October 05, 2008

Seeing is believing ?

I came across an interesting article about a paradigm in the way we choose to believe information.
According to researchers M.B. Welsh & D.J. Navarro from the University of Adelaide in Australia, we are subject to a phenomenon called "Base Rate Neglect" which means we tend to give a stronger weight to information gathered depending on whether it is recent or not (age), geographically relevant (location), and depending on the source and the sample size.
Beyond the very technical content of the article, I found enlightening the way that we discount information and what we choose to believe.

One particular example is a research about Swans, where 999 swans observed around the world are white and one found in Australia is black. Although the probability that the next swan encountered will be white is very high (as per the base rate), research shows that the subject after observing a regional variation is suddenly more prone in believing that the next swan encountered in the same region could actually be black. 

This phenomenon can explain, for example, how negative consumer experiences can ruin brand image quickly. 
But it also opens an interesting door on how to reverse negative brand image. And how one can manage information and marketing activities to reverse consumer beliefs. 
Showing a radical change (something as different as finding a black swan), concentrating on creating positive consumer experiences in stores as well as using word of mouth and PR tactics to spread the word can help reverse previous perceptions. 

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