Why heuristic bias is bad for your brand

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A highbrow challenge for brands of every description.

As defined by Wikipedia; A heuristic technique is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal.

When applied to branding, heuristic bias is a mental shortcut that people (your customers hopefully, but also usually those people you wish to turn into customers unfortunately) use to simplify the complex world we live in. In-short, people form a view of what a brand stands for.

At it’s most simplistic, heuristic bias provides an audience with a view of what the brand does – in their minds they give that brand ‘permission’ to be good at that job, but not at other jobs. At a deeper level, this same bias provides a guide to how well a brand does it’s job and other attributes such as price, reliability, effectiveness, etc. we associate with the brand. We all take these mental shortcuts and whilst this form of pigeon holing simplifies our life, it makes it very difficult for brands.

We become attached to our understanding. Once someone has established a heuristic bias, it’s a hell of a job to change their perception. For brands, it’s very hard to move away from a position a person, or a group of people defined as your market understands. To change perceptions requires a clear and consistent brand strategy that follows these steps:

01. Define your new brand strategy and share it organisation-wide so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
02. Craft simple and clear brand messages that communicate your value proposition and use them consistently. There’s a communication truism that when you feel like if you repeat yourself one more time you’re going to throw-up, your audience is hearing your message for the first time.
03. Walk the talk. Markets are typically un-trusting of brands, especially those asking us to change our perception of them. Brands need to develop a suite of compelling brand gestures from new products and services to customer experience change to acts of social good that demonstrate over time the brand messages are a reflection of brand behavior.

Whilst there’s no silver bullet branding for changing heuristic bias, with a sound strategy and diligent application, any brand can change market perception over time.

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a Melbourne branding agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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