media update’s Taylor Goodman dives into what exactly herd mentality is in marketing, as well as the positive and negative attributes that arise when selling your brand to the public. 

First things first, what in the world is herd mentality? It’s quite simple really. Just as sheep in a herd think collectively and follow each other’s actions, so do humans. 

Adoption of Social Media in Academia, a research initiative, defines herd mentality as “how people get influenced by their peers to do something, mainly because others are doing it.” 

When observing consumer behaviour, it is a common misconception that consumers act autonomously and decide what they want independently of others. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Humans are social creatures and they usually act directly in the company of others, or with others in mind

You may be reading this and wondering, “What? I am an individual and an independent thinker.’ And this may be true! However, it is human nature to want to fit in with our peers. To illustrate this point, we look to Apple as an example: 

In a sense, Apple sells a lifestyle — not just technological devices. When a new iPhone is released, users will flock to the iStore. Some even camp outside the store the day before the release so that they can be the first to get their hands on it. 

This is a clear example of herd mentality — it proves how the Apple customer will go to great lengths to stay ‘in vogue’ and in touch with what is trending with their peers. On the other side of the spectrum, if the user fails to acquire the latest device, they may feel FOMO (fear of missing out) or even like an outsider. This is the power of herd mentality. 

Herd mentality from a marketing perspective

When thinking of herd mentality in a business context, there are a few things marketers need to know. 

Firstly, a disclaimer: As hard as marketers work to understand the herd, it is important to know that consumer behaviour is complex and ever-changing. Consumers are adaptive and they can be unpredictable. You may think you know what is trending right now, but who’s to say that will be popular tomorrow?

This is why, when marketing to the public, you need to know your herd. By building on your knowledge of consumer behaviour and working to understand herd mentality, you will be able to define your target audience accordingly. Mark Earls, an author for Campaign, says that marketers should “study [consumer] behaviour in social contexts, recruit samples and define audiences on this basis.”

Next, marketers need to rethink how they target the public. Instead of a business-to-consumer perspective, you should consider consumer-to-consumer marketing. 

Why, you ask? Well, consumers are more interested in the opinions of their peers than the opinions of brands. This is proven through the success of strategies like referral or word-of-mouth marketing.  

Another aspect of herd mentality that marketers should take note of is social media’s influence. 

Firstly, think of the spread of fake news online, for example. The spread of misinformation can be detrimental to the public in many ways, but it proves how humans can be so blinded when following the herd; that they simply neglect fact-checking and independent thought. 

Next, think of influencers, who are often used as a prominent social media marketing tactic. These individuals are customers that have significant sway over their peers, and they support the notion of consumer-to-consumer marketing. 

By utilising this approach, brands can cater to the group’s interest while communicating their agenda in a way that the consumer will be receptive to. In this sense, the influencer is like the brand’s mouthpiece. But with this being said, it is important to note that the influential consumers can sway the herd positively or negatively. 

All-in-all, influencer marketing proves how we, as humans can easily get swept up into making a purchase or following a trend just because it is what our peers are doing. 

The bright side of herd mentality

If you can leverage the power of herd behaviour in your marketing, there is no question that your business will be successful. This is because your brand will appear as one that appeals to the masses, allowing you to grow brand awareness and your consumer base with little effort. 

And yes, it is not easy at first to understand your herd, but once you do, you will save your time (and money) on marketing to the group interest, as opposed to individuals. 

The drawbacks of herd mentality

When thinking of the drawbacks, one might be wondering: “What if the consumer doesn’t want to be a part of the herd?’ It’s easy to assume that herd behaviour is ingrained into all of us, but it’s also important to remember that some may fight this urge to fit into the status quo. Essentially, there will always be an outlier, and as hard as you try to cater to everyone it is likely there will be some that you just can’t reach.

Additionally, it is also crucial for marketers to note the risk associated with buying into herd behaviour because of the unpredictable nature of trends. As stated in our disclaimer above, one day something could be ‘in’ and the next day it could be ‘out.’

And so, understanding herd mentality can provide marketers with valuable insight into consumer behaviour, but it is important to proceed with caution. 

Are you guilty of following the herd? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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If you want to learn more about consumer behaviour, check out our article, Marketers, here’s why consumers don't trust you.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy