No.6 Availability Heuristic & Shopping Sustainably

No.6 Availability Heuristic & Shopping Sustainably

Specific criteria that we remember can affect our decision-making when shopping sustainably.

The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a shopper’s mind when evaluating a specific brand, product or purchase decision.

Shoppers make decisions based on what they remember. They mistakenly assume their memories are a representative sample of reality.

For example, many people think that the likelihood of dying from shark attacks is greater than that of dying from being hit by falling airplane parts, when more people actually die from falling airplane parts. When a shark attack occurs, the deaths are widely reported in the media whereas deaths as a result of being hit by falling airplane parts are rarely reported in the media.

A retail example would be the result of all those specific sustainability claims made by supermarkets on TV. Once you’ve seen a frequent barrage of the same green claim on the television, your brain starts to think everything in that store must be environmentally friendly. 

When it comes to using sustainability to align your brand with the availability heuristic, there are steps you can and should consider.

Be famous for one thing

Don’t try to embed a host of sustainability attributes into the minds of shoppers. Be famous for just one, but be really famous for it. This means doing it well and promoting it far and wide so people associate you with that sustainable act.

Align with the mood of the day

As words, phrases and topics reach tipping points and appear to take over news feeds, try to tap into them in a positive way. We all know about climate change, right? So, if your brand can be linked to slowing climate change, then bingo, you’ve tapped into an availability heuristic.

Stay on message 

Some brands and retailers have had the same green strapline for years. Others flit and change almost on a monthly basis. New ad agency, equals new strapline. But it takes a long time to properly embed a brand into the mind of a shopper. You need your brand to come to mind whenever a shopper thinks of your category, and it needs to be enhanced (but not swamped by) the right sustainability related reasons too.

In summary, endeavour to make your brand the most front of mind in category. Link it to sustainability and link it emotionally too. When shoppers think of your category, they need to immediately think of your brand first, and the fact it is more sustainable second.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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