Remember when you owned those pair of Converse shoes when you were younger and wore them wherever possible because everybody you knew did the same? Mostly because it was considered to be “cool” and the “in” thing?
Well, this is the “bandwagon effect” for you.
The bandwagon effect refers to people’s propensity to do something simply because other people are doing it. In other words, it is to do what others are doing. This tendency to follow the actions of others arises because individuals prefer to conform or because individuals get information from others.
The origin of the phrase comes from the use of a bandwagon, which is a float in a parade that encourages people to jump aboard and enjoy the music that is being played, where the contagious effect of music and celebration ensures that a large number of people will jump on. Its use was first attributed to political campaigns to link candidates with the notion of having fun and to point out that those not on the bandwagon are missing out.
Bandwagon effect is seen in the real world and is a part of it. Its applicability is diverse – from daily life decisions to its use in fields such as psychology, economics, politics, and medicine, among others.
In economics, this is seen when people’s preference for a commodity increases as the number of people buying it increases, potentially disturbing the regular supply and demand. It removes the assumption that consumers make buying decisions solely based on price and their own personal preference. When individuals make choices based on information received from others, information cascades can quickly form in which people ignore personal signals and blindly follow others due to a herd mentality. Hence, individual buying preferences are affected due to information received from others.
This occurs due to the perceived popularity of the commodity in the market which has an effect on how it is seen as a whole. For instance, once a product becomes popular, more people buy it and “jump” on the newly created bandwagon effect.
The bandwagon effect is equally applicable to brands – a strong bandwagon effect leads to manipulation in market demand and knowing this, brands “jump” onto the bandwagon effect.
How does this happen?
This is possible with bandwagon marketing. Here, firms intend to sell maximum products for maximum profits. To capture an audience for an item, it convinces potential customers about the potential wants and desires for that product through bandwagon advertising. By persuasion and/or manipulating the emotions of target audiences, brands often sway the consumer’s opinion of a product in a manner that will make consumers want to buy and use it. The resultant popularity of an item will yield a higher return on sales volumes, creating a higher demand as the product will be consumed at a faster rate. When the bandwagon effect is executed successfully, the demand for that product rises tremendously.
Firms become ‘brands’ as a result of the collective impact and goodwill created by them. After branding, they gain brand value and brand equity. Now, marketing becomes easier because of the brand being a unique selling point (USP) and another kind of bandwagon effect is formed where people are swayed by the brand name of the product. This leads to another kind of bandwagon marketing. For instance, on the opening day of Uniqlo’s first Indian store, long queues of customers gathered outside before opening time, indicating high popularity due to brand name. The effectiveness of the brand being a USP was evident when Uniqlo managed to clock impressive sales worth Rs. 1.2 crores on its first two days despite a sector-wide economic slowdown.
Another example would be of Louis Phillipe and Allen Solly – two seemingly French and English brands are nothing but brands initially owned by Madura Garments and later taken over by the Aditya Birla Group. These brands conveniently make use of the bandwagon effect by taking advantage of the perception that foreign brands, especially those selling luxury goods, are better than Indian ones – often due to the misplaced notion that brands from abroad have superior finesse and quality. Subsequently, this perception has turned foreign brands into “status symbols” in Indian society as they are usually highly overpriced and possessing them would make it easier for us to impress others and appear wealthy.
Due to the impact and influence of successful marketing strategies convincing them of the product’s utility of satisfaction, they tend to buy the product in more quantities and/or buy more often, creating brand loyalty. The positive feedback from existing consumers influences others’ purchasing decisions, eventually creating a positive feedback loop. Both natural word-to-mouth references and word-to-mouth marketing gives information and also affects purchasing decisions made by customers. For instance, having a conversation about the product with family and friends in case of the former and writing a post about it using social media for the latter.
Here, bandwagon effect happens as a result. Also, as mentioned earlier, the brand value also leads to this. For example, in order to catch up with the latest fashion trends, the youth tends to buy clothes from the latest brands such as Levis, Zara, H&M etc. They thus contribute to the sales, demand, and popularity of a product/brand.
The bandwagon effect shows how herd mentality influences and affects even the most rational decisions of ours. Brands know this and love using this to their advantage to boost sales and profits, hence “jumping” on the bandwagon while consumers unknowingly “jump” on it as a result of the information created and used by brands as a strategy, subsequently getting influenced by them. Hence, people either end up being part of a bandwagon or create one.
Bikhchandani, Sushil; Hirshleifer, David; Welch, Ivo (1992). “A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change as Informational Cascades”. Journal of Political Economy. 100 (5)
Maxwell, Amita (2014). Bandwagon Effect and Network Externalities in market Demand. ASIAN JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT RESEARCH, 4(3). Pp. 527-529.