7 Ways to harness the power of Status Quo Bias in marketing and advertising

Prathamesh Krisang

Status quo bias refers to the tendency for people to prefer things to stay the same and resist change. This bias can be seen in many areas of life, including marketing, sales, branding, design, and advertising. However, by understanding and leveraging this bias, creators can improve their chances of success.

1. Establishing authority

People want to trust an authority figure more than your regular Joe. If you have put in a significant amount of work in developing that expertise, you must talk about it. Most people forget to simply state that they have expertise in the topic they are talking about.

Example: “As the #1 recommended brand by top dentists in the country, you can trust that our toothpaste will effectively clean and protect your teeth”

How to use: Talk about the degree or certification you have received, the number of hours you have put in to learn something, the results you have got for someone or the money you can spent to understand a topic.

2. Highlighting the continuity of the brand

There is something called as Lindy Effect and people understand intuitively. It states that whatever has been around for long enough, will likely stay for longer. Emphasizing the continuity of a brand that has been present in the market for a long time can make potential customers feel more comfortable and familiar with the brand, which can increase their likelihood of choosing it over new options.

Example: “A brand you know and trust, serving you for over 50 years” or “Established since 1946”

How to use: You can talk about the duration in terms of years, decades or generations. Or you can also talk about the date when it was established. Make sure you weave the origin story to make this claim more concrete. People don’t remember specific number. But if you frame it in terms of popular events that your audience knows about, then it will establish your credibility for good. For example, Coca Cola has seen 2 World Wars & a dozen recession since it’s inception. And it is still around as one of the biggest brands in the world.

3. At your convenience

People don’t want to break out of their day to day routine just to get your service. We are wired to use our energy as efficiently as possible. If you can give them their desired outcome within their existing routine, then your product is going to be a default choice, even if it costs more. Think why Uber got such a massive adoption? You got the car at your doorstep. Emphasizing the convenience using your product can make potential customers feel more comfortable with their current decision and increase their likelihood of choosing the brand over new options.

Example: “Get your grocery at your doorstep within 10 minutes, or your money back.”

How to use: You can increase the convenience of your products in 5 ways. First is by saving time. Second is by reducing the mental effort required to use your product. Third is to reduce the physical effort required to use your product. And the forth is to deliver your product as part of their existing routine. If you can execute on making your product part of their existing routine, the other three take care of themselves.

The fifth way to increase the convenience is by using the concept of “defaults”. If you can figure out a way to completely eliminate a bunch of actions that the user has to take to get their desired outcome, you have got a substantially better product. And an opportunity to charge a premium.

4. Making change gradual and reversible

When you are making changes to your brand or product, go slow. Although there are example of brands pulling the switch on the old brand overnight, it also requires pouring huge amount of capital to make sure the customers don’t get confused with the switch.

When introducing a significant change, a company can change gradually and allow customers to easily switch to the new version. By doing this, the transition can be less threatening and more acceptable, as it allows customers to have control over the changes and adjust to them over time. This approach can also be effective in decreasing customers’ resistance to change, which makes the adoption of the new product or service more likely.

Example: A company introducing a new feature in small, incremental steps and allowing customers to easily switch back

How to use: By making change gradual and allowing customers to easily switch back, businesses can make the transition less threatening and more acceptable

5. Emphasizing the risks of change

People tend to be more averse to change if they perceive it to be risky. Emphasizing the risks of change can be used to make people more likely to stick with the status quo.

Example: A bank emphasizing the risk of switching to a new bank, such as the potential loss of automatic payments and direct deposits, difficulty transferring account information, and potential fees for closing the old account.

How to use: By highlighting the risks of switching, such as compatibility issues, loss of data or extra costs, the company can make the status quo more appealing

6. Tapping into nostalgia

Tapping into nostalgia by evoking positive memories or feelings of the past can make potential customers more likely to choose the brand or product.

Example: “Bring back the nostalgia of classic arcade games with our authentic arcade cabinet”

How to use: By tapping into nostalgia, a brand can tap into the status quo bias by evoking positive memories and feelings of the past, which can make potential customers more likely to choose the brand or product as it’s familiar and reminiscent of something positive from the past.

7. Providing a sense of control to counter Status Quo Bias

People tend to be less resistant to change if they feel they have some degree of control over the outcome. This is opposite of using “default” technique stated above.

Example: A company allowing customers to opt-in to new features rather than automatically implementing them.

How to use: By allowing customers to opt-in to new features, it gives them a sense of control over the changes and can help to decrease resistance to change. This is also used by Apple by asking users whether they want to share their data with an app or not. The GDPR also implemented this in European citizens, where it is mandatory for website to ask the user if it is okay to Allow Cookies in their browser.

Cognitive biases that are similar to status quo bias and can influence people’s decision-making and perception of change

How Endowment effect activates Status Quo bias: This bias refers to the tendency for people to place a higher value on things they already own, compared to things they do not own. It can make people resistant to change because they may overvalue what they already have.

How Sunk cost fallacy activates Status Quo Bias: This bias refers to the tendency for people to continue investing in something they have already invested in, even if it is not rational to do so, because they don’t want to feel like they wasted their previous investment. This can make people resistant to change because they may feel that they have already invested too much in something to walk away from it.

How Loss aversion activates Status Quo Bias: This bias refers to the tendency for people to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains. It can make people resistant to change because they may be more focused on avoiding potential losses than on the potential gains of making a change.

How Anchoring bias activates Status Quo Bias: This one backfires when you over promise and under deliver. And serves you when you under promise and over deliver. It refers to the tendency for people to rely too heavily on the first piece of information they see when making decisions.

It can make people resistant to change as it sets a reference point for the value, and any other proposal is judged in relation to that initial point, making it hard to agree with others.

How Commitment bias activates Status Quo Bias: it refers to the tendency of people to stick with their initial commitment. It makes them resistant to change, as they think that if they change their mind, they will look indecisive, inconsistent, or they will lose face.


“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman (https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0374533555)

“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/167464.Influence)

“Persuasive Advertising” by John O’Shaughnessy and Nicholas O’Shaughnessy (https://www.routledge.com/Persuasive-Advertising-1st-Edition/OShaughnessy-OShaughnessy/p/book/9780754624687)

“Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (https://www.heathbrothers.com/books/made-to-stick/)

“Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions” by Dan Ariely (https://www.amazon.com/Predictably-Irrational-Revised-Expanded-Decisions/dp/0061353248)