6 Ways To Use Cognitive Biases To Improve Your Marketing Results

6 Ways to Use Cognitive Biases to Improve Your Marketing Results

Mason KingsburyBlog, Q NEWS

6 Ways to Use Cognitive Biases to Improve Your Marketing Results

By Mason Kingsbury | 25/10/2018

Imagine being able to influence someone’s buying decisions through psychology.

Sounds like the plot line to a really bad episode of Doctor Who, right?

Believe it or not, that is exactly what science of neuromarketing is all about — and understanding an individual’s cognitive biases is essential in this once-considered “dark art” of marketing magic.


Cognitive biases are essentially glitches in the otherwise incredibly powerful human brain. Cognitive biases influence our decision making process and make us act irrationally.

Although we are not able to stop and think about each and every piece of information we encounter every second — our brain still processes it.

This processing happens in a blink of an eye (13 milliseconds to be precise) and in order to do that the brain has to take short cuts. These short cuts are where cognitive biases can arise.

As humans, we all process information differently and, as such, our cognitive biases also differ but generally speaking, we tend to all have the same “glitches”.


You bet your blue suede shoes they are. Some cognitive biases are subtle and unnoticeable at first glance, others are more obvious.

The key, however, is that they work.

So how are marketers using cognitive biases in advertising? How can your business benefit from the advances in neuroscience?

Here are 6 cognitive biases you should start using today to improve your marketing results.


Cognitive Bias Example #1: Anchoring

The anchoring bias is the tendency of an individual to attribute a disproportional amount of weight on the first piece of information they see or hear.

When it comes down to the anchoring bias, first impressions are really important.

When we go for a job interview and discuss salary expectations we see having to offer the first figure as a disadvantage.

However, research conducted by Northwestern University found that despite thinking we should never make the opening offer “Our research and lots of corroborating research shows that’s completely backwards. The person who makes a first offer is better off.” The second person in the negotiation has to react (or be anchored) to the opening offer.

We can see examples this in the marketing world when we see items in a sale. The very first piece of information we see is the original price with a nice strike through the high price. This is the anchor. Now we see the after-sale price and we think we are getting a bargain.

̶$̶6̶0̶0̶  Now Only $350

Use people’s anchoring biases to increase your marketing results and remember, first impressions count, so make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Cognitive Bias Photo Example

Ready to take your business to the next level? Contact us at Quentosity Tauranga Digital Marketing Consultants on 0800 467 8932 and let’s talk about your business!

Cognitive Bias Example #2: Decoy Effect

The decoy effect is a marketing tactic whereby consumers will tend to change their preferences between two options when a third option is introduced.

The decoy is usually the middle option that bridges the price gap between the cheaper option A and the more expensive option C.

Marketers do not want you to choose the decoy (option B) so by pricing it nearer to option C, you now see option C as a viable choice.

As it was mentioned earlier, cognitive biases are brain functions that make us make irrational decisions. A great example of how marketers use the decoy effect is how popcorn is priced at the cinema.


Small popcorn is $3 and large is $7.

The price difference between the small popcorn and the large is hard to justify. You’re going to choose the small popcorn.

Now, let’s introduce the decoy.

Small popcorn is $3, Medium is $6.50, Large is $7

You’re not going to pay $6.50 for a medium when you can get a whole lot more popcorn for just 50c. We rationalise that the large is only 50c more so we choose that.

“50c for so much more popcorn is great value”, we think to ourselves.

Introducing the decoy increases the likelihood that your customers will choose the higher-priced option.

Decoy Effect Photo Example

Cognitive Bias Example #3: Conservatism Bias

The conservatism bias is the tendency for individuals to believe older, prior evidence over new evidence or information.

People were slow to accept that the earth was round and not flat and people find it hard to believe that certain foods they ate in abundance when they were children (such as red, and cured meats) have been found to be detrimental to our health.

This makes it harder to accept newer, healthier options— a real challenge for marketers of innovative and new alternatives (such as meat-free substitutes and turkey bacon) are up against. Counter this bias with the information bias — the more information that is available the more valid the product is seen as a genuine alternative.

Conservatism Bias ExampleCognitive Bias Example #4: Conformity Bias

This is the tendency of individuals to agree or conform with other people’s actions or decisions rather than rely on our own judgment. The conformity bias can make us do ridiculous things, as was proven in Soloman Asch‘s experiment whereby a subject and several fake subjects were asked to choose which line was the same as line A. The answer is clearly option C but when the fake subject all chose option E the real subject chose option E 75% of the time.

Conformity Bias Example

Asch concluded that these findings were concerning “That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”

Show that people choose your product with reviews, testimonials or with badges showing awards won etc. and sway people that may need a little more convincing.

Cognitive Bias #5: Hyperbolic Discounting

The hyperbolic discounting bias is the tendency for individuals to choose an instant reward over a reward with a greater value later on in time. Research showed that when a certain threshold of time was crossed we tend to choose the instant option.

This cognitive bias is probably a survival mechanism, if we are hungry and are told we can have food now or double the food in a week we choose the food now. If we are given the option of getting $50 now or $150 in a year we choose the instant $50.

Hyperbolic Discounting Photo Example

Marketers can use this bias to their advantage by using language that suggests urgency.

“Download our E-Book to instantly increase your conversions”

Another way hyperbolic pricing can be used by savvy marketers like you is by delaying the payment process.

When the customer realises that they can buy now but pay later the cost of the item becomes less important. They don’t need to think about paying, and if they do think about it they rationalise the product only costs $x per day until they have to pay. This means you are actually able to increase your prices.

We can see this pricing strategy when we see prices that charge more for shorter term:

1-Month Subscription = $9.99

6-Month Subscription = $29.99

We could even add in a decoy here to make things a little more interesting…

Cognitive Bias #6 In-Group Favouritism

In-group favoritism is the tendency for individuals to prioritise products or ideas that are popular with groups that they’ve aligned themselves with. In-group favouritism is also known as the “tribe mentality”.

It’s all about created an “us vs. them” attitude.

One brand that excellently utilises the tribe mentality (or the conformity bias) is Apple.

 In-group favoritism photo exampleFrom the very beginning Apple made sure people knew that they weren’t Microsoft. For decades Apple depicted Microsoft as old, stuffy, and conformist (ironically) and themselves as youthful, modern, and individualist.

Build a tribe, have a clear identify and align your brand with your target audience.


These are just 6 ways that you can start using cognitive biases to increase your marketing results. At Quentosity, we are a full-service digital marketing consultancy in Tauranga that uses our digital marketing techniques to produce incredible results for our customers.

“We have increased turnover on average by 25-30% per month, and in January 2018 turnover was 60% more than the January 2017. January is usually a quiet month for the business. I personally don’t know the mechanics of what Quentosity does, but the results speak for themselves.”

Eric Wolters, co-owner The Housesitting Company.

As a full-service creative agency we can formulate a marketing strategy, create the required content, and execute the campaign all in one place.

Quentosity LogoReady to take your business to the next level? Contact Quentosity today on 0800 467 8932 or send us an email to set up a casual chat over a coffee at our beach-side Papamoa office (88 Coast Boulevard, Papamoa, Tauranga). Let’s talk about your business!