Have you ever noticed how easy it is to justify why we do the things we do? It seems that once we take action, we find it really easy to come up with reasons for why we did what we did. In fact, even when people are confronted with the idea that their actions might not “add up,” they often double down on their existing belief or reject the information that conflicts with their existing views. 

To what extent will people go to in order to rationalize or justify their existing beliefs or actions? As part of our Ad Psych Field Trip series, we took a trip to the farmers market to find out. We conducted a series of social experiments where we asked random members of the crowd to choose which of the two sodas they preferred. The catch was that the sodas were exactly the same, but because they were presented differently, we were able to see how small changes in people’s experience could change preference. 

What did we find? We found that people thought the soda tasted better when it was presented with an interesting brand story, when it was given in a fancier glass, and when they saw that other people preferred the same soda. When our participants were informed that the sodas were exactly the same, many were in disbelief. One participant said, “I don’t think so.” Another participant said “that’s not true, it’s absolutely not true,” and another participant went so far as to come up with explanations for why the sodas tasted different. 

Overall, our social experiment reveals that the brain picks up a lot of information when forming perceptions and shaping decisions, and the majority of people aren’t aware of the subtle influence that these cues have on how they experience and act in the world. 

These findings have powerful implications for marketers. For one, the results confirm that  people often act first and then rationalize their actions later. Clearly, this means that people don’t necessarily have to have a strong reason for purchasing a product in the moment that the product is purchased–the reason often comes after when they try to justify the action that they’ve already taken. Marketers often fail to recognize this, and they tend to focus on the product’s benefits or the “reason to buy” in their advertising. This is backwards. The best way to grow your brand is to get your products in front of people by making sure your products are readily available, familiar, and easily recognizable. This ensures that people have a greater chance of noticing and purchasing your product, and once they do, they’ll happily come up with a reason to justify their purchase.  

Our experiments reveal just a few of the many biases and heuristics that the brain uses to form quick perceptions and to make fast decisions. These biases and heuristics help shape our perception and behavior each moment, and for marketers, this means that every little thing matters. From your advertisements to your social media, all the way down to the purchase experience, marketers have plenty of opportunity to embed persuasive psychology in their messaging. 

At Intermark Group, we’ve conducted a series of Ad Psych Field Trip studies that help drive home the impact of psychology and marketing. Give us a call at 833-578-1314 or email us at info@intermarkgroup.com to discuss how we can help you turn psychological insights into great creative.

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