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The Bandwagon Effect: Momentum Is Everything

Self-fulfilling prophecies for predicted winners and losers.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

The Bandwagon Effect is a double-edged sword in PR.

The Bandwagon Effect is a psy­cho­lo­gic­al phe­nomen­on where indi­vidu­als adopt cer­tain beha­viours, styles, or atti­tudes because they per­ceive that oth­ers are doing the same.

For PR pro­fes­sion­als, the Bandwagon Effect can be a double-edged sword.

Here we go:

Enter: The Bandwagon Effect

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The Bandwagon Effect

The Bandwagon Effect is a form of group­think where the pop­ular­ity of a trend, idea, or opin­ion encour­ages more people to “jump on the band­wag­on.” Much of the sci­entif­ic research on the Bandwagon Effect stems from research on polit­ic­al communications.

Opinion polls can lead to a ‘band­wag­on effect’ where people adopt major­ity views, or a ‘under­dog effect’ where people adopt minor­ity views, poten­tially impact­ing social sci­ence pre­dic­tions and poll­sters’ pro­fes­sion­al repu­ta­tions.”
Source: British Journal of Political Science 1Marsh, C. (1985). Back on the Bandwagon: The Effect of Opinion Polls on Public Opinion. British Journal of Political Science, 15, 51 – 74. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​7​/​S​0​0​0​7​1​2​3​4​0​0​0​0​4​063.

For PR pro­fes­sion­als, lever­aging the Bandwagon Effect can be a power­ful strategy to cre­ate momentum for a cam­paign, product, or idea. They can per­suade more people to engage with it by high­light­ing its pop­ular­ity or wide­spread acceptance. 

For instance, show­cas­ing high num­bers of users, pos­it­ive testi­mo­ni­als, or celebrity endorse­ments can encour­age oth­ers to fol­low suit, believ­ing that such wide­spread accept­ance implies value or correctness.

The band­wag­on effect sig­ni­fic­antly influ­ences voter pref­er­ences, explain­ing 6% of the vari­ance in voter pref­er­ences, with stronger effects for women and indi­vidu­als with more arous­able and less dom­in­ant tem­pera­ments.”
Source: Journal of Applied Social Psychology 2Mehrabian, L. (1998). Effects of Poll Reports on Voter Preferences. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 2119 – 2130. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​559 – 1816.1998.TB01363.X

The Bandwagon Effect can also pose a chal­lenge in PR, espe­cially when man­aging counter-nar­rat­ives or attempt­ing to change pub­lic opin­ion on a well-entrenched idea. Overcoming the iner­tia of a widely held belief or trend requires stra­tegic and often more cre­at­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion efforts. 

The band­wag­on effect in opin­ion polls can be gen­er­ated by con­cav­ity in voters’ util­ity func­tions, mak­ing elect­or­al par­ti­cip­a­tion more costly for expec­ted loser sup­port­ers, and high­light­ing the role of risk aver­sion in this effect.”
Source: Public Choice 3Grillo, A. (2017). Risk aver­sion and band­wag­on effect in the pivotal voter mod­el. Public Choice, 172, 465 – 482. https://doi.org/10.1007/S11127-017‑0457‑5

The Bandwagon Effect is a double-edged sword in PR: it can be har­nessed to amp­li­fy and spread a desired mes­sage, but it also rep­res­ents a sig­ni­fic­ant hurdle when attempt­ing to shift pub­lic opin­ion away from an estab­lished trend.

Learn more: The Bandwagon Effect: Momentum Is Everything

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Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: More Media Logic

The media’s the most power­ful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the inno­cent guilty and to make the guilty inno­cent, and that’s power.”
— Malcolm X

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Marsh, C. (1985). Back on the Bandwagon: The Effect of Opinion Polls on Public Opinion. British Journal of Political Science, 15, 51 – 74. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​7​/​S​0​0​0​7​1​2​3​4​0​0​0​0​4​063.
2 Mehrabian, L. (1998). Effects of Poll Reports on Voter Preferences. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 2119 – 2130. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​559 – 1816.1998.TB01363.X
3 Grillo, A. (2017). Risk aver­sion and band­wag­on effect in the pivotal voter mod­el. Public Choice, 172, 465 – 482. https://doi.org/10.1007/S11127-017‑0457‑5
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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