How the Availability Heuristic Hurts Your Marketing Strategy

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By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist and Jake McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

As marketers, it’s critical that we’re able to get an accurate read on customer behavior and customer psychology. However, a true understanding of the customer is often difficult for the following reasons:

The marketing bubble: The makeup of individuals in the marketing world differs from the broader population. Marketers are often the first to pick up new technologies and platforms, and they therefore have a tendency to overrepresent the use of those technologies and platforms. Take Clubhouse as the latest example of a platform that has overrepresented usage within the world of marketing (compared to the general population). 

The draw toward purpose: Marketers are often attracted to the idea of working for more than their product or service. They want to feel like they are doing more than solving a common customer barrier or making customers’ lives easier. As a result, they get drawn to more aspirational purpose-driven brand perspectives that can sometimes diverge too far from what the product or service truly represents

The availability heuristic: Marketers spend hours each day thinking about their brand. They are more aware of their brand than anyone else, and they are far more likely to notice their brand communications than the general population. As a result, they have a difficult time striking the balance between their own perception of the brand and the perception communicated to customers. 

For example, imagine that a brand posted a “May the Fourth Be with You” Star Wars themed post on Facebook. The marketing world might go on about how this little “stunt” didn’t align with their brand image or brand strategy while failing to recognize that this is an organic post to a social media feed where only a small percentage of their most loyal followers will see it. This post might have comprised a tiny portion of their communications or “share of voice,” yet marketers treat it as if it’s a major part of their communications because they’re unusually high consumers of advertisements. That’s the availability heuristic in action. 

Overall, it’s important to adjust our preconceived notions with data. Go out there and try to understand the consumer and the challenges they face. Keep asking what, why, when, where and who, and in the process, you’ll do a better job making sure your message aligns with the largest audience possible. That’s the path to growth. 

As always, we’re happy to help you make great creative advertising that resonates with your customers. Give us a call at 833-578-1314 or email us at [email protected] for more info.