It’s easier to get people to eat a burger than it is to convince them that eating burgers is a good idea.
Almost everyone, no matter how health conscious, will do or eat something that they know probably isn’t good for them. When we do this, we get a little uncomfortable. We have just done something that conflicts with how we view ourselves and, like Jiminy Cricket, up pops cognitive dissonance to make us feel bad.
In order to help us feel better we need to bring our action in line with our internal values, we can’t undo what’s done so we rationalise it to ourselves. “It was a one off, I hardly ever do it”, “I was hungry and didn’t have much time”. Suddenly we feel OK about it again. The interesting thing though is that, the next time we sin, the rationalisation is already available to us, so we don’t feel so bad. Now we can sin, whilst still holding on to our internal beliefs.
This effect doesn’t just apply to dietary transgressions. It’s an inbuilt mechanism to cope with situations in which we act out of step with our beliefs.
Many times in marketing we set off trying to change people’s attitudes and/or beliefs, which is a big ask. Maybe we should encourage our potential customers to try doing what we need them to, and our good friend cognitive dissonance will take care of the rest.