Cognitive Biases: How can we use them in marketing?


Mojca Brezigar
Mojca Brezigar

Conversion Copywriter

Cognitive Biases: How can we use them in marketing?

Table of Contents

In today’s fast-paced world, we are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of choices. From what to eat for breakfast to which smartphone to buy, our brains are in a constant state of decision-making. However, our decision-making can sometimes be irrational, and this is where cognitive biases come into play.

Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, and they can greatly influence our decision-making.

Cognitive biases are reflected in the digital world, so a thorough understanding of them is an invaluable tool in shaping our online marketing strategies.

We’ll look at some of the most common cognitive biases that affect users’ perceptions of your website or product.

The endowment effect

The endowment effect is a cognitive bias that refers to the tendency for people to place a higher value on things that they own or have acquired, compared to similar things that they do not own.

One way of using the endowment effect in marketing is by offering a free trial or money-back guarantee, this way customers feel like they have invested something in the product and will be more likely to continue using it.

endowment effect money guarantee

Source: Cake it

The IKEA efekt

That refers to the tendency for people to place a higher value on things that they have assembled themselves.

This bias is based on the idea that people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they build something with their own hands, and as a result, they value the finished product more highly than if it had been pre-assembled.

In marketing, this bias can be used by companies that sell products that require assembly, such as furniture or electronics. For example, IKEA, the furniture retailer, uses this bias by encouraging customers to assemble their own furniture. By doing this, IKEA creates a sense of ownership and personal investment in the product, which leads customers to value the furniture more highly.

IKEA creates a sense of ownership and personal investment in the product, which leads customers to value the furniture more highly.

The ikea effect

Source: Pexelsy

Illusory superiority

This bias refers to the tendency for people to overestimate their abilities or performance compared to others.

People will always be pleased if you flatter them

Precision Bias

Our preference is the belief that exact numbers are better than rounded ones.

For example, a company that sells a product for $99.99 instead of $100 can create the perception that the product is on sale or a bargain.

precision bias example

Source: Sadje v pisarni


This bias refers to the tendency for people to rely too heavily on the first piece of information they receive when making a decision. 

You can use this bias by offering a sale with a high original price, making the discounted price seem more attractive.

anchoring prices by offering a sale

Source: Cake it

Price illusion

Big numbers seem more valuable, people are impressed by big numbers.

If you create your own currency, e.g. reward points instead of dollars.
A high number of points raise the value. Because the numbers are bigger it works more valuabl

price illusion by creating your own currency

Mere Exposure Effect

This bias refers to the fact that people tend to prefer things that are familiar to them.

You have to increase brand awareness and make it more familiar to your consumers.

Decoy Effect

Consumers will tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when also presented with a third option that is asymmetrically dominated.

To trigger the decoy effect add a less attractive offer to increase sales of a similar offer. You have to make a less attractive but very similar contrast.

Apple for example by adding an Iphone that is a little less pricey than the most expensive one, has managed to increase the average price paid by customers.

decoy effect by adding a third option

Extrinsic Incentives Bias

The extrinsic incentive bias relates to the tendency to attribute other people’s motives to extrinsic incentives.

The importance of money and other things is sometimes overestimated, offer other motivations as well.

Paradox of Choice

The paradox of choice suggests that if we are overwhelmed by too many options, that requires more effort to choose and can leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice.

Avoid overwhelming customers with choices. If you have many products, write which ones you recommend, the most current, etc.

paradox of choice

Loss Aversion

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring equivalent gains.

For example, the company tells you to save xy euros every year which is good.
It’s even better if he tells you not to lose xy euros every year.

We can also offer a free trial. Once a customer uses it, it will be difficult to read it and lose its benefits.

loss aversion free triall


Ben Franklin Effect

That bias causes people to like someone more after they do that person a favor, especially if they previously disliked that person or felt neutral toward them.

You can request customers to do something simple, like feedback.

Framing Effect

This cognitive bias refers to the way people’s decisions can be influenced by how information is presented to them.
You can present them in a positive or a negative way.

You can test different possibilities.

Authority Bias

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to follow the opinions and decisions of perceived authority figures.

You can use this bias by using endorsements or testimonials from experts or celebrities. This creates a sense of trust and credibility in the product or service.

autority cognitive bias

Source: cake it

Fluency Bias

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to prefer things that are easy to understand and process.

You can use this bias by using simple and straightforward language in advertising and packaging. This makes the product or service more accessible and easy to understand.

Bizarreness Effect

This cognitive bias refers to the phenomenon where people remember unusual or bizarre information better than typical information.

You can use unusual words and be unpredictable.

Narrative Fallacy

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to find meaning in stories and
anecdotes, even if they are not based on evidence.

Put information into the story, the more effective it will be and the more it will be remembered.

Confirmation Bias

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms their existing beliefs.

Use the information that people are more likely to agree with.

The Barnum/Forer Effect

When people see simple, generic descriptions, they think they are describing themselves.

Address people in a way that will seem believable, you can personalize them, you can combine this general information with your unique solution.

Availability Heuristic

This is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind. What is easier to remember is more important.

It’s better to use vivid stories and personal examples, not odds and statistics.

Ambiguity Aversion Bias

This cognitive bias refers to the tendency for people to avoid ambiguous or uncertain situations.

We can use this bias by providing clear and detailed information about a product or service, such as through product demonstrations or users.

Chart and Science Bias

People tend to be more convinced by the information presented in a chart or graph form, or by scientific research.

Scientific content boosts your credibility, even if it’s not relevant.
If you have numerical data, present it in a chart.

Image Bias

Pictures make claims more believable, even when they prove nothing, such as a pain problem.

They are easier to recall and easier to believe.

So include pictures in your advertisement.

Picture Superiority Effect

People tend to remember information presented in a picture.

They affect memory and improving recall by 10-65%

Von Restorff Effect

People tend to remember information that stands out from the rest.

Use contrasts, size, sharpness and shapes that stand out.

Distinction Bias

Simultaneous viewing increases perception.
Side-by-side comparisons highlight the differences.

Show an alternative to show how your product is better with a picture.
Or when you have, for example, several packages, show them side by side.

Several packages distinction Bias

Source: Adgy

Bandwagon and Cheerleader Effect

When we see others, we want to.

Show other people in testimonials, show employees, etc.

Bandwagon and Cheerleader Effect

Source: Soria Natural

Courtesy Bias

People prefer to be socially acceptable than to be real.

Do not confuse a person’s feedback (e.g. in a call center) with an opinion about a company or product.

Source: cxl

Frequently asked questions about cognitive biases

What are the ethical concerns regarding the use of cognitive biases in marketing?

Cognitive biases can be used positively in some situations, such as in the field of marketing where they are used to influence consumer behavior. However, it is important to use them ethically and in a way that does not exploit or manipulate individuals.

How can companies avoid cognitive biases in their own decision-making?

Companies can avoid cognitive biases in decision-making by being aware of them, collecting and analyzing data objectively, and encouraging diverse perspectives in their teams. Additionally, conducting regular audits and testing their own decision-making processes can help them identify and correct any biases that may have crept in.

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Mojca Brezigar
Mojca Brezigar

Mojca is an expert in transforming words into gold - or as she likes to call it, Conversion Copywriting at ADGY!

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