False Consensus Effect and Airport Signage
The next couple of weeks I’m going to blog about my observations and experiences at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas. I’m going to start with my flight and the concept called the false-consensus effect.
The false-consensus effect happens when our biases tend to overestimate the extent to which an opinion, belief, preference, value or habits are expressed as typical of all others. You might recognize it when someone says, “Everyone _______________ (blanks).” It’s similar to the Curse of Knowledge.
For me, the false-consensus effect also happens when a marketing category sees others in their space advertising or marketing and wants to copy the idea or placement without knowing if the idea is viable. It’s why all car dealer ads look the same—they just copy each other. I still can’t find one person who knows what MSRP means in car ads.
It also happens when one category dominates a medium. As I was preparing for my flight, I noticed that nearly 15 colleges were advertising in the airport. Many had their ads right next to each other. No “message separation” as we call it in the business.
If you were a college administrator you might think, “look at all these other colleges advertising here, I better have my marketing department advertise here.” Maybe the ads work. Maybe they don’t. However, as I looked all around on that Friday morning, I didn’t see one teenager walking around. The opposite of the false consensus is the Zig-Zag effect– When everyone is zigging, it might be time to zag.