The Power Of Cognitive Biases In Your Marketing

What makes a successful online business? Understanding your customers’ cognitive biases is the best place to start, learn how.

Power Of Cognitive Biases

Photo by Raquel Martínez on Unsplash


Marketing is all about understanding people and delivering a solution to meet the needs of an audience in an honest yet persuasive way. 


Since psychology is the scientific study of human behavior, it’s essential for marketers to know as much as they can about it.


Psychological concepts can help you understand what motivates people to buy, how they make decisions, and what appeals to them. Additionally, psychological research has shown that people are more likely to respond favorably to marketing messages that are personalized and relevant to them. 


By understanding psychology, marketers can create more effective campaigns that resonate with their target audience.


In this article, we will look at a few ways you can use psychology in order to be more creative when it comes to anything from emails to ad copy.


What are Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive biases are specific patterns of thinking that can lead us to judge things not as they really are. These biases can affect our thinking in a number of ways, such as by causing us to focus on information that confirms our beliefs while ignoring information that contradicts them.


Learning about cognitive biases can help us to be more aware of the ways that our own thinking can lead us astray, and it can also help us to be more critical of the information we encounter. By being more aware of our own cognitive biases, we can take steps to correct them and make better decisions.


On the flip side, understanding cognitive biases can also help us to become better more persuasive marketers. Copywriting, for example, is often called an art and a science. The art comes from creativity and flow of communication, and the science comes from the persuasiveness of what you’re trying to get across.


Cognitive Biases You Can Use In Your Marketing


Cognitive biases can influence people’s perceptions of products and brands, which can impact how likely they are to buy them. Therefore, it is important for businesses to be aware of the most common cognitive biases and how they can influence customers’ behavior.


Here are the top 9 biases, I lean into in order to give that extra persuasive punch to my copy, ads, and content.

1. Bandwagon effect

The bandwagon effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when people think that others are doing something because it is the right thing to do, not because they personally believe in it. 


Restaurants with lots of people inside often raise the most intrigue for this reason. 


This bias can be used in marketing copy to persuade people to buy a product or service by highlighting how many other people have already made the same decision.


A recent example I’ve seen of this is on certain stores that have LIVE shopper notifications, which continually pop up whenever anyone buys something from an online store (or every few seconds, since many of them are actually fake).

2. Confirmation bias

The confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that occurs when people selectively seek out information that confirms their preexisting beliefs. This bias can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by highlighting how it meets their specific needs and preferences.


This is often used in the PAS (pain-agitate-solve) model and works best when you really do the work in understanding your audience’s avatar. 


The more you understand them, the more you can talk about and agitate their pain points directing them to your offer.


3. Reciprocity bias

The reciprocity bias is a cognitive bias that occurs when people feel obliged to return favors done for them. This bias can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by offering them a free trial or sample.


The first time I saw this used was in an expensive car dealership, which is actually commonplace. The salesman often brings out food, coffee, or even champagne before you’ve even bought anything.

Funnily enough, your brain only processes that you’ve been given something and that it has a desire to reciprocate. The fact that you’re given a plate of $2 cookies to persuade you to buy a $75,000 car doesn’t actually compute as you might think on that subconscious level, making this a very powerful bias to hit on.


You can hit on this with your own selling by ensuring you offer lead magnets or free trials with a decent amount of value. Customers feeling like they’ve gotten something from you for free may be triggered into buying.


4. Social proof

The social proof cognitive bias is the tendency for people to rely on the actions of others to guide their own behavior. This bias can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by showing them how many other people have already purchased it.

Social proof is probably the most popular bias you see hit on. 


Ever seen a heap of testimonials on a sales page or email? This is what the marketer is trying to hit on. Very similar to the bandwagon effect, except less so in real-time and more illustrating past results.


You should use social proof as much as possible if you’re selling almost any kind of product. Very powerful.


5. Authority bias:

The authority bias is the cognitive bias that occurs when people defer to authority figures even when those authority figures may not be experts on the subject at hand. 


This bias can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by framing it as being endorsed by an authority figure in the industry.


The authority bias is used a lot.  A common strategy employed by news channels is to get a famous singer or influencer to talk about something they have no expertise in purely because they have fame-based authority. And, people actually put a lot of weight on what they say even though it logically doesn’t make sense.

Auction houses also use this by putting the announcer up on a podium, which helps his words carry more weight. 


In fact, if you’re ever somewhere being sold something and the individual doing the selling is above you, on a stage, or in some way the center of attention, they’re likely attempting to trip your authority bias.


6. Ostrich effect:

The ostrich effect is the cognitive bias that occurs when people bury their heads in the sand and avoid dealing with difficult problems. This bias can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by highlighting its ability to solve difficult problems.


You see this in a lot of get-rich-quick schemes, side hustle ideas, and certain scammy SaaS products. They’re often advertised as formulas, blueprints, turn-key, push-button solutions. In other words, you just buy it, stick your head in the sand and it’ll solve all your problems.


While I’m not saying you should sell get-rich-quick schemes, do be wary of making your products sound overly complicated. Making something sound easy is a powerful buyer trigger.


7. Sunk Cost Fallacy

The sunk cost fallacy is the cognitive bias that occurs when people continue investing in something because they have invested so much money or time into it, regardless of whether or not it is rational to do so.


This fallacy can be used in marketing to persuade people to buy a product or service by emphasizing how much they have already invested in it.


This is used to great effect when selling info products and courses. Offering the first units for free and upselling later on. The power behind that is the user is already engaged in the program and has already come so far. They have felt progress, they have put the effort in, and will be willing to pay to keep going.


8. Framing effect

The framing effect is the cognitive bias that occurs when people make decisions based on how information is presented rather than on its actual content. This effect can be used in copywriting to persuade people to buy a product or service by framing it in a positive or negative light.


You mostly see this when marketers employ statistics that support their argument and omit ones that don’t.


The contrast bias is somewhat of a subset of this, and you’ve probably seen it within or just before a call-to-action to frame a price.


Instead of, “Buy now for 8.99,” it’s “Buy now for the price of a small pizza!”


People resonate with contrast to something else more than pure numbers. A great habit to employ within your copy.


9. Availability heuristic

The availability heuristic is the cognitive bias that occurs when people make judgments about how likely something is based on how easily they can think of examples of it happening. 


This heuristic can be used in marketing copywriting to persuade people to buy a product or service by providing them with lots of examples of it being successful.


While testimonials themselves don’t hit on this, if you have a large volume of testimonials, then it’s the volume that will trigger this.


If 999 out of 1,000 of your students made money with your program, this would naturally be a huge trigger in getting people to buy (if you could prove it effectively).


To Wrap up


Remember that on a fundamental level, people hand over their money when they feel that the value they get in return is worth more than the money they are handing over.

An exchange of value over a bridge of trust. It’s really that simple.


Now, you may be thinking. Isn’t this manipulation? Can’t this be used for bad? And the answer is, yes


It can be, and it is. Every single day. 


However, knowing and understanding these biases also help not only protect yourself but to help sell products and services that are going to help other people and push them over the line. I take it you are selling something you actually believe is going to help people.


If not, that’s likely another article on morality that needs diving into. A topic outside the scope of this article, So, on that note, thank you for reading and start considering how you can use cognitive biases going forward.