Scientists have studied and quantified this phenomenon to such lengths that it has become a well established truth in the field of psychology.
“In our evolutionary past… one stupid move and you were dead. Everything could lead to your rapid departure from the game of life – carelessness on the hunt, an inflamed tendon, exclusion from the group and so on. People who were reckless or gung-ho died before they could pass on their genes to the next generation. Those who remained, the cautious, survived. We are their descendants.
Losing $100 costs you a greater amount of happiness than the delight you would feel if I gave you $100. In fact, it has been proven that, emotionally, a loss ‘weighs’ about twice as much as a similar gain. Social scientists call this loss aversion.
For this reason, if you want to convince someone about something, don’t focus on the advantages; instead highlight how it helps them dodge the disadvantages.”
Now that you’ve learned about loss perceptions and aversion, try your hand at this exercise with a real world example from The Art of Thinking Clearly. Try to guess which messaging performed better:
A. Research shows that women who do self-breast exams have an increased chance of finding a tumor in the early, more treatable stage of the disease.
B. Research shows that women who do not do self-breast exams have a decreased chance of finding a tumor in the early, more treatable state of the disease.
The second one performed better because women were more compelled to take action when they heard that they might miss the chance to catch a problem than they were when they were presented with the opportunity to catch a problem.
The human perceptions of gain and loss can serve to shape your marketing message as well. Have an idea of how you can use loss aversion in your online marketing (or an example of how you’re already using it)? Let us know, we’d love to hear it!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!