June 28, 2021

Why biases in behavioural psychology are important to content strategy


man and woman standing on city street with a map

An effective campaign may tantalise the senses, but our biases often influence how we perceive products and services. An understanding of cognitive biases can help achieve cut-through in a world overly saturated in messages. Cognitive biases are broadly defined as the patterns you default to when making sense of the world. While they help conserve mental energy, as content producers, it’s important to recognise the impact such assumptions have when it comes to marketing.

The list of common cognitive biases is evolving

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of specific biases, a great place to start is Buster Benson’s ‘Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet’. It identifies the four main problems that cognitive biases try to resolve, which are:

  1. Too much information
  2. Not enough meaning
  3. Not enough time
  4. Not enough memory.
Graphic courtesy of Buster Benson and John Manoogian III (via Better Humans)

Explore how these influences can be considered in the context of content strategy

Problem 1: The ‘bizarreness effect’ can help highlight your content

We have a bias for remembering the unusual, or something that stands out.

Brains are always processing things they’ve seen before. The bizarreness effect happens when something amusing or surprising catches our attention. Humour engages people, for example. What creativity can you bring into your campaign or marketing material that’s different and eye-catching?

Problem 2: Challenge generalisations created by the ‘group attribution error’ with clever content

We have a bias for filling in gaps by associating memories and experiences applying to collections of people.

Our minds make assumptions when there’s an absence of information. Group attribution error occurs when we allocate certain characteristics to collectives of people in society. This bias undermines the complexity of an individual by falling back onto stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories. As a content strategist, how can you write in a way that helps a brand break from the mould?

Problem 3: Contextualise your message to acknowledge sunk cost

A bias exists to support us to draw on known information to make decisions and save time.

New concepts can be hard for people to understand – so rather than writing about products or services without context, it’s important to acknowledge what audiences have already invested in. This is reducing sunk cost. For example, if you’re promoting a new tech product that empowers teams to be more productive at work, highlight the effort that goes into creating high-performing teams.

Problem 4: Content with keywords does more than just drive web traffic

Humans shortlist the information to remember, allowing technology to recall the rest.

We have become so dependent on search engines that we have stopped committing ‘unworthy’ facts to memory. Now we just rely on Google to recall them for us. This Google effect helps us save energy. To address this bias in your content strategy, produce well-written copy that considers key words and phrases, just as you would with search engine optimisation (SEO).

Misunderstanding cognitive bias can reduce your impact

Failing to consider biases can drastically reduce the success of any campaign. Low engagement can signal that content isn’t connecting on a deeper level and may be the fault of a common bias. Learning about behavioural patterns by peeling back how humans think shapes meaningful content based on audience needs.

Need some help navigating cognitive biases? At Avion, we factor in thoughts, motivations and behaviours to produce copy that resonates. Let us translate ideas into strategic ideas and recommendations. Contact us today.

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