Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: The Subconscious Swayer in your Marketing Strategy

Nov 25, 2022 | General Musings

The way our brains actively engage with a subject, shapes our impressions based on frequency illusion, forms our opinions via confirmation bias, and influences purchasing decisions due to the overall experience and social proof.

By Melodie Krieger

Have you ever been interested in something and suddenly you’re seeing it everywhere? Maybe you’ve been researching silver sedans, and the next thing you know, silver sedans seem to be the most popular car on the road. So, is the Universe sending you a sign about sedans or is there some science behind this cosmic coincidence?

The truth is this strange experience is known as frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. When we’re interested in something, our brains subconsciously seek out more information on that subject and our selective attention takes over, zeroing in on anything that relates to it. It would seem as if our subject of interest has gained popularity overnight.

This perceived popularity then feeds into our confirmation bias of what we already believe to be true – “Silver sedans are the best because everyone is driving one” — even if the actual evidence proves otherwise.

The way our brains actively engage with a subject, shapes our impressions based on frequency illusion, forms our opinions via confirmation bias, and influences purchasing decisions due to the overall experience and social proof.

The next thing you know, you’re driving a silver sedan just like “everyone else”.

While the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon is something that happens subconsciously based on an individual’s area of focus, illusion frequency, confirmation bias and peer influence can still be leveraged in your marketing strategy to benefit your brand.

Illusion Frequency in Marketing

It’s not news that every action we take online is tracked and fed into targeted algorithms. Just look at the ads on any webpage or platform you visit. Your content is curated to reflect the news you click on and the items you search.

My feed is currently filled with stories about animal rescues and deals on twinkle lights, just as your feed is curated unique to you. But whether you’re inundated with content about tropical getaways or winter tires, no matter the product, the first brand that comes to mind is usually the one we saw the most.

But frequency is only part of the solution. Grabbing your audience’s selective attention is the other half of the battle. And to do that, you must know thy customer! Don’t simply throw an ad together based on what you think looks good and hope it sticks.

If you haven’t done so already, create a few customer personas to flesh out who your ideal audience is, what they care about, and how to reach them.

You need to have content that is compelling enough for your audience to sit up and take notice in the few seconds you’ve got before they scroll away. Take the time to come up with a creative strategy that includes a sharp headline, engaging ad copy, and eye-catching images to attract attention away from the rest of the noise.

Once you’ve got that dialed, then it’s a matter of getting in front of your desired audience as much as possible through email and other relevant platforms.

This is where knowing thy customer really matters because you need to know where to reach them! Afterall, there’s a far cry in demographics between those who use TikTok vs. LinkedIn. Experiment with different paid ads using A/B tests to target your existing fans and followers as well as people who share similar characteristics and interests.

But don’t just let your ads go on autopilot. Pay attention to your reports to see who is engaging, then continue tweaking your content for the most effective results.

Leveraging Social Proof

Likes and comments from your existing audience also helps to expand your reach as liked and shared posts will appear in their friends’ feeds. These actions provide you with the added benefit of social proof, which helps reinforce any confirmation bias that your brand is a solid choice.

We often look to our friends for recommendations first, which makes peer influence one of the most effective channels of advertising around. It is also the most authentic as it cannot be bought, only leveraged through reviews, testimonials, and third-party sites like Yelp which are invaluable once your prospects begin to dig a little deeper to discover what your business is all about.

It is the human condition to subconsciously search out patterns in the world around us and seek confirmation for the things we wish to believe.

By combining illusion frequency and confirmation bias with social proof in your marketing strategy, you are alchemizing a powerful punch that can align your content with your ideal audience in the most natural possible way.