“He’s such a bandwagon.”
That’s what my 11-year-old son says when one of his friends claims to be a University of Virginia basketball fan --after the team's first NCAA championship in 2019. My son has been following the team since he was in diapers and has endured his share of ups and downs.
While long-suffering sports fans of a suddenly hot team may resent the Johnny-come-latelies, the bandwagon effect can be a big boost for brands. It’s a powerful psychological phenomenon whereby consumers do something mostly because other people are doing it -- even to the point of ignoring or overriding their previous beliefs.
The term dates back to the 19th century. Bandwagons were parade floats on which revelers played music, celebrated -- and encouraged observers to jump aboard. Today, the bandwagon appeal has become a bedrock strategy of the advertising and marketing world.
While we all like to think we make our own decisions, the truth is we find comfort and assurance in following others. People conform in order to be liked or accepted. It’s also a reasonable shortcut to take during the buying process; if so many customers like a particular product, most buyers figure it’s probably a solid, low-risk choice for them, too.
In a sense, all forms of third-party validation exploit the bandwagon effect. People want to hear what other people think of you before doing business with you. "Other people" include the news media, influencers, analysts, experts -- and especially your customers. That’s why testimonials, case studies and media coverage are so effective in creating website trust.
The Key to the Bandwagon Appeal: Volume, Volume, Volume
The ultimate power of the bandwagon appeal, however, is in volume -- the quantity of endorsers rather than the quality of their endorsements . It’s less about an individual customer story or positive review, and more about the sheer number of people who buy your product or interact with your brand.
If you are in a volume business, expressing your success quantitatively is the best way to woo new customers onto your bandwagon. And if you can communicate your brand’s popularity in a dynamic way -- such as with real-time statistics -- it’s all the better.
Here are four website trust signals that leverage the bandwagon effect, which you may wish to feature on your homepage or, if you have an e-commerce site, during the checkout process:
- Social media follower statistics - Show the number of followers your company pages have on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to indicate you are a popular brand;
- Product sales statistics - Share and frequently update how many customers you have and/or the number of products purchased ("over 100 billion burgers sold");
- Subscriber and download statistics - Let visitors know how many people have subscribed to your blog or newsletter or downloaded your latest ebook or white paper.
- Real-time social proof notifications - Particularly for e-commerce sites that have good sales, displaying customer actions like downloads and purchases as they happen can have a real bandwagon effect on site visitors. They feel the momentum and want to be part of it.
Bottom line: If you are generating sizable numbers in sales and/or customer engagement, don’t be shy about sharing them.
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