What Is Cognitive Dissonance Marketing? (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 14, 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.

Cognitive dissonance is an internal conflict that people experience when their beliefs and opinions conflict with new information. When people experience cognitive dissonance while deciding to purchase a product, marketing campaigns can often help to resolve this conflict. As a marketer, the concept of cognitive dissonance can be helpful when creating a compelling brand message. In this article, we explore what cognitive dissonance marketing is, explain the concept of cognitive dissonance, discuss how marketing resolves cognitive dissonance, and share examples of cognitive dissonance in marketing campaigns.

What is cognitive dissonance marketing?

Professionals can use the effects of cognitive dissonance marketing as a strategy to help create effective brand messaging. Consumers may experience cognitive dissonance when considering buying a product they may not necessarily need or is too expensive. When a consumer sees a marketing campaign that enhances their self-image, they may feel more inclined to accept the message included in the marketing campaign. A marketing campaign can project a favourable ideal of consumers and help resolve their internal conflict, motivating them to make the purchase.

Read more: Marketing vs. Sales (With Definitions and Differences)

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a state of mind where a person has an internal conflict of opposing ideas that may be uncomfortable. When people experience cognitive dissonance, they resolve this internal conflict by making sense of the information and relating it to their beliefs and perceptions. People seek consistency in their views and behaviours, so when they encounter information that doesn't align with their beliefs, they may experience discomfort. This discomfort often motivates people to find a way to reconcile the two ideas, but they often reject one of the views to resolve their dissonance.

There are three types of cognitive dissonance that a person can experience. For example, if a person's logical and emotional feelings conflict with each other, if their actions don't match their mindset, and if they start questioning their beliefs. These experiences can occur in many instances. For example, someone who's conscious about their spending and wants to purchase an expensive new product may come into an internal conflict about justifying their purchase.

Read more: What Is Cognitive Ability? Definition and Examples

What are the limits of cognitive dissonance marketing?

Cognitive dissonance marketing can be a very useful campaigning strategy, but there are also limits to using it. A consumer may encounter alternative marketing sources that may influence them to not purchase a product, or their views may differ too much from the brand message. Here are some limits to cognitive dissonance in marketing:

Alternative sources

When a consumer experiences cognitive dissonance, it's often because of differing opinions from other sources. Consumers often see alternative information from the media, influencers, and other marketing campaigns that promote messages which may not align with their beliefs. Normally, their beliefs and opinions match those shared by a community, and consumers may feel discomfort if their beliefs are different.

If a consumer finds their beliefs to contradict popular opinions, it may impact their decision-making process. The consumer may reject the approach and the product altogether if their views differ too much from the views offered through the marketing strategy. This may also result in contempt for the product or company. In this case, cognitive dissonance is not be an effective marketing strategy.

Buyer's remorse

Buyer's remorse is the feeling of regret a consumer may feel after purchasing a product. Even if your marketing campaign successfully motivates the consumer to purchase the product, cognitive dissonance can also occur post-purchase, resulting in buyer's remorse. Consumers with buyer's remorse may question themselves if they made the right decision in choosing this particular brand. This conflict may be detrimental to a company's customer retention. This can also result in the customer returning the product or providing poor reviews to other potential customers. In this case, attempting to resolve the consumer's cognitive dissonance is ineffective.

Related: What Is Product Differentiation? A Complete Guide

How does marketing resolve cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance marketing involves resolving the consumer's anxieties by using strategies to boost the consumer's confidence, or differentiate the product from other competitors' products. When consumers have more confidence in a product or in the company, by being persuaded by the campaign's message, they may be more inclined to purchase the product. Usually, marketing campaigns may try to persuade consumers by using strategies that relate to the consumer, has a friendly tone, has factual information, or creates a reactionary response, or affirmations. Here are five ways to resolve cognitive dissonance in your marketing campaigns:

Relating to consumers

Relating to consumers can help resolve their anxieties by appealing to their strongly held beliefs. Marketing campaigns may resolve potential challenges by reinforcing the consumer's internal beliefs in the campaign. For example, a campaign may project an appealing self-image of the consumer if they purchase a certain product, which can be a motivating factor for the consumer to make the purchase. This can create a relatable connection between the consumer and the product, boosting their confidence in the product, by believing that the product can improve their life.

Using a friendly tone

Using a friendly tone in your marketing campaign consistent with consumer expectations may have a positive effect on the consumer. The brand may appeal to consumers by using a friendly, casual tone, giving them a positive impression of the brand and helping them overcome any internal conflicts. For example, the usage of logos and colours can contribute to the overall positive tone of a campaign.

Read more: What Are Branding Strategies? (With Definition and Benefits)

Verifying your claims

When a campaign promotes a company's claim, it provides consumers with factual information that aligns with their beliefs, reinforcing them, and resolving their cognitive dissonance. Using testimonials from other consumers, independent studies, and expert opinions are all typical marketing campaign methods. This method appeals to the rational decision-making side of consumers, convincing them that the product is the right choice. Consumers might consider alternative opinions by gathering all information and making an informed decision that best suits their needs.

Engaging a reactionary response

The goal of a marketing campaign is to engage a reactionary response from the consumer. Usually, they want to draw out a positive reaction associated with the product. An effective strategy can address any doubts or anxieties a consumer may have and resolve their conflicting internal thoughts. Consumers may disregard anxieties about the price and quality of the product if the campaign successfully appeals to their emotions, motivating them to purchase a product to elevate their happiness.

Creating affirmations

Creating affirmations can help consumers resolve whatever prevents them from making purchasing decisions. For example, having anxiety about how much the product costs or how long the product might last. Marketers are often aware of what may prevent consumers from purchasing certain products. Addressing these issues and creating affirmations about the product through the brand's messaging can resolve consumers' concerns and motivate them to purchase a product.

Examples of cognitive dissonance in marketing

It can be difficult to identify where marketers use cognitive dissonance in their campaigns. Here are a few examples of cognitive dissonance to help you better identify it:

Self-image

A company plans to release an expensive new perfume. It creates a marketing campaign that seeks to reinforce the consumer's self-image as glamourous or living a lavish lifestyle. The campaign showcases the perfume as the kind of product a model or celebrity would use before attending an event. Consumers may experience an internal conflict of spending a significant amount of money on perfume. Marketers try to resolve this internal conflict by releasing a campaign that promotes a lavish lifestyle the consumer might live if they purchase the product.

Health care

A pharmaceutical company releases a new brand of fast-relieving headache medication. Their strategy is to use factual information, such as expert opinions, to market it to consumers. Consumers face alternative information from other experts stating that drinking water or getting enough rest is enough to relieve headaches and the medication may have potential side effects.

The consumer faces an internal conflict when purchasing this new medication by considering the potential side effects or just drinking water instead. The campaign tries to resolve this internal conflict by focusing on the expert opinions of the fast-relieving aspect of the medication to resolve any doubts the consumer may have.

Electronic devices

A company that develops electronic devices comes out with a new laptop that costs slightly more than the competitors' products on the market. This is because the company has a reputation for their high-quality technicians and long-lasting products. Here, consumers have an internal conflict in choosing which brand to support. Consumers typically consider both the price and innovative quality when purchasing a laptop. To resolve their internal conflict, the marketer creates a campaign that emphasizes the distinct features of their product.

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