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Using Cognitive Bias in Your Content: Can It Hurt Or Improve Your Marketing Strategy?

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Out of all creatures that live on this planet, humans have the most complex and advanced brain structure. We like to think of ourselves as rational beings able to make the right judgment in any given situation. The bad news is that our minds play tricks on us.

Think of the last big argument you had. Chances are when you reflect on it; you will ask yourself “Why did I say that?”. Our brains work in mysterious ways and sometimes what we might think is right at the given moment can turn out to be the complete opposite. But because of the circumstances, our perception of reality was different.

Different factors can affect the way we observe a situation and influence what we decide. Such “triggers” can be incorporated into your marketing strategy and used to your own advantage. These cognitive biases can easily become the foundation of content marketing for the future.

What is Cognitive Bias?

Before going into how cognitive biases can take your content marketing to a completely different level, let’s start off by defining what a cognitive bias is.

According to Very Well Mind, “a cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects the decisions and judgments that people make.”

Those “systematic errors” have nothing to do with intelligence. It’s just how our brains are wired. The human brain processes a huge amount of information about our surroundings every second without us realizing it. Sometimes it has to use mental shortcuts known as heuristics to make a decision. The emotional state of the person, social pressures or simply their wishes and aspirations can contribute to these biases. However, they are not necessarily bad. If our brain’s perception is that we might be in danger, we will react promptly without thinking too much about it. These biases can also help us be safe. And when it comes to content marketing and improving revenue, these biases can become your best friends.

How to Use Cognitive Bias in Your Marketing Strategy

There are several cognitive biases that talented marketers have used for years, and their effectiveness has been proven over and over again. We will go through the most common biases that you can use in your content marketing for the future.

The Anchoring Effect

The Anchoring Effect, according to Psychology Central, is “a cognitive bias that influences you to rely too heavily on the first piece of information you receive.” When it comes to marketing, it’s fair to say that you see it very often. A good example would be the Black Friday deals that everybody loves. The TV you wanted was $1000, but there is a special price for Black Friday only, and it is $350. You will save $650!

Actually, you will not save $650 but spend $350. The fact that there is such a big drop in the price makes your brain think that it is a great deal. It might be a great deal, or it might be a complete waste of money, but your brain is already so excited about it (plus you wanted that TV specifically), so the thought process stalls on that first piece of information you got. Your brain already used a shortcut and did the math that you will spend $650 less than the regular retail price. Your brain is saying “Go for it!”.

In an article published by Psychology Central, it is stated that the department store chain J.C. Penney decided to stop applying limited time discounts, and rather have every day low prices. However, even though this might seem like a good idea at first, they eliminated the anchoring effect that can push customers into making a quick purchasing decision. Their revenue dropped until they started doing special offers again.

One way to use the Anchoring Effect in content marketing is to list the highest price first. Let’s say you’re writing a blog post for your business. If the first product or service costs $500, the second one priced at $300 will seem like a bargain. The higher the anchor is set, the better the response will be. Still, keep the anchor within the reasonable range. Our brain might play tricks on us, but it is still smart.

The Bandwagon Effect

If you have children, then you have definitely seen the bandwagon effect displayed in front of you. You say to your child that they are not allowed to go somewhere, and they instantly hit you back with “but all of my friends are going.” In fact, you have certainly done that to your parents as well.

According to Investopedia, the bandwagon effect “is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override.”

So, when a child goes to their parent and says that all of their friends are going somewhere, they are doing that to increase the chances of the parents changing their minds. Their request automatically becomes more credible since “everybody is doing it.”

This same principle applies to content marketing for the future. If everybody else likes a product, why wouldn’t you like it? That’s the reason behind brands using celebrities as brand ambassadors. Your favorite actress likes that face cream? You will surely like it as well! It’s also why businesses publish testimonial and reviews as part of their content strategy. Over 1000 people rated this product 5 stars? Then it is definitely worth it! People will be more likely to sign up for your newsletter if they see 15 000 people have already signed up.

Belief Bias

According to a paper published by Science Direct, “belief bias is the tendency to be influenced by the believability of the conclusion when attempting to solve syllogistic reasoning problems.” In other words, if something sounds too good to be true, even if it is genuinely that good, people will start to become suspicious.

People don’t necessarily want to hear all the reasons why your product is absolutely the best. In order to convince them that they want to buy it, telling them how that product can make their life better is the right way to go. There is no need to present your product as a magic formula that people have been waiting for their entire lives. Potential customers and clients may respond better if you appeal to their emotions rather than rely too heavily on facts and figures.

A case of a belief bias is exactly what’s happening within this article. We are telling you how you can utilize cognitive biases in your content marketing for the future. We also mentioned that experienced marketers are already using them. We haven’t bombarded you with statistics and data. Chances are, you are already thinking about how you can change your content marketing strategy to include these biases.

The Ethical Way Towards Your Content Marketing for the Future

Cognitive biases are used by every major brand you have ever bought products from. And that’s totally legit. Once you become aware of them, you can easily spot them – in other people at least. It’s always hard to spot them in yourself, isn’t it? Using them to increase your sales is something you should consider.

However, if you decide to implement cognitive biases in your marketing strategy, make sure you do that ethically. The reason why cognitive biases are a part of content marketing for the future is that they can speed up the conversion process and capture the attention of potential customers. They shouldn’t be used as a mean of manipulation or misleading customers.

Instead, use your content to change your brand perception in a positive way, and let these cognitive biases help you do so.

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Doctor Who is…a woman?

There is no need for “Spoiler Alerts” or alarms, because this was bound to happen sooner or later. Many Doctor Who fans and critics expected it to happen much sooner – especially when you consider the background of the character.

Keep in mind that the show aired for 26 seasons from the early 1960s to the late 1980s and 10 series (and counting) since 2005.

Since the start of the series, 12 different men stepped into the titular role. From William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee to David Tennant and Peter Capaldi, no one ever questioned the change of actor without losing respect for and interest in the show. It was only a matter of time before a woman was asked to report for duty as Doctor Who – and Jodie Whittaker is the English actress chosen for this history-making opportunity.

Whether you are a Doctor Who fan means very little, because there is a much more significant lesson that can be learned as content creators, developers and marketers. However, just like a Doctor Who episode, we’ll leave you in suspense before we initiate the “Big Reveal.”

Why So Many Different Actors?

If you are not familiar with Doctor Who, then you may not be up to speed on why there many actor changes have been so or how the show has survived with such a high turnover rate for its titular character. While addressing the elephant in the room, the first lesson in quality content creation is made crystal clear.

How? It can be summed up into a single word: regeneration.

Years ago, the basic concept was added to the script of the sci-fi drama series that the Time Lord would eventually experience too much bodily harm for a normal heal cycle – which explains why they must transform into a new person for a full recovery. That’s it!

No need for a major “jump the shark” moment filled with plot holes, unanswered questions or the vague and flawed but frequently used “just because” line of reasoning. It not only made sense, but it breathed new life into the show – allowing it to last for as long as it has on the air.

Lesson # 1: Shifting the direction or tone of your content does not need an extensive explanation, but you do need to explain.

At times, it may seem natural to shift the tone, direction or even type of your content towards a new playing field or timeline. However, you still need to find a way to bring your audience along for the transition without losing them in the details (or lack thereof). Find a simple way to explain the reasoning behind the transition that allows them to remain engaged and interested while still fully informed. Do not make the mistake of assuming that “they don’t need to know the details.”

As any fan of any TV show that experienced an unexpected and mostly unexplained cast change or “jump the shark” shift would tell you, that does not always pan out successfully. Chances are you do not want your audience to feel left behind. The truth is that they leave and replace you faster than you can say “TARDIS” if they even sense that you are not on the same page anymore.

Remember: Less is more. If you cannot find a simple way to explain the change or transition, then perhaps you are not ready to make the change at all. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – not a page full of lines. Simplicity is essential.

Go With the Flow & Don’t Fight Against Trends

As content creators and marketers, it is important to remember that you are responsible for breathing life into your work. Breathing life into high-quality content means that it will grow, adapt and even regenerate on its own with time. You must be able to go with the flow and avoid fighting against the current.

At Comic-Con back in July 2018, the history-making actress Jodie Whittaker alluded to that natural flow by stating that “it’s the direction that [the show] was always going to go in” – especially now in 2018. She further referenced that it is only a “slight difference” since the good doctor was known for occasional regeneration.

LESSON # 2: Allow your content to grow and adapt with the time. Fighting against the current will eventually cause it to drown.

You will be able to determine where your content needs to go (or grow) to keep up with your evolving audience. Figuring out a plan to get there is the tricky part. That is where you need to be creative and connected: creative with your content while connected to your audience.

Try to fight against the current of the climate affecting your audience and your content will drown. More importantly, your audience will leave long before that happens. Fans do not wait until a TV show is officially cancelled before they stop watching it. In most cases, the lack of viewership is what leads to the cancellation.

Not All Things Have to (or Should) Change

During the same Comic-con interview, Doctor Who executive producer Chris Chibnall made it clear that there were no major obstacles or challenges behind-the-scenes with the transition to a female doctor. On the contrary, he stated that “you don’t write the Doctor any differently because she’s a woman” since “the through line of the Doctor continues.” The only thing that changed was the actress playing the role.

LESSON # 3: Accept change and embrace it, but only in moderation.

Just because you make one change does not mean everything must change. In fact, it is nearly impossible to keep your audience engaged if you change too much about your content. Do not make the mistake of starting from scratch 100% when it comes to every aspect of your content. Doing so will likely force you to start from scratch with your audience as well.

The Bottom Line

Anyone involved with creating or marketing content should be happy with the fact that Jodie Whittaker is stepping into the role of Doctor Who. This historical cast change and its impact (or lack thereof) on the continuity of the show speaks and teaches volumes about the value of quality content growth and regeneration.

Unlike Doctor Who, though, you do not have access to the Tardis. Be creative yet cautious with how you handle the future success of your content, because you will never be able to go back in time to change a past failure.

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