The Basic Mistakes Marketers Still Make


This blog is an extract taken from Brandwatch’s latest guide – 7 Mistakes Marketers Make and how to Avoid Them.

You’re debating what to include in your end-of-year newsletter.

This year the team developed 30 apps (pretty impressive). You can’t agree on which to include. Eventually you decide you should include them all. After all, consumers like the choice.

Well, this is just one of many mistakes marketers make on a daily basis.

To explain, let’s look at this famous research by Sheena Iyengar (2000).

The power of scarcity

She set up two tasting booths with a variety of gourmet jams. One booth had six different jams and the other had twenty-four.

Conventional wisdom says more choices are better as consumers are more likely to find a jam they like. But, Iyengar found the opposite was true.

Only 3% of consumers at the 24 variety booth bought jam. While 30% of consumers at the 6 variety booth purchased jam.

Iyengar had proved the power of scarcity.

Richard Shotton, in his 2018 study, showcases that this power can have a great effect on cinema marketing.

300 consumers saw a poster for a new film and were asked how likely they were to go and watch it. Half of the participants were also told the film was closing this weekend.

Those who knew the film was ending were 36% more likely to attend.

This insight begs a question. Why don’t more marketers use scarcity? And, why do some marketers still make simple mistakes?

A quick look at the menu at your local restaurant or an isle in your grocery stall will reveal that most marketers don’t take advantage of scarcity.

They miss out on ideas because they’re constantly afraid of short term failure. There’s always a competitor, a new product or a new boss to worry about.

While this inertia is bad news for most, it’s good news for you. You’ll have a competitive advantage.

The rule of reciprocation

In 1971, psychologist Dennis Regan wanted to figure how to make people do what he wanted, so he set up an experiment.

It involved inviting two subjects to an ‘art experiment’ to assess the quality of the paintings.

One of the participants – we’ll call her Jane – was posing as a fellow subject, but was in fact Mr Regan’s assistant.

While Jane and the subject assessed the pictures, Jane momentarily left the room and came back with two bottles of Coke. She would say “I bought myself a Coke and decided you might want one too.”

In the control case, Jane returned to the room empty handed. In all other aspects, however, she behaved identically.

After the paintings had been rated, Jane asked for her own favor.

She revealed that she was selling raffle tickets and asked her fellow subject if she could buy some at 25 cents a piece.

Jane was 5x more successful selling raffle tickets to the subjects who received the favour earlier.

But that’s not all.

Regan measured if the subjects liked Jane more, once she gave the favour.

This finding was eye opening. The subjects who disliked her bought just as many tickets as the ones who liked her.

The amount the subject liked Jane had no impact on whether they were likely to buy tickets. Simply put, they just had a sense of obligation to return the favour.

This research shows the power of the reciprocity rule. It’s so powerful that it convinces others to side with you and overwhelms other factors, like whether they actually like you or not.

For marketers, the lesson is simple. Offer something as a gift and you’re more likely to get something in return.

The best — like Buffer — do this in the form of content. They share transparent, honest, sometimes troubling stories from the front line of their fast-growing company.

This explicit look at the inner workings of their organization (everything from redundancies to every employee’s wage) is the greatest gift to a budding entrepreneur. And in return, Buffer has grown tremendously to 1.2 million customers in less than 3 years.

It’s a mistake to focus only on conversions in campaigns. Doing so will mean you miss out on the powerful reciprocation rule.

To discover more common marketing mistakes and spot ways to avoid them, read the full guide here.

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