Availability Bias – The Stories in Our Brains
- How common are shark attacks?
- Can recently heard stories cause faulty predictions?
Are you more likely to be killed by a shark attack or by parts falling from an airplane? Your answer depends on what you hear in the news. Shark attacks get intensive news coverage. Falling plane parts do not.
Most people worry more about shark attacks, while more actually die from falling airplane parts. Similarly, extensive news coverage about child abductions causes parents to overestimate that risk. Emotional stories have the most impact.
We Estimate Answers to Complex Problems
Cognitive biases affect our predictions of outcomes. We like to think that we take all factors into consideration before making choices. Neuroscience and psychological research shows that our predictions and choices are often based on faulty information.
Our fast-thinking emotional brain doesn’t consider all possible options. Instead, it decides quickly and often makes errors.
We Give More Weight to Widely Available Information
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, with Amos Tversky, conducted research on how people predict outcomes. In one study, they asked subjects to solve 2 multiplication problems in 5 seconds. They presented a series of numbers to be multiplied.
The answers are the same. Few people can do those calculations in their heads. Those who saw the series beginning with 1 predicted much lower totals than the subjects who saw the series that began with 8. Estimates were based on multiplying the first two or three numbers. An easy partial solution affected their guesses.
We make many decisions based on the information that is most easily available. In marketing, the availability bias can be used to influence consumer decisions in several ways:
- Use Stories to Make New Information Available – When marketing products or services, tell visitors stories that show how they solve a problem. Identify common problems your customers experience and demonstrate the solution. Testimonials from existing customers are a great way to do this. Plus, it adds social proof to the presentation.Start with the pain and end with the relief. It’s a sure-fire way to grab attention and focus it on your offers.
- Set up Expectations of Satisfaction – What do your potential customers need and want? All marketing is based on filling needs and wants. You can provide fresh information that depicts satisfaction of those needs and wants.For example, homebuyers need furnishings to enhance their new homes. Wayfair, the online furnishing company, features photos of completely decorated rooms full of their products. Shoppers can simply click the images to buy any or all items.
- Eliminate Customers’ Fears and Concerns – Worries lead many potential customers and clients to search for solutions. It is essential to understand the emotions that potential customers experience when they need your products or services.A financial planning firm, for example, can use stories to provide information on successful retirement strategies. A heating and air conditioning company can show how their furnace inspections protect against carbon monoxide risks. Car dealers can ease the fear of breakdowns with new models and repair services.
- Help Customers Predict Successful Outcomes – If information you offer helps people envision a good outcome from your products and services, you’re halfway to making the sale. Show your customers what they can expect to get, through stories, illustrations, and emotional triggers.Once they gain positive expectations, you’ll have their attention on the details of what you offer.
Cognitive Biases Work Together in Most Decisions
The availability bias is just one of the brain anomalies that influence consumer decision-making. Success with Neuromarketing comes through understanding and using a full range of emotional brain tendencies. It’s not enough to simply focus on one technique. Instead, every aspect of your marketing needs to weave together a brain-aware combination. Then you can attract, retain, educate and convert potential customers for revenue-producing sales. As the ONLY Neuromarketing firm in Minnesota, we bring it all together to help you outsmart your competition.