Cognitive Bias 10 out of 25: Influence from Mere Association Tendency

We’ve all been influenced by association one way or another. Some more than others. Maybe it’s someone that you want to be associated with so you try to be more like that person. On the flip side it could be someone that you never want to be like so you avoid everything they’re associated with like the plague. Whatever the case may be this tendency influences your decision making abilities.

This tendency was developed during primitive times and has always stuck around. If someone wanted to be like the best hunter then they would emulate their actions, eating habits, training regiments, etc. The more things they adopted the more likely they would become the best hunter in the tribe.

This tendency works in an opposite fashion. If there’s someone that you aren’t a fan of promoting a product or brand, you’re more likely to avoid those things because you don’t want to be associated with them. We create a negative stereotype based on what is believed to be true without necessarily knowing all the facts or trying it for ourselves. The part of this tendency can be explained more here with the disliking/hating tendency. Now, no one wants to be associated with a loser! People think “that’ll hurt my popularity” and make their decision based off that. That’s why association influences your decision making capabilities.

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Today’s Day and Age

Now-a-days I see this tendency the most with celebrities, athletes, and influencers. These people promote products or brands and make consumers that idolize them want to buy those products. It increases the exposure of the products as well as the sales. Some famous people have such a devoted following that if they tell these followers to buy a product they’ll instantly buy it without even thinking about what they are purchasing. Now that is some powerful influence on the way people make decisions!

Consumers are not only influenced by famous people. They can be influenced by friends, family, strangers, or the masses. People can even be influenced by rivals or enemies! That’s how powerful association is. I mean think about it… you can’t let your neighbor that you hate have a better car than you… can you? You have to go all Ivan Drago on them.

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You clearly have to one up them until you break them! But in all seriousness people can easily be influenced by anyone or anything. The tricky part is figuring out what about association will influence people to make decisions to buy.

What Makes People Buy from Association and How to Use it in Business

There’re various aspects about association that cause people to buy. Some are more powerful influencers than others.

  1. Big brother tendency. I mentioned this one earlier on how celebrities, athletes, or influencers have this uncanny ability to influence their following. That’s because their following idolizes them and wants to be as similar to them as possible. Hiring these people to promote your products or services is almost guaranteed to increase sales. Make sure you know who you are targeting though for more effective campaigns.
  2. Trust. Many customers will buy because they trust someone who has first hand experience with a certain product or service. This is why referrals are so powerful. You don’t have to build up that trust from ground zero. Established trust makes selling so much easier.
  3. Social proof. People tend to be followers and have a pack like mentality. If other people are doing something it can influence others to do the same thing. It increases the confidence in decisions for the consumers. The risk behind a decision typically decreases with social proof.
  4. Going viral. This is huge in today’s age with social media. If something goes viral you’ll have people jump on the bandwagon just to be trendy. The key is to make something trendy and here to stay. Those fidget spinners were huge for a while and then eventually died off. Their popularity was a wave but if you jump on that wave at the right time you can make a killing.
  5. The cause. Having a strong ‘reason why’ is enough to influence people to go with your product, service, or brand. Consumers love being associated with helping a great cause or purpose. This is not only associated with charitable causes but also causes with a brand, business, or even CEO. Apple’s cult like following is a great example of how powerful this is.
  6. Fun. People want to be able to have fun and escape all the negatives even if it’s just for a moment. Making something or an experience fun will get more people involved. People will pay an arm and a leg to have a fun experience. Just think of how much people will pay for a trip to Disney World.
  7. Less fear. When there’s a lack of fear people are more likely to act. Increased numbers in participation will decrease fear. Find a way to get early adopters and the early majority to buy and you’ll see a lack of fear in decision making.

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The Greatest Influence by Association Movement Ever

Combining these aspects will amplify the results you’re seeking. I think the greatest campaign that used all of these tactics was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Pretty much everyone in the world did this challenge. I seriously mean everyone; including Oprah, Obama, J. Beebs, and even the richest man in the world Bill Gates. Talk about making an impact.  

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It combined every single aspect of what I mentioned above and the results were insane. The movement helped raise over $115 million for the cause and great advancements to find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I think the biggest factor that lead to so many people doing the challenge was the lack of fear.

People would get nominated by someone they knew aka a ‘referral.’ Then these people that would never post a video of themselves on social media ever had a lack of fear. This lack of fear was because someone they knew said it was alright for them to do it. Then, whoever does the challenge gets to nominate people they want to see do it. There was less fear because people knew they wouldn’t be the only one’s doing it.

Let this insight on how association can influence decision making be a way for you to amplify your results. Find a way to incorporate all of these into whatever brand, product, service, cause, or movement you’re trying to make and you’ll see results in no time!

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Be great,

Cody Cameron