Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon and Marketing

STRATEGY

November 10, 2020

The cow coincidence

See if this scenario sounds familiar. A friend or neighbor tells you he just found out that the biggest climate change threat isn’t car or factory emissions—it’s agriculture: too many cows and the methane they produce. Well, that’s interesting and something you never heard before, so you tuck it away for future reference.

The next morning, you turn on the news and there’s a story about the impact of cows on climate change. “Wow!” you think. “What a coincidence.” But things really go off the rails when 2 days later, a coworker brings up the subject of agriculture and global warming. Then, out of the blue, the subject seems to be everywhere you turn.

You probably start thinking that what just happened is supernatural—but it isn’t. It’s psychological and it has a name: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

What is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

Baader-Meinhof is the intersection of two related psychological phenomena: “selective attention” and “confirmation bias.” Here’s how HubSpot describes what it is and how it works in the brain:

“The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, otherwise known as the frequency illusion or recency bias, is a situation where something you recently learned about suddenly seems to appear everywhere. There are two reasons for this phenomenon — first, selective attention, which means your brain is subconsciously seeking out more information on the subject. Second, confirmation bias, which means every time you see something related to the subject, your brain tells you that it’s proof the subject has gained popularity overnight.”

Interesting—But how does it help marketing?

The point is, understanding Baader-Meinhof can improve your marketing. Why? Because Baader-Meinhof impacts the way consumers think about products and services—and how much they’re persuaded by marketing efforts that imitate its effect.

Said differently, when prospective customers for your business see your brand and product in one place, then begin seeing it soon after, in several others, they become more likely to trust your business, buy your products, and subscribe to your services. But how precisely can you leverage this psychological principle to supercharge your marketing?

How can Baader-Meinhof boost your marketing efforts?

Based on the twin principles of selective attention and confirmation bias, prospective customers who suddenly see your messaging everywhere tend to believe that your products are more valuable than similar products offered by your competitors. There are many best practices strategies to effectively leverage the impact of Baader-Meinhof to turn window shoppers into loyal customers. The following 3 are among the best:

1. EMBRACE MULTICHANNEL MARKETING

Multichannel marketing simply means that your product message (as well as the key elements of your brand) appear in several different channels simultaneously to reinforce what it is you want prospective customers to believe. For example, if you’re a SaaS business selling CRM software, you might post a blog on your website about “How to get an affordable, customized CRM solution for your business.” You could then post that content on social media platforms or include a link to it in lead nurturing emails. Multichannel is most effective when you carefully research which channels your target audience is most likely to use and trust. It’s also important that your messaging, branding style and tone of voice are consistent across all channels, both digital and physical.

2. LEVERAGE THE POWER OF SOCIAL PROOF

Social proof means that people are more likely to do something (like buy your products or use your services) if a lot of other people have already done so and are happy with the results.  Social proof includes things like customer reviews and testimonials, as well as statements like “thousands of satisfied customers, have already purchased our product” and endorsements by experts, thought leaders, and influencers. Effectively incorporating social proof into a multichannel marketing campaign will reinforce the impact of Baader-Meinhof.

3. USE CONFIRMATION BIAS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Confirmation bias simply means that when someone believes something is true, they look for evidence to confirm that belief—in other words, that they’ll selectively evaluate evidence to bear out their theory. Makes sense, but how can you leverage confirmation bias to bolster your marketing?

Think about aspirin. A host of credible studies have shown that, in the right dosage, aspirin can reduce the risk of a heart attack, so lots of people believe that. Now, all aspirin is the same—it’s a chemical called acetylsalicylic acid—and there are many companies which market aspirin—but only one that used aspirin’s heart-healthy benefits in its marketing: Bayer Aspirin. Now, when consumers think aspirin = lowering heart attack risk, they don’t think aspirin—they think Bayer, and they’ll pay up to 5X more for Bayer over its generic counterparts, even though both do the same thing.

Conclusion

Understanding and effectively using phenomena like Baader-Meinhof can bolster your digital and traditional marketing efforts by building trust and loyalty, enhancing your messaging, and growing your business. To best incorporate the principles of Baader-Meinhof into your marketing strategy, embrace multichannel marketing, make sure your digital and physical ads are complementary, use social proof, and leverage the power of confirmation bias.

Whether your brand needs a partner for digital, media planning and buying, or creative services, we’d love to help.

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