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Are You and Your Brand Plan Suffering from Status-Quo Bias?

Do Not ChangeAs humans and therefore, marketers, we all have a tendency to irrationally prefer to stick with what we already have. Psychologists refer to this as the ‘status-quo bias.’ Given the volume of decisions to be made during the brand planning process and the explosion of alternative marketing channels, status-quo bias often leads marketers to resist change and reject new ideas and initiatives.

I affectionately refer to the outcome of this bias as the ‘cut and paste brand plan.’ It’s basically last year’s approved brand plan, pasted in this year’s template with a few amped up adjectives added to make it feel fresh.

So, what causes us to settle for the status-quo instead of objectively creating the best plan to maximize the commercial success of our Brand in the new year? In my experience, the status-quo bias is the primary culprit due to the combination of two ideas:

  1. Loss aversion – tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains
  2. Endowment effect – weighing the potential losses of switching from the status quo more heavily than the potential gains associated with a change

Ok, so now that you know about the status-quo bias, how do you, as a marketer, guard against it? Believe it or not, the most effective antidote to the status-quo bias is to procrastinate a bit. When we are rushed, we tend to make decisions that tilt toward the default option.

According to research conducted by psychologist Niels van der Ven, of the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research in Netherlands, subjects choose the default option 82% of the time when asked to decide immediately but only 56% of the time when allowed some delay.*

It’s no wonder that many marketers default to the ‘cut and paste brand plan’ with the bulk of planning occurring during the summer months, when the planning process and increased personal obligations add to an already hectic day-to-day work schedule.

For most marketers, taking a fresh look at the Brand Plan after Labor Day is a good antidote to the all too common status-quo bias.

And you thought that you’d never have to use that Psych class you took in college.

* Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, January 2011.

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