we are victims of collective illusion.                

A recent report on the Reserve Bank of Australia highlighted the dangers of ‘group think’ in setting interest rates. It was suggested that when the Governor makes a recommendation to the board – the natural inclination is to accept it. A consensus is reached without in-depth critical reasoning. In his book Collective Illusions, Todd Rose examined the […]

A recent report on the Reserve Bank of Australia highlighted the dangers of ‘group think’ in setting interest rates. It was suggested that when the Governor makes a recommendation to the board – the natural inclination is to accept it. A consensus is reached without in-depth critical reasoning.

In his book Collective Illusions, Todd Rose examined the drivers of groupthink. Collective illusions occur when most people express a view the group expresses because they believe most people in the group hold that view. Rose describes this as a ‘funhouse of mirrors’ where the majority think that the majority think something the majority don’t think. Collective illusions can occur due to conformity, information filtering, cognitive bias, or a lack of critical thinking.

Collective illusion is not new. What is relatively new is the availability of social media to facilitate it. Rose notes that some 80% of content on social media is generated by about 10% of the users and that 10% tends to be the most extreme. This creates the illusion that the majority hold the extreme views. Groupthink then causes people to adopt the extreme view – because they think most people hold it. Research suggests that we are poor at understanding what most people think.

Among the many implications of collective illusions for marketing are the following:

  • There is power in leveraging positive reviews, testimonials, and endorsements to reinforce the desired brand perception.
  • It is essential to monitor and address false information to prevent the spread of damaging rumours.

In one study, Rose found very little congruence between what consumers thought the group thought and what the group actually thought. He found that while consumers thought they understood the group view, they rarely did. Among the implications of this for business are that when:

  • A consumer tells you what others think – don’t believe them.
  • You think you know what consumers think – don’t believe you.

Implications of collective illusion more broadly include:

  • It is difficult to understand consumer behaviour without understanding collective illusion.
  • With the advent of social media, it is relatively simple to leverage collective illusion.

The ethics of leveraging collective illusion is a discussion for another day. The need to understand it should be beyond the need for further discussion.

D. John Carlson – Marketing Consultant Perth.

Maximising performance through ethical customer centric marketing, branding, and communication.

Advisor – Director – Mentor.

Consumer insights – strategic planning – marketing consultancy – branding consultancy – communication consultancy – culture consultancy – strategic marketing advisor.

www.djohncarlsonesq.com

 

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