You may have heard of this concept as Post-Purchase Dissonance, an area where more research has been done, but the fact is that many actions other than purchase create dissonance.
This area of Psychology is more generally referred to as Cognitive Dissonance. Along with Norms of Reciprocity, Dissonance is one of the most important pieces of Psychology for today’s Marketing folks to understand. This is doubly true if you are serious about using a two-way Social model in Marketing.
Here’s why: The Social sword has two edges. If you are going to use a two-way Relationship Marketing approach, you will create higher expectations with those who Engage. If you fail to perform, or just act like an Advertiser would, then you will end up creating more damage than if you had simply ignored the two-way idea.
For Marketing, the important idea to understand is the human brain always questions actions taken, however briefly, and tries to resolve conflict. Any unresolved conflicts tend to taint the action, they create Friction, and drive down the Potential Value of the experience.
The important action item for Marketers is to know this will happen beforehand, and take steps to counteract the Dissonance. The result will be customers who have generally better experiences, and you know what that means, right?
In other words, by planning for Post-Action Dissonance you are using a Prediction that increases Profits or cuts Costs down the road.
For example, in the early shopping carts, there was rarely any “confirmation” of a successful transaction. Merchants found over time this made customers uncomfortable and caused additional customer service load. When the confirmation was added, a lot of these service problems went away and satisfaction rose.
A “discovery” of sorts, but totally Predictable, if you understood the concept of Post-Action Dissonance and planned for it. Other examples from the Lab Store, including the increased Profitability that comes from Predicting Dissonace, can be found here and here.
In fact, think about this: many of the online “discoveries” that have to do with Marketing usability and performance – use of headlines, copy treatments, landing pages, pathing / navigation, button layouts, location signaling, all of it – are rooted in the Psychology of Post-Action Dissonance. And the web is full of these opportunities, because it’s a remote environment, often lacking a feedback loop.
Post-Action Dissonance tells you these lessons can be applied offline as well. It’s not about the channel, it’s about the receiver – humans.
Humans must, they have a drive to resolve the outcome of an action taken with their expectation of taking the action. This is an incredibly powerful idea to know. Next time you are designing a Campaign, Interface, or System, keep Post-Action Dissonance in mind. Why?
Just think about how much proft will be lost when Post-Action Dissonance has to be “Discovered” rather than being Predicted.