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Cool Kids, Bandwagon Effect, and You!

The cool kids are doing it. You wanna be cool, right? So just do it. Everyone else is.

The Bandwagon Effect isn’t exactly like peer pressure. However, our desire to join the cool kids as youths, wanting to be popular like them, do the things they do… that’s the bandwagon effect for sizzles. 

That continues on into our adulthood, from fashion to politics to even our fandoms. Certainly with the products we decide to use or not use. Something you can leverage to pull your conversion rates outta the dumps.

What Exactly is the Bandwagon Effect?

The bandwagon effect is simply when we choose to do something because everyone else is doing it. The more people doing it, the more likely we’ll jump in. 

Or jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.  

Now you might be asking what a “bandwagon” is? You may have seen one in a parade carrying band musicians. A circus clown coined the phrase “jump on the bandwagon” during an 1848 presidential campaign.

An actual bandwagon.

A literal bandwagon.

It’s a cognitive bias that influences people and convinces them to try something because it’s the hotness everyone is doing. 

Why We Experience the Bandwagon Effect

Frankly, the bandwagon effect appeals to our egos and our desires as humans. It appeals to and encourages our: 

  • Need to not be wrong. If everyone is using a product, then it confirms our own suspicions about it. And that makes us right. Also, we don’t want to be wrong so we operate from the assumption that if others are doing it then it must be right. That they must know something we don’t know. 
  • Need for belonging. We don’t want to be left out. We want to be part of something larger than ourselves. We’re likely to join something or use a product because a bunch of people are doing so. That makes us part of the in-crowd. 

Some would argue the bandwagon effect is Groupthink by any other name. We’re conditioned to want to conform. To go with the crowd rather than against it. We don’t want to be the odd person out. Once again, to be among the cool kids. 

Bandwagon Effect, Marketing, UX, and You! 

There is great power in the bandwagon effect and that comes with great responsibility. Being aware of the cognitive biases at play is imperative. You have to account for them in your target audience and in your own product development.

Beware of some of these biases

  • The Narrative Fallacy. We have a tendency to craft elaborate stories to link what seems to be desperate bits of information. Because we seek meaning. We want to link causation to a series of events, even when none exists. So we create stories so it all makes sense. That leads to false narratives.
  • Confirmation Bias. Here we seek out only the information that confirms our own assumptions, beliefs, or hypotheses. Then we reject anything that counters those. 
  • Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is where we think we have skills or knowledge that we don’t actually possess. We won’t acknowledge our own incompetence. Like going to Karaoke and everyone thinks they can hit the high note in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (Hint: none of us can no matter how many drinks we’ve had.) 
  • Backfire Effect. This is where we don’t take in any facts that counter our worldview and beliefs. We reject them immediately and only strengthen our own erroneous beliefs. 

While the bandwagon effect is a cognitive bias in its own right, there’s a little of these other biases at play. Because we jump on when we see our own narratives and assumptions reinforced by a large group. This is herd behavior.

Being part of that kind of groupthink results in the backfire effect and also the Dunning-Kruger effect where we think we can’t do or be wrong. 

Sounds a bit dire? But it isn’t. Because once marketers or UX designers grok these biases then can properly lean into bandwagon effect without seemingly duping your audience. Thus, becoming more powerful than you can ever imagine.

3 Tactics for Using the Bandwagon Effect to Boost Your Conversion Rates

Now that we’ve given you the nitty gritty of the bandwagon effect, let’s get down to brass tacks. You can utilize things such as social proof, customer reviews, and so on, to influence your target audience’s decision making.  

Let’s break down tactics that’ll help you grow your conversions.

Tactic #1: Show Me the Numbers!

Like Jerry Maguire, you gotta show them the money… um, I mean the numbers. Having a large number of customers shows you’re winning the game. After all, nobody wants to join a losing team. This is known as social proof.

McDonald's famous sign.

McDonald’s used to announce they’ve served billions. (Photo Credit: Paul Narvaez)

There’s a variety of ways to do this: 

  • Showcasing how many customers. McDonald’s used to show either how many burgers or customers they served. A clever bit of unclear marketing that they’ve stopped doing. But giving a ballpark figure helps potential customers confidence in choosing your product. 
  • Highlighting big name customers. Another way to get customers to give you a try is putting big name clients front and center. Mailchimp does this with a twist, adding how long they’ve been a loyal user. 
Mailchimp's client list.

Mailchimp’s marketing site lists their top brand customers.

  • Testimonials. This is another great way to show you’re winning. Having customers speak glowingly about how your product helped them goes a long way. Even better if you feature exactly how they benefited.

Testimonials from Mailchimp.

Psychologically this plays into our desire for belonging. Our need to be part of the winning side. Because if those folks can succeed using a product or service, then we can win too.

Tactic #2: Get That Sweet, Sweet Influencer Juice

Influencers are the new endorsements. Or is the new online marketing? Either way it’s a good way to get some bandwagon advertising.

Having an Influencer promote your product or service on social media gets you some much needed juice. And it plays into that fantasy that we can be just like them, as popular or as beautiful as them.

Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram account.

An example of Influencer Marketing. (Source: Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram account.)

Or depending on the Influencer, we just trust their opinion more. Say if Oprah recommends a book, we might be more than likely to pick it up. After all, it’s Oprah. She’s a trustworthy source, right?

Tactic #3: Don’t Make Changes Without Testing 

Lastly, don’t make changes willy nilly. It could backfire internally for your team, which is just as susceptible to it. 

Say, you’re part of a team that strongly believes a button color will drastically improve conversions, you’ll be just as likely to agree. You’ll go along with it. Cause if everyone thinks its the right choice then it must be so.

Not really. And that’s the danger. You could change that button and your conversions will plummet like the Dow Jones on a bad trading day. 

That’s why you should test with your customers, which is another great way to get them on your bandwagon. Survey them before you make any changes. 

Helio is good for those quick questions on which button color resonates the most with your audience. You can even use one of our templates to get you started. Test drive your customer loyalty and find out how you can get more customers to jump on the bandwagon. 

Customer Loyalty Program Test

Delve into the preferences and behaviors of your market to boost the performance of your customer loyalty efforts.

Use this template for:

  • Product Design
  • Find out what keeps your customers coming back.
  • Learn to leverage your loyalty program to gain more customers.
Use Template

Moreover, surveying your audience makes them feel a part of your team. And, like we’ve said, we all like to join the winning side.