How Confirmation Bias Holds Back Your Digital Marketing Campaigns


When putting together an effective marketing campaign, you face many challenges. Without realizing it, some of your biggest challenges come from your own brain. Every single person on Earth has to deal with cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is a built-in limitation in the way your brain functions. If you were a computer, you would call a cognitive bias a programming flaw. One common, and particularly dangerous type of bias is confirmation bias.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to believe information that confirms your own beliefs. That is, you are more likely to believe news, or data that confirms what you already think you know, and less likely to believe data that disproves what you already think you know. This bias can keep you from giving the proper weight to data that disproves your own beliefs.

Let’s say you use two different reporting tools to measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign, and the two tools show different results for said campaign. One shows that your recent Facebook campaign has been effective- driving impressions, conversions, and all that other fun stuff that marketers love. The other shows that the marketing campaign was less effective: engagement was actually down, and your ROI was relatively low. Which report would you believe?

More than likely- the one that showed your campaign was more effective, even if that data was shaky.

Confirmation bias keeps us from being effective marketers. It keeps us from dealing with hard facts because they contradict things we believe- sometimes things we believe deeply.

How can we, as marketers, combat confirmation bias?

  1. Don’t assume data, or a co-worker is right just because they agree with you. Examine any information you get critically.
  2. Treat everything like a scientific process. Create a thesis, execute your “experiment” (campaign), record results, test, measure, and repeat the process until you have enough information to prove or disprove your thesis.
  3. Seek out opinions that are different from your own. Do you have a co-worker or business partner who has beliefs about marketing that are different from your own? Engage this person. Challenge each other. This can help you learn, and grow as a marketer.

And once you’ve overcome confirmation bias, get tips to take your campaigns global.