Could Your Marketing Efforts Become Invisible to your Prospects?

You’ve just put together an eye-catching marketing piece on your company’s new treatment for a serious disease.  You’ve backed your claims up with solid evidence. But whether your principle prospects are doctors or consumers, it’s very possible that they will pay little or no attention to your excellent marketing efforts.  The culprit?  Selective perception (a.k.a. selective exposure).

 According to marketing experts Roger Kerin and his coauthors, “Selective exposure occurs when people pay attention to messages that are consistent with their attitudes and beliefs and ignore messages that are inconsistent.”  Everyone feels that their beliefs are correct and that their group is the best group.  Our brains consistently seek out information that confirms that we’re right and tend to ignore facts that get in the way.

 Startling Results

Is selective perception really that strong?  Consider some hard scientific evidence.  In a classic study, Princeton and Dartmouth football fans viewed a film showing parts of a particularly nasty Princeton-Dartmouth football game.  Princeton supporters reported seeing nearly twice as many penalties committed by Dartmouth players than did Dartmouth fans.  In fact, one Dartmouth alum believed that he had only watched part of the film, since he hadn’t seen a single penalty committed by a Dartmouth player.

This “blindness” is by no means confined to Dartmouth football fans.  In Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), authors Carol Tavris, PhD and eminent social psychologist Elliot Aronson, PhD relate some telling research done during the Bush-Kerry presidential campaign:   

Neuroscientists have recently shown that these biases in thinking are built into the very way the brain processes information – all brains, regardless of their owners’ political affiliation.  For example, in a study of people who were being monitored by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while they were trying to process dissonant or consonant information about George Bush or John Kerry, Drew Western and his colleagues found that reasoning areas of the brain virtually shut down when participants were confronted with dissonant information, and the emotional circuits of the brain lit up happily when consonance was restored.

While the brains of Bush and Kerry supporters paid careful attention to the position papers of their favored candidate, the words of his opponent fell on mentally deaf ears.  Regardless of how well it was prepared, there was no way the opposing candidate’s message could have any effect – supporters’ brains would not process the information.

What Effect Could This Have on your Marketing Messages?

Both scientific studies and experience have shown that a number of doctors and patients alike have been slow to pay attention to important new treatments that were radically different from what they already believed to be effective.  Future communication that could make a real difference in people’s lives may be ignored.

The enormous volume of information about medications and medical devices compounds this further.  It’s hard enough to get a thoroughly attractive message read in this environment.  What chance does a message that could make readers uncomfortable have in a sea of marketing messages?

What Can You Do About It?

Since selective perception causes people to avoid information that contradicts their beliefs and attitudes, researching the beliefs and attitudes of your market has never been more crucial.

Fortunately, research shows that there are ways to avoid your prospects’ tendency to selectively screen out your message.  One popular way is to use a source with high credibility.  Research by Aronson, Turner and Carlsmith found that the more discrepant a message is from the target audience’s beliefs, the greater the importance of the source’s credentials.   Obviously, nothing works to get wide acceptance of a new treatment like a recommendation from the National Institutes of Health. 

Unfortunately, an endorsement from the NIH is not often available.  What other methods can get good results?  There are several others proven by research.  If you’d like to discuss a specific application, please contact me at


4 Responses to “Could Your Marketing Efforts Become Invisible to your Prospects?”

  1. Fernando Says:

    This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

  2. Trick for Roulette Says:

    Great idea, thanks for this post!

  3. Fatima Says:

    I just wanted to comment your blog and say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. It was very informative and I also digg the way you write! Keep it up and I’ll be back to read more soon mate

  4. лучшие стратегии в рулетку Says:

    Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this by myself.

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