What is the Bandwagon Effect?
The Bandwagon Effect refers to people’s tendency to do something simply because other people do it, regardless of whether this aligns with their original beliefs.
The term bandwagon stems from “hop on the bandwagon,” whereby people become interested in or follow an activity or cause that has recently gained popularity, usually to gain the acceptance of or recognition of others. It is often referred to as ‘herd mentality’ or ‘groupthink’.
Bandwagon Effect Examples
There are many examples of the Bandwagon Effect in action, not only in-store and online within retail, but in wider context too:
- Food and drink: wine shoppers will often go for the bottle that appears well depleted on the shelf because surely this signifies that this brand has been a popular purchase? The Bandwagon Effect kicks in and we’re persuaded into purchasing because other shoppers have purchased before us.
- Fashion: many people are influenced by celebrities and popular culture, meaning that they adopt a certain style of clothing after they have seen their favourite public figure sporting the look.
- Music: once an artist has broken into the music industry, their music popularity will snowball as more and more people begin listening to their songs, recommending them or sharing their music on social platforms.
- Social Media: not only is social media influential in kick-starting the Bandwagon Effect, but new platforms rely on the Bandwagon Effect for their own market domination - take Tik Tok as an example: as increasing numbers of people started using this network, other individuals jumped on the bandwagon and used it too.
- Politics: research suggests that people are more likely to vote for a candidate if they already have a majority backing or are perceived to be ‘winning’. The Bandwagon Effect can influence our thoughts and opinions on life-changing choices.
Influential Factors in the Bandwagon Effect
We are all affected by those who we surround ourselves with; if we are around people who exercise frequently, we are more inclined to exercise too. If we surround ourselves with people who read a lot, it encourages us to read more. That’s the Bandwagon Effect - the tendency to follow trends and fads because people gain information from others and feel a desire to conform. Often this desire is confused with pressure to conform with society which is why the bandwagon behaviours generally form very quickly.
A need to be right
A large part of why people follow suit is because they look to other people in their social group for guidance on what is right or acceptable. If there appears to be lots of people doing something, we tend to believe that this is the right thing to do; that it is socially acceptable and perhaps even encouraged.
A desire to be included
FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out. It’s everywhere! Social media plays a large part in establishing this mental state because we see everyone’s lives and desire to be part of what they are doing. If we see a social gathering happening, we want to be part of it. If we see someone on holiday, we want to go away too. The fear of social isolation or exclusion plays a huge role in the bandwagon effect. Whilst this can prove an extremely powerful factor in accelerating business, it’s worth remembering that people tend to jump off the bandwagon just as quickly as they jumped on! Take fidget spinners as an example - back in 2017 they were rife, but their popularity was short-lived.
How to use the Bandwagon Effect in Marketing
Appear popular - use scarcity tactics
A vital instigator of the Bandwagon Effect is perceived popularity. Aim for your brand to appear as though you are very popular and that you are the choice many other people go for. Limit availability in-store to encourage buying behaviour. It’s just like when you see ‘only 1 room left’ on a hotel reservation!
Dominate the market - be everywhere
Otherwise known as the mere exposure effect. The more shoppers see your brand, the easier it will be for them to recognise it and therefore, the more popular they will perceive it. The more people perceive it as popular, the more the Bandwagon Effect takes over, snowballing into increased sales.
Dominate conservation - be talked about
Give shoppers and consumers reasons to 'jump on the bandwagon' - involve your brand in their wider conversation, such as on social media. The Bandwagon Effect is in full force on social platforms, with influencers making millions from becoming trendsetters and getting others to follow suit.
Appear trusted - build credibility
This is perhaps easier to implement in online sales platforms, but where possible, feature customer testimonials and company logos to showcase happy customers. Also, highlight key statistics to support case studies and prove your value.
The Bandwagon Effect is a powerful cognitive bias. One that offers your brand the chance to grow through perceived popularity. The Bandwagon Effect may have its ups and downs though as in-store activity can undermine it. For example, straight after the mid-afternoon ‘rumble’ shoppers can’t tell what products have been selling well.