Academics study how marketing execs can avoid personal biases

By our News Team | 2022

Researchers say many marketers are aware of the ‘false consensus effect’ but admit that they still frequently fall prey to it.

How often do ‘I’ statements justify marketing decisions? As it turns out, fairly often. 

According to a recent article published by the American Marketing Association (AMA), it is well established that marketers tend to project their own preferences onto target consumers’ preferences regarding new products or features. 

This phenomenon is referred to as the ‘false consensus effect’, which is one of the most prevalent biases studied in psychology. Most marketing executives are aware of this effect and admit that they frequently fall prey to it.


Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

Multiple remedies have been suggested to combat such bias in decision making. But how effective is suppressing marketing managers’ personal preferences to reduce this effect?

In a recent Journal of Marketing Research article, academics Walter Herzog, Johannes D. Hattula, and Darren W. Dahl explored this question and uncovered some surprising dynamics regarding the false consensus effect among marketing managers. 

Through a series of interviews and studies with marketers, the authors found that the most common approaches to addressing the false consensus effect may backfire. This is because the effectiveness of reducing bias by suppressing one’s own preferences depends on the clarity and certainty of the individual’s personal preferences.

‘Low certainty’ preferences are harder to plan for

If managers have clear personal preferences and are certain about them, they can accurately notice and remove any personal preferences in their predicted preferences. However, in ‘low certainty’ situations, where managers are unsure of their own preferences, this becomes an impossible question to answer. 

Thus, marketing executives with vague and weakly held preferences deceive themselves; they believe they have addressed false consensus bias by asking the question, while simultaneously having not changed much about their thinking.

Therefore, suppressing personal preferences in this situation might actually be counterproductive and make managers even more vulnerable to the false consensus effect.

The bottom line? Marketers with firmly held preferences are the ones who could benefit most from some self-monitoring. 

However, marketers with loosely held preferences will likely not be safeguarded from the false consensus bias by the same approach; instead, they should remain curious about the consumer without worrying too much about suppressing their own (weakly held) opinions.

“We recommend that marketers focus on what they can do (i.e., reduce the false consensus effect for strong preferences) rather than on what they cannot do (i.e., reduce the false consensus effect for weak preferences),” the study authors said in an interview with the AMA.

“Marketers following this recommendation are, on average, less susceptible to the false consensus effect, and their predictions of consumer preferences tend to be more accurate.”

Read the full AMA article here.

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.