What Is the Bandwagon Effect in Marketing? (Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 9, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Different cognitive behaviours can impact consumers' purchasing patterns. A common one is the bandwagon effect, which theorizes that people act in a certain way to conform to everyone else. Learning more about this effect and discovering how to leverage it can help you create an effective marketing campaign. In this article, we explain what the bandwagon effect is, discuss the factors that influence it, review its benefits and limitations, and offer tips to utilize the effect in your marketing campaigns.

What is the bandwagon effect?

The bandwagon effect refers to a cognitive behaviour influenced by public opinion, regardless of belief or evidence. Consumers often indiscriminately adopt certain styles or attitudes, as it's often easier and more efficient to rely on others' opinions rather than form your own. The bandwagon effect is the concept that if enough people, or the right people, endorse a product, then the product is good.

For example, a soft drink company launches a new flavour, but consumers aren't reacting as the company had expected. The company teams up with a celebrity to produce a video of them drinking it. The hope is that the celebrity's fans also purchase the soft drink, an action they might not take if not for the celebrity's endorsement. Other terms for the bandwagon effect are:

  • Groupthink

  • Herd mentality

  • Crowd psychology

  • Snowball effect

Related: What Is the Rational Model of Decision Making (With Steps)

Which factors influence this effect?

Many factors can influence the snowball effect, including social acceptance. Psychological and economic factors also play a role, as the effect may trigger a buyer's desire to be right or prompt them to purchase something they don't need or want. Other factors that influence the effect include:

Winning perceptions

Some people like the idea of supporting a popular idea or person. Consider a baseball team that's played well for 10 years and has a solid fan base but hasn't won a championship in six years. This season, the team advances to the championship game. The snowball effect occurs when the team gains thousands of fans now that they're winning.

Fear of missing out

This marketing effect can give the impression that something is exclusive or in limited supply, and if the buyer doesn't act soon, they may miss out on the opportunity. It may imply the group knows something you don't. Examples are investing in a startup company or purchasing the latest designer handbag because a limited number of them exist.

Sense of belonging

Humans are social beings who seek the approval of others. For this reason, the snowball effect offers an easy way to be part of the crowd. For example, a consumer may purchase a new pair of shoes because everyone else buys them. They may not even be conscious of their motivation when making the decision. Likewise, people who follow a sport, participate in an activity, or aspire to a social status might make related purchases, such as tickets, clothing, or an automobile, to signify membership in the respective group.

Efficient decision making

Sometimes, this effect is simply the more efficient way to decide something. For example, two movies are opening this weekend. A well-known actor is in the first movie, but it doesn't look very interesting. The second looks exciting but is a small-budget production with no known movie stars. A moviegoer reads several claims that the first movie may break box office records and pre-screenings garner rave reviews. The viewer chooses the first movie, confident they spent their money well.

Related: What Is the Consumer Decision-Making Process? (A Guide)

Conformity to group opinion

People tend to follow the majority. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with them is irrelevant, as the individual consumer conforms to the group's consensus. This often occurs in politics when a voter changes their vote to another candidate, not because they think the other candidate is better, but because everyone else seems to think they are. Rather than argue for the merits of the losing candidate, the voter changes their alignment.

Benefits of the snowball effect

Here are some benefits of the snowball effect:

  • Amass positive reviews: If a company acquires many new customers at once due to the snowball effect, it might collect positive reviews. Offering excellent customer service and high-quality products are ways to do this.

  • Create demand: Companies can use the snowball effect to create interest in new products or services. Creating this interest before releasing products or services can encourage more consumers to want to purchase them.

  • Take advantage of price bubbles: If companies stay abreast of current trends, they can leverage it by offering similar products or services at a discount. For example, if rose gold jewellery is popular, stores can discount their stocks to increase sales.

Challenges of this effect

Here are some challenges of the snowball effect:

  • Spreads quickly: As the snowball effect can spread quickly, companies may find it challenging to control the outcome. This can lead to them not having enough products to satisfy demand.

  • Rejecting beliefs: If consumers reject their own beliefs and purchase something because of the snowball effect, they may regret their purchase. This can lead to product returns or unfavourable reviews.

  • Lack of personal experience: When consumers follow the snowball effect, they might ignore their personal experiences. Consumer decisions not based on personal knowledge of the company or product may pose a challenge to the company's integrity.

Tips to use the snowball effect

Consider these tips to use the snowball effect in a positive way:

Think it through

If you want to use the snowball effect, it's important to consider the company's goals first. Determine the sales goals you want to achieve and assess your target audience to create a strategy for using the snowball effect. For example, your target audience may respond to feeling a sense of belonging by purchasing your product or service. Ensure the marketing campaign has a positive effect on the brand and your customers to encourage repeat purchases and improve brand awareness.

Know the trends

No matter the industry you work in, there are always new trends. It's important to stay informed of these trends to leverage on them with your products or services. For example, if many people switch to milk alternatives like soy or oat milk, offering these alternatives at a coffee shop can increase sales. Perform regular market research to identify the trends, determine how they work, and assess how your competitors implement them.

Related: How to Do Market Research With 6 Guided Steps (With Types)

Leverage influencers

Celebrities and other influencers typically have large audiences that follow them. Companies typically partner with these influencers to promote their brands and products. For example, a small make-up brand may partner with a well-known make-up artist who then uses the brand's products in a video. When influencers promote a product or service, their followers are likely to purchase it, as they trust the influencer's opinion. Purchasing the product or service can also help fans feel a sense of belonging with the celebrity or influencer.

Display your numbers

Consumers typically want to purchase a product or service from a reputable company. To improve the brand's reputation, consider sharing significant numbers that indicate success. For example, the number of followers the brand has, the number of people who visit the website, or the number of customers the company has. This can help you assure new or existing customers that the company values its customer base and interacts with them regularly to cultivate a sense of community.

Future testimonials

Reviews and testimonials can promote positive images of the product or brand. You can encourage customers to share their experiences through website reviews or ask them to write a testimonial about how the product impacted them. You can capitalize on the influence of customers and create trust between the brand and other consumers.

Related: 10 Tips for Creating a Positive Customer Service Experience

Encourage shares

Bandwagons result from the spread of information. Each time the company you work for posts on social media or sends out a newsletter, you can encourage customers to share the message. Be sure to include share buttons in every internal and external communication. You can also encourage employees to share company posts and talk about their own experiences with the brand.

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