Tuesday 18 June 2013

Buyhaviour 2: Status Quo Bias

When you're picking a restaurant for dinner, out of the hundreds around you, how many do you consider?

When you're at said restaurant what do you order from the menu? Something you've had before? 

This limited consideration set that you keep coming back to, surely you don't continue returning out of some Kevin Roberts' fantasy of deep loving loyalty, do you? 

Of course not! This lazy behaviour (cognitive shortcut) of returning to the safety of familiarity; 

This is the Status Quo Bias.

The Status Quo Bias reveals that we favour the current state of affairs, and we do this because the disadvantages of switching loom larger than the advantages.

In other words, you are biased to keep things how they are, and you do this because you don't want to risk the unknown. You are risk averse (And regret averse)

So, what’s the implications of this in advertising?

Well, it simply reinforces what marketing science has maintained for decades: 

The hyperbolic idea of brand loyalty is a fiction. Sure, you exhibit polygamous loyalty to a repertoire, but your purchase decisions aren't made because a brand has coaxed you into a deep loving commitment...

You are simply too lazy to hazard a change - you are loyal to loss aversion - and that means you keep naturally returning to the brands you know.

Or as Herbert (1956) put it, you are ‘satisficed’ with your current purchasing decisions. (They may not be the most optimal decisions, but you're satisfied and that will suffice.)

Unfortunately, many planners, suits and creatives still subscribe to the anachronism that shoppers agonise over their buying decisions in a rational, calculating way. That consumers stand in a supermarket aisle picking and switching brands because they feel an ardent sense of loyalty to them.

They mistakenly gloss over the idea that buying is habitual, and loyalty is simply a product of loss aversion and laziness - The Status Quo Bias. 

And this mistake has lead to an overemphasis on the personifying, positioning and differentiating of brands (In a vain attempt to gain loyalty), which places asinine restrictions on you being able to create truly intelligent, entertaining, memorable and ultimately effective advertising. 

So now, similar to the Availability Bias post, let's explore some practical applications using the Status Quo Bias.

Knowing the Status Quo Bias is inextricably linked to loss aversion, may mean ads that communicate what the audience is losing, rather than gaining are more effective. Eg.

But, for me, the most obvious way to use the status quo bias is to create advertising that places the audience in the protagonist’s shoes. Eg.

By doing this, you're simulating the audience's experience of using the brand, and this has every capacity to result in them feeling a sense of loss when they don't have it.

Don't miss next month's Buyhaviour, which will examine the implications of the Confirmation Bias (Our tendency to favour information that agrees with us) on the way your audiences view and process your advertising. And, if you missed it, follow the link below to read last month's post about the Availability Bias.

Christopher Ott

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