The Outcome Bias – Why Expectations Defy Rationality
Do consumers carefully evaluate decisions before making them? Can an attractive reward cause people to behave irrationally? The outcome bias describes decisions people make that are based on the best possible result, rather than a realistic analysis.
Anticipating a good outcome activates the brain’s pleasure centers, neuroscientists have discovered. The effect is almost the same as experiencing that result. People are influenced by this to make all sorts of decisions. In marketing, the strategy works, even when the likelihood of that wonderful outcome is very low.
Someone Will Win the Lottery – Why Not You?
In 2018, the multi-state Mega Millions lottery jackpot grew to over $1.5 billion. With no winner for several rounds of drawings, ticket sales skyrocketed. Even though the odds of winning were 302,575,350 to 1, the almost unbelievable prize led millions of people to buy multiple tickets. The anticipation of winning triggered people’s brains to ignore the odds and participate. That’s the outcome bias at work. After the drawing, 3 people had a winning ticket. The rest won nothing.
Wonderful Outcomes Can Cloud the Mind
A similar effect occurs in casinos, where gambling machines signal wins with flashing lights and sound. Seeing people winning entices others to gamble. Luxury auto manufacturers trigger outcome biases with images of car owners being treated like royalty. Fast food restaurants use images of their burgers that look far more appealing than the actual product. Creating the expectation of a desired outcome can be used in many ways to market products and services:
- “Sell the Sizzle” Is a Traditional Outcome Bias Method – Advertisers have used outcome bias concepts since the 1960s. By illustrating emotional, financial, or pleasurable results, ads lead consumers to anticipate a positive experience. Only after establishing that pleasure reaction in the brain is the actual product shown or described. In online advertising, using graphical images that depict satisfaction or other positive emotions has the same effect.
- Trigger Outcome Bias Reactions with Testimonials and Reviews – By using satisfied customers to describe an excellent result, these social proof examples work to set up positive expectations. That’s why Amazon and other retailers feature 5-star reviews with quotes from reviewers at decision points on their websites. By reinforcing anticipation of a desirable outcome in a consumer’s minds, they can trigger a conversion decision.
- Set up Positive Outcome Emotions with Language Cues – In titles, headings and subheadings, use action verbs to indicate a positive result. They can be powerful retention and conversion triggers. “You” should always be the implied subject of those verbs. “Enjoy, Get, Save, Expect,” and similar words help establish positive anticipation. Similarly, words with positive emotional meanings work the same way. “Profits, Savings, Comfort, Love, etc.” are examples.
- Use Story-Telling to Reinforce Positive Expectations – Brief stories that illustrate benefits and great experiences related to your products or services can establish powerful positive brain imagery. Case studies, anecdotes of benefits received, and accounts of excellent outcomes are especially useful for service businesses. Before and after photos are visual examples of story-telling. Powerful positive videos of real people telling their stories are ideal.
Neuromarketing Works with Cognitive Biases to Get Results
Establishing positive outcomes in consumers’ minds can boost sales. But is doing that ethically responsible? If your marketing efforts don’t seriously misrepresent your products or services, there is no ethical problem. The goal of neuromarketing is to influence decision making subtly. All marketing has that as its goal. Heavy-handed use of brain-aware strategies doesn’t work. Consumers detect that, and reject being manipulated. When you work with a neuromarketing firm like ours, effective techniques that meet all standards are ensured. Contact us to discuss your online marketing needs. Let us show you how cost-effective neuromarketing can boost your revenues.