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No. 6 of 36 Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic - a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a shopper’s mind when evaluating a purchase decision.

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

Availability Heuristic - a General Example

Many people think that the likelihood of dying from shark attacks is greater than that of dying from being hit by falling aeroplane parts, when more people actually die from falling aeroplane parts. When a shark attack occurs, the deaths are widely reported in the media, whereas deaths as a result of being hit by falling aeroplane parts are rarely commented on. This biased portrayal leads to an availability heuristic which leads us to dying fear shark attacks more than being killed by falling aeroplane parts.

Availability Heuristic - a Retail Example

Product discounts can form an availability heuristic in shoppers' minds. Seeing a frequent barrage of specific product discounts advertised by supermarkets on TV can lead your brain to start thinking that everything in that store must be better value.

When it comes to aligning your brand with the availability heuristic, there are steps you can and should consider:

  1. Be famous for 1 thing – don’t try to embed a host of brand attributes into the minds of shoppers. Be famous for just one, but be really famous for it. That way you'll own one availability heuristic.
  2. 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.
  3. Stay on message – some brands and retailers have had the same strap line for years. Other flit and change almost on a monthly basis. New ad agency, equals new strap line. 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 for the right reasons too.

In summary, endeavour to make your brand the most front of mind in category. Link it to consumption and link it emotionally too. When shoppers think of your category, they need to immediately think of your brand and draw upon availability heuristics.

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
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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