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How to use ‘input bias’ in marketing

Anyone interested in psychological techniques to incorporate into their promotional efforts might like to study what’s called ‘Input Bias’. The oldest academic reference I can find to this comes from about twenty years ago, although use of the technique probably goes back to the dawn of sales.

Input bias is ‘the systematic misuse of input information in judgments of outcome quality’. In other words, it’s the tendency of people to base their evaluation of an outcome on what they know about the inputs that created it.

For example, if two people are given identical meals, and one is told it took six hours to prepare, while the other is told it took ten minutes, guess what? The person who was told it took six hours will probably rate it more highly.

How do we use this?

It seems that people do care about the time and effort that goes into something, even if they probably shouldn’t. If our company put 10,000 hours of work into its latest product, and our competitor put in zero (because it already had the product), we may have had to do that just to play catch-up. But truthfully highlighting how much work we’ve done will give us a perceived advantage.

If a product is the culmination of ten years’ development using research in three countries, say so.

If a sales representative is prepared to travel hundreds of miles to make a presentation, highlight that fact.

And for anyone wondering if this works, it can be tested even in something as simple as an email subject line, perhaps the easiest A/B test of all.