Does Cognitive Dissonance occur in Marketing ?

Mar 25, 2022

“People influence people; Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.”

With this quote Mark Zuckerberg states an important issue for modern marketing. The advertising form which influencers use is presenting the products as a part of the content. Due to that, the customer has the feeling of receiving a friend's recommendation. This enables influencer marketing to have an advantage over conventional/classic advertising strategies.

Even though the market for influencer marketing is large and the benefits are convincing, in the end it's all about consumers. Consider what happens in the minds of potential customers when a product suggestion made by a socially influential person or media outlet clashes with their preconceived notions or previous experiences. 

For  ages,  dissonance  in  consumer  behaviour  has  captured  the  imagination  of  the  marketers  the  world over. 

What is Cognitive Dissonance ?

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort people experience when their  belief clashes with contradictory information

This unpleasant feeling of anguish pushes  to resolve the conflict, either by modifying behaviour or lowering the relevance of conflicting/dissonant beliefs.

Let’s take an example.

A smoker enjoys smoking, but also knows it’s detrimental to health. To reduce cognitive dissonance, he can quit smoking (change behaviour) or justify behaviour by claiming that everyone dies eventually, or that it isn't as damaging as drinking.

What is cognitive dissonance in Marketing?

Cognitive dissonance strategies that require a consumer to reconcile two conflicting views by buying a product can be effective in marketing, especially if the reconciliation of opposing views protects or enhances the consumer's self-image.

For instance, you consider yourself a savvy automotive enthusiast. In the course of a visit to a high-end auto dealership, the salesperson emphasizes that "a lot of Americans aren't sophisticated enough to understand why this car is actually a great buy." 

On the one hand, if you resist the sales pitch for this very expensive car, you appear unsophisticated; on the other hand, if you agree, then you're progressing down the path toward the purchase of a car you can't afford.

Faced with this kind of cognitive dissonance, many consumers will go along with the sales pitch to avoid being viewed as an unsophisticated person without the real knowledge required to fully appreciate the car.

How to resolve cognitive dissonance in marketing ?

Marketers can use a range of methods to help consumers overcome cognitive dissonance. These methods could include:

  • reducing concern, 

  • enhancing customer confidence, or 

  • differentiating their product from those of competitors.

The marketer can play an important role in reducing the dissonance that the consumer faces and reassuring him that the choice he made was the right one.

  1. The marketer can inform the buyer about the product's various attributes/features and benefits, as well as how they compete with other alternatives.

  2. Define correct delivery /shipping expectations to ensure the customer’s anticipation can be met.. Addition of “track your delivery” , “Same day delivery” options can further improve customer satisfaction. 

  3. He can follow up with the consumer and handle any questions or issues they may have (eg. follow up calls).

  4. Marketers' claims about warranties, guarantees, and exchange can also help to alleviate cognitive dissonance.

  5. Clearly defining the product return policy with the process broken down is easy steps makes the customer remove doubts. Offering various modes for refund further builds customer’s confidence. 

  6. Company websites featuring FAQs (frequently asked questions), comments and blogs from satisfied customers, and customer care information (e.g. toll free numbers, etc.) can also be useful.

Make the choice as you would want to. Do not get influenced by the dissonance.

Author(s) :
Swadha Agarwal