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Availability Heuristic: Marketing with Memory

Try this:

Remember three great things about your childhood. Pretty easy, right?

Now, remember 15 great things about your childhood. Not so easy to fill up that list, is it?availability heuristic recall few many childhood memories

The ease with which we retrieve memories can work as a signal that something’s true. It’s called the availability heuristic.

How It Works

If it’s easy to remember 3 positive things, then we think: “Gosh, it’s so easy to remember good things, it must be a good.”

But if we find it difficult to come up with 15 positive memories, then we think: “Gosh, I’m having trouble thinking of positive things, I guess it can’t be that great.”

That’s one way the availability heuristic can work for you.

How To Use It

Trying to attract clients from a competitor? Ask them to give you 10 examples of why the competitor was so great. If it’s hard for them to come up with that many, they’ll interpret that difficulty as “Well, I guess they’re not that great after all.”

Conversely, retain your current clients by asking them for 2 examples of why they like working with you. If they easily offer up two examples, then you’ll seem like a better option.

availability heuristic recall few many memories marketing gorilla


Ease of retrieval as information: Another look at the availability heuristic. (1991) Schwarz, N. et al. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 195-202.

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