Editor’s note: In this article, we encourage our readers to understand “marketer” not as one who works directly in the marketing industry, but one who seeks to advocate for their organization and evangelize their brand.
When we’re aware of our innate bias, we become better marketers. When we consistently interpret things based on our cultural norms and beliefs, our bias becomes silent and we can make poor marketing judgements.
There is another kind of bias that can be even more insidious. It is called cognitive bias, and it is one that all humans share. Cognitive bias is a cognitive psychological collective term for systematic tendencies or tendencies in perception, memory, thinking and judgment. They usually remain unconscious. This often results in cognitive heuristics, such as judgment heuristics.
When our cognitive bias kicks in, we have the tendency to make systematic decisions based on cognitive factors rather than evidence. As human beings, inherent errors occur in thinking when processing information. These inherent errors are the result of genetic predisposition that has risen over time as we evolved as a species, in order to help us survive.
In his research, Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, points out: “We must challenge our assumptions about how humans behave,” Ariely says, explaining that “we have very strong intuitions about all kinds of things—our own ability, how the economy works, how we should pay school teachers. But unless we start testing those intuitions, we’re not going to do better.”
How does this kind of biased intuition impact us as marketers? Many times, when looking back on previous marketing decisions, we can see that our judgement was biased and our intuition failed us. Here are four ways we can make effective marketing decisions in spite of ourselves:
- Be aware of your own bias, and the individual bias of each of your team members. We have an unconscious bias but it doesn’t always stay hidden. Be aware of your first reaction when you encounter someone who is different than yourself. That will be a clue. What is your decision-making process like when working with different groups? Do you have consistent reactions linked to the nature of similarities in each group? That could be the clue of a bias.
- Expose yourself to other cultures and belief systems. A great way to do this is through travel. I’ve broadened my horizons and thinking process by immersion in the cultures of people in foreign countries. It allows you to genuinely step outside your own cultural beliefs when testing your marketing decisions.
- Don’t allow your decision making to be short circuited. Many marketers leverage the mental shortcuts taken by buyers when they are influenced by cognitive bias. For example, when a buyer anchors on the first thing they hear or see, it short circuits their thinking process and they use that anchor to reinforce their judgement about a product or service. That same cognitive bias can work against the marketer when we allow our decision making to be short circuited.
- Test your intuitions. In the May 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, there is a great article titled “Outsmart Your Own Biases.” In this article, along with advice about testing out intuitions, there are several great tips including: a) Make three estimates; b) Think twice; and c) Take an outside view.
Our ability to reach beyond our biases will determine our success as marketers.