Hopping on the Bandwagon – Herd Mentality

The bandwagon effect occurs when people do, believe, or say something because they see others doing it even if it does not match their beliefs

I was watching Scam 1992 – the web series on Harshad Mehta. Self-anointed Big Bull. What surprised me was that with just a rumour that Mehta was picking up a share, the rest of the people followed like a herd…jumping on the bandwagon.

The term bandwagon refers to a wagon that carries a band through a parade. As the wagon went down the street, the musicians encouraged people to jump on and enjoy the music. The American elections in 1848 threw up the term “Jump On The Bandwagon”. In particular, bandwagons were used by Dan Rice, a clown, while participating in political campaigns promoting the candidature of Zachary Taylor.

The campaign was successful, and Zachary Taylor became president in 1849.

Why is it called the Bandwagon Effect?

The bandwagon effect occurs when people do, believe, or say something because they see others doing it (so it must be correct) even if it does not match their beliefs (ignoring it) 

The psychological consequence of this is that we tend to choose the majority opinion over the ramifications which come with having our own opinion. We are influenced by other people’s decisions, and we feel it makes sense to follow this path because someone else is doing something.

Whenever we have a decision to be made to win, we look to our associates, friends and family to see what is acceptable, then under pressure to conform and be “normal” – just hop on the bandwagon

Influential Factors

  • Groupthink – The more people adopt a certain trend, it is very likely that other people will follow. There’s a huge amount of pressure to conform, which is probably why bandwagon behaviour is so easy to form. This pressure to fit in can impact many different aspects from what people wear to who they vote for.
  • Aspiration to be right- People want to be right and be a part of the winners. People feel that they are reaching out to others in their social group to get information about what is correct. When everyone seems to be doing something, people feel like this is the right thing to do.
  • Need for inclusion- Fear of exclusion also plays a role. People generally do not want to be the odd one out, so they go along with the rest to ensure social inclusion.
  • Fear of exclusion – People don’t usually want to be the odd one out, so agreeing with other group members ensures social acceptance. The need to belong forces people to accept the norms and attitudes of the majority to get approval from the group.

While the effect can be very strong and lead to trends, this behaviour is also flimsy. People jump in fast, but they jump out fast too. This is probably why some trends are fleeting.

Examples of this bias

  • Social Networks: The more people use a particular social networking site, the more likely it is that other people will also use that site. Bandwagon effects can also affect how posts are shared, as well as online group interactions.
  • Elections: With news channels, social media platforms etc. creating a feeling that one candidate is more popular than another, sometimes people forget their rational thought processes and instead believe that one candidate is stronger than another because they are more (positive) and we are just choosing them instead of seeing what they represent.
  • Diet: Keto, Atkins, Intermittent fasting etc. When everyone seems to be on a certain fad, people are more likely to try the diet themselves.
  • Fashion: Many people wear a certain style of clothing because they can see that other people have adopted the same fashion.
  • Music: When more people hear a certain song or band, other people are more likely to listen.
  • Queuing Up – Seen the famous lineup at the Apple store before the new launch? People wait for hours, cooking, camping etc overnight to get a new Apple gadget! This creates a feeling that it is worth the wait, which increases the value of the product.

How to avoid it

  • People can counter the tendency to use social signals to make important decisions. First, slow down the decision-making process, give time between seeing social signals and the final decision. This can help people think and prevent them from quickly adopting popular but not correct ideas.
  • Second, people should not feel pressured by others. Consider alternatives that contradict the majority opinion. 

How to Use It

  • Show customer testimonials and also add their logo/ photo to it
  • If you have large numbers, showcase it – you emphasize that a large number of people use your product, you are implicitly mentioning the popularity of the product.
  • Showcase customer feedback on the main/ important pages – at every stage, customers are told that someone else finds the product good
  • Association with celebrity or industry thought leaders – One of the earliest examples of the power of celebrity recognition dates back to the 1760s: British potter and businessman Josiah Wedgwood made a tea set for Queen Charlotte. News of the exquisiteness spread quickly. Wedgwood was appointed “potter to her majesty.” Wedgwood made sure everybody knew that he was the queen’s potter. He also convinced the queen to allow him to brand “Queensware,” to leverage association with the queen to enhance the perception of his wares. With more commissions from the highest levels of the British aristocracy, Wedgwood began promoting the association with royalty in his marketing 

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