People want to like you. Make it easy.

I always love it when people ask me what I’m currently reading. That hasn’t happened in a while, but I’ll tell you anyway. I’m reading The Mind of the Market by Michel Shermer. When I ordered it on my Kobo I knew it would be full of social media lessons. Lesson one: taking advantage of cognitive dissonance.


The book looks at ideas and evidence from evolutionary biology, psychology and human behaviour to understand our modern economic lives. That’s an extreme simplification, but it’s fascinating stuff.

Last night I was reading the part about cognitive dissonance.

Simply put, people want to continue believing what they already believe, and they will find a way to rationalize it. Belief in God is probably the most classic example, but there’s definitely an opportunity in here for brands as well.

As marketers, it looks like all we have to do is get fans to believe in the brand (the hard part), then stop them from changing their minds. A lot of advertising is really based on preventing buyer’s remorse.

Think of a sexy double-page spread  for BMW. Nobody is going to see that and decide to buy a BMW. Everyone knows the brand and what it represents. The idea is to provide confirmation for BMW owners that they made the right choice. Similarly, to be the world’s most popular soft drink, Coca-Cola has to have people believe in the brand, not just drink the stuff.

These are really complex ideas (nerd out and read the book!), but here are three ways I think cognitive dissonance can be leveraged in advertising and social media.

Offer validation.

One way you can offer validation is by providing great customer service when people are having an issue with your product. This is where it becomes especially important to separate the trolls from the non trolls.

Fans who have decided to commit to your brand and make it public by interacting with you on social media are actually rooting for you to succeed so their choices look good to others. That’s the good news.

I love this tweet from Lee Clow’s Beard. I think it sums up our jobs as social media managers and advertisers.

If your content and marketing materials all pass through a likability filter, you can’t really go wrong.

Find out what they like and keep giving it to them.

See what your audience is into whether it’s coming from your brand or somewhere else. Their interests should be your interests.

Find the reasons to stray before they do.

Be proactive and adjust your message, your product or both to make sure you still come out on top. One of our clients has a competitor offering a seemingly comparable product at lower prices. We know our product is of higher quality, so we’re coming up with ways to emphasize the features we know are important to our customers. If you do this naturally and subtly, there shouldn’t be a need for heavy handed sales messages or blatantly bashing the competition.

Of course getting people to root for your brand in the first place is another issue altogether. But once you have a fan, remembering why they like you in the first place coupled with a little common sense goes a long way in keeping him.

Gabriella is the Creative Director at 88 Creative. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellainga.