has become an inseparable part of our lives, and an all-encompassing digital world is our new reality, we remain simple, real human beings, with our stories, experiences, emotions, reactions, preferences and biases.

As content is an instrumental way to connect with your target audience in digital marketing, and psychology is the basic science that studies the human mind and thereby the behaviour of this target audience, we believe it’s relevant to look at a variety of applicable psychological theories, better known as cognitive biases in this context. Considering these will help you better understand the impact your content may have on your users and prove useful when creating a successful content marketing strategy for your business.

Behavioural biases

1. The availability cascade, or how by repeating ideas & concepts often enough through your content, you can make the audience believe in it. This bias explains the process of collective belief formation. It can easily be used in your content strategy, in the long-term, to educate your audience and get them used to the ideas you promote.

2. Decoy effect, or how to help users to go for the option you want them to choose. According to this theory, if you want your user to choose one option over another, propose a third one, which is inferior to the other two. The third option is intended to make people choose your preferred option.

Belief biases

3. Barnum effect, or how by making the user think that the content is specifically about his/her personality, you can get more attention and higher ratings for your content. This bias is also known as Forer effect and is successfully used in astrology, fortune telling, and some types of personality tests. Find a way to use it too!

Coca-Cola applied this technique successfully in their “Share a Coke” campaign by using 250 of the most popular names instead of their iconic logo on the 20-ounce bottles. Their consumers were encouraged to buy personalised bottles, with their names or names that had personal meaning to them to share with friends and family.

Coca-Cola Personalised Bottles

4. Rhyme-as-reason effect, or by telling the same thing using rhyme, you can convince the target audience more quickly. This persuasion technique is also called Eaton-Rosen phenomenon. The most famous example that applied this theory was used as a defence tactic in the O.J Simpson trial: “If the gloves don’t fit, then you must acquit.”

There is a lot of rhyming slogans we all know:

  • Pringles – Once you pop you can’t stop
Pringles Advert
  • Do you Yahoo?
Do You Yahoo Logo

5. Singularity effect, or how by telling a story about a single person / phenomenon / thing will achieve a higher level of user involvement than a story about a group of nameless people. By applying this technique, your content will attain more resonance, sympathy and compassion from your audience.

A great example of this effect is the story of the man behind the inspiring Adidas video campaign “Break free”, about never giving up on your dreams.

Adidas Break Free Advert

Social biases  

6. Authority bias, or how to create content that is more credible, by involving an authoritative person, or influencer. A widely used marketing technique, this continues to be highly relevant in 2020.

7. Halo effect, or how a positive impression made in one area of your business could influence your audience’s opinion of another area. Essentially, if you manage to create excellent, useful content that resonates with your audience, you will be able to achieve a favourable impression for your overall business. The opposite effect can also be observed. Called Horn effect, this causes a general, bad perception because of a single negative trait.

Memory biases

8. Bizarreness effect, or how by creating unusual or even bizarre content, your brand will become more memorable to your target audience. Do you have the courage to implement it?

There are so many examples of marketing campaigns that apply this content strategy. Do you remember the Old Spice campaign “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”? The Old Spice brand managed to push the boundaries and to connect with a younger generation of consumers.

Old Spice Advert

Another example is the Poo-Pourri marketing campaign, that used humour to promote their essential oils eliminating bathroom odours.

Poo-Pourri Advert

9. Context effect, or how to increase the stickiness of your content ideas by putting them into relevant context. We know from our school days that everything we learned in context, was much more easily memorised, whether it was multiplication tables or a list of new words in a foreign language. The same principle can be applied to your digital content. Connect your ideas to a story, and you will see the difference.

10. Serial position effect, or how the position of a sentence you want to highlight on a page influences the way this sentence will be remembered by your audience. Research has shown that items near the end of a sequence as well as those at the beginning of a sequence are the easiest to recall for readers. This fact is well-known to SEO experts and copywriters. If you deliver your content verbally, is good to know that in this case, the memory recall is higher for the last items of a list. This is called Modality effect.

Which techniques do you use? Be brave, be bold, be relevant, apply and test your ideas – this is the best way to create a content strategy that will work for your business.

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