The optimism bias refers to the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, the likelihood of good things happening to them, and the ability to avoid bad things happening. In marketing, sales, branding, design, and advertising, optimism bias can be leveraged to influence people’s decisions and actions. Here are some ways to leverage optimism bias:
1. The Power of Positive Framing
In marketing and advertising, framing a product or service in a positive light can make it more appealing to potential customers.
Example: A fast food restaurant might advertise their meals as “Made with fresh, never frozen ingredients” rather than “Not made with frozen ingredients.”
2. Selling the Dream
Connecting a product or service to, what potential customers dream about or expect from your brand, can be an effective way to close a deal.
Example: A real estate agent might pitch a fixer-upper house as a “DIYer’s Dream” with “Endless possibilities”
3. Using Humor to Lighten the Mood
Using a playful and humorous tone in advertising can help to diffuse any potential negative feelings associated with a product or service.
Example: “The Car-a-oke”, A car dealership could use humor in its advertising to make the process of buying a car more enjoyable and relatable. They could create a series of commercials featuring customers singing their favorite songs in their new cars, or showcasing the sales staff doing a lip-sync battle.
4. The Visual Optimism
In design, using bright, bold colors and positive imagery can create a sense of optimism and energy.
Example: The Urban Clothing line company could use a bright and bold color palette featuring shades of neon and use imagery of urban landscapes and bright lights. The branding itself could feature bold typography and dynamic illustrations, evoking a sense of energy and possibilities of the city. The imagery of the product, like the clothing, could feature youth enjoying the city, going to parties, dancing, skateboarding, etc.
5. The ‘Can-Do’ Attitude
Using language and imagery that evokes a sense of determination and positivity can make a product or service seem more appealing.
Example: A car company that sells rugged off-road vehicles could use language like “Nothing can stop you” and visuals of the car in challenging, off-road terrain to evoke a sense of confidence and capability.
6. The ‘Make a difference’ Marketing
Highlighting the positive impact your product or service can have on the world can create a sense of optimism and purpose.
Example: A company that sells reusable water bottles could highlight how purchasing their product will reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles and play a small role in saving the environment.
7. Creating a sense of progress or accomplishment
Creating a sense of progress or accomplishment through a brand can help customers feel optimistic about their own lives. This can be done through loyalty programs or progress tracking.
Example: A gym might offer a loyalty program that rewards customers with a free personal training session after they have completed a certain number of visits.
8. Focusing on Solutions, not Problems
Emphasizing solutions and positive outcomes can create a sense of optimism in advertising.
Example: An energy company might create an advertisement that highlights the positive impact of renewable energy on the environment, rather than focusing on the negative effects of fossil fuels.
9. Future-oriented language
Using future-oriented language in advertising can help create a sense of optimism and anticipation.
Example: A retirement savings plan provider might feature a photo of a happy retiree enjoying their golden years and the caption “Start planning for your future today, retire comfortably tomorrow.”
Several cognitive biases that are related to optimism bias
The “Confirmation Bias”: This is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. This can lead to overconfidence in one’s predictions and decisions.
The “Hindsight Bias”: This is the tendency to believe, after an event has occurred, that one would have predicted or expected the outcome, even if there was little or no objective basis for the prediction. This can lead to an overestimation of one’s ability to predict future events.
The “Self-serving Bias”: This is the tendency to attribute one’s successes to internal factors (such as ability or effort) and attribute one’s failures to external factors (such as luck or circumstance). This can lead to an overestimation of one’s abilities and a lack of accountability for one’s mistakes.
The “Illusory Superiority”: This bias is the tendency of people to overestimate their own abilities and to overestimate the number of correct answers they will give on a test or how good they are at a task.
“The Optimism Bias” by Tali Sharot (https://www.ted.com/talks/tali_sharot_the_optimism_bias)
“The Power of Positive Framing” by Jonah Berger (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/675097)
“Why We Fall for Brand Aspirations” by Jonah Sachs (https://www.fastcompany.com/90346661/why-we-fall-for-brand-aspirations)
“Designing for the Future: How Futuristic Design Can Evoke Optimism” by Ayala Laufer-Cahana (https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2019/03/designing-for-the-future/)
“The Role of Humor in Advertising” by John D. Leckenby (https://www.jstor.org/stable/1249292)
Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175–220.
Fischhoff, B. (1975). Hindsight ≠ foresight: The effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1(3), 288.
Miller, D. T., & Ross, M. (1975). Self-serving biases in the attribution of causality: Fact or fiction? Psychological Bulletin, 82(2), 213–225.
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134.