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Beating the cognitive shortcut: How cognitive biases can be the route to marketing success with the use of Dynamic creative

Monday 19th June

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Should I study for an additional degree in order to improve my employability? Is it worth paying that much for a Nutribulet? Is BOGOF pizza on Tuesdays a true discount when I only need one pizza?

Whether reacting to life changing events or just going about our daily shopping we are called upon to make various decisions each day; some more important than others. We take our time. We look at all the options. We plan meticulously our next steps, all along thinking we are being rational.

In reality, however, we are anything but. Research has shown that other sets of non-rational factors come into play and profoundly affect our choices. These can be the individual’s natural predisposition which is closely linked to their personality as presented in the well-known Myers Briggs framework, or a perceived hierarchy of needs as explained by Abraham Maslow.
More importantly, there are other, more subtle factors, affecting our decisions called cognitive biases. These are subconscious shortcuts that we all take during our thought process without even realising. Cognitive biases used to be particularly useful during the early stages of society’s development and they helped early humans process information quickly (thus avoiding becoming a tiger’s lunch for example) or adjust our behaviours so that we could live harmoniously in tribes.

There are many cognitive biases identified such as the Verbatim Effect (remembering the gist of what someone said instead of the specifics), Clustering (associating different pieces of information with each other in order to remember), Social Proof (adopting the beliefs of a group of people we like), the Scarcity Bias (the more rare the opportunity, content, or product is, the more valuable it is perceived to be), Anchoring (basing decisions on the first piece of information received).

The reason why marketers should care about cognitive biases is because they can skew the way a brand is perceived as well as how likely consumers are to, ultimately, purchase the product.
Take Anchoring for example. If a brand is constantly on sale and the discount messaging is the first thing that a consumer sees when in-market then its less likely that the brand will be perceived as premium. Music fans are more likely to be mobilised into buying tickets to a concert they think is about sell out (Scarcity Bias). And how many times have we all favoured a brand vs another purely because people we identify with prefer it (Social Proof)?

Digital marketing is an ideal avenue to beat these shortcuts because of the variety of formats, messaging and the ability to reengage consumers. Dynamic creative in particular provides a wealth of opportunities to influence consumers at scale. With the ease of editing, the live feeds and the increased contextual relevance Dynamic creative ads are very well place to influence behaviours be influenced by them. By using AI-based social discourse insight for example we can adjust and test copy that matches the online discussions and personalities of our audience in real time and thus speaking to them in a way that truly resonates.

More importantly, however, Dynamic creative can be very powerful when it comes to dealing with cognitive biases.

To demonstrate that we will be referring back to our previous examples of Anchoring, Scarcity Bias and Social Proof:

Anchoring: By its nature anchoring is based on sequential presentation of information. By placing and ad with full product pricing and then reaching the same user with a discount message the consumer is more like to perceive it as an expensive product in sale rather than a cheap product (which is likely to happen if its constantly seen discounted). With Dynamic creative sequential messaging is not only easy but can be updated in real time to show prices and offers as they come into stores.
Scarcity Bias: Dealing with the Scarcity Bias utilises one of the most common and effective iterations of Dynamic creative which is to include a live feed of a countdown typically featured within the unit. We this method a sense of urgency in injected that renders really well with impulsive purchasing.
Social Proof: Reviews and social feeds in advertising units can demonstrate a group’s approval of a product or a service. Consumers are more likely to be positively predisposed towards that brand / product after being exposed. Crucially, the updateable nature of a Dynamic creative unit allows for refreshes keeping the flow of comments and reviews constant and therefore increasing credibility.

In essence, by tailoring our messaging, frequency and sequence of exposure we can shift consumer behaviours. Dynamic creative allows us to do that efficiently, in real time and at scale.
At Total Media Dynamic creative is an important part of our in-house offering and we encourage clients to test it given the right opportunity.

Article Written by

Alexandra Spiliotopoulou

Head of Display, Total Media

Alex is the Senior Display Account Director at Total Media. She is an ESTJ and therefore loves practical innovation; her guilty pleasure is superhero movies and 80s animated series on a Sunday morning.

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