What is the halo effect? Well, it’s powerful, that’s for sure. It’s really a psychological concept, which is often cleverly used in marketing and branding to color your impression of a product or a company. It happens in your day-to-day too, when you meet people for the first time, or when you’re being interviewed for a job. You can use the halo effect to your advantage, and we’ll tap into that here in this article.
The halo effect is fascinating. Psychologist Edward Thorndike originally coined the term in 1920 in reference to a person being perceived as having a halo. It’s a type of cognitive bias and in layman’s terms, it’s the idea that if you like one aspect of something, you tend to be predisposed to think positively about other aspects of it too, even if they’re totally unrelated.
If someone looks attractive, and I’m sure you have experienced this, you will most likely attribute other positive traits to that person as well such as intelligence, friendliness, trustworthiness and similar positive personality attributes. But truly, these other assumed traits are unrelated. You would also be likely to attribute negative traits, such as being grumpy, arrogant or mean-spirited to someone you consider unattractive.
We judge people all the time by their appearance and attractiveness, and it affects how we view that person holistically. That’s why first impressions are so important!
If a salesperson, for example, is wearing a suit, a nice watch and is well groomed, you can think of this person as reliable and an authority figure. You perceive this person to be trustworthy. However, if the same person were wearing a t-shirt, a thumb ring and golden teeth, you would instantly think of this person as unreliable or perhaps even a criminal. And the person would have to be a really good sales person to overcome this bias barrier.
It also applies when an employee is very enthusiastic. The employer can think of this person as intelligent and the best person for the job, even though that might not be the case. Or, maybe you’ve experienced associating with someone you find intelligent suddenly becomes more physically attractive to you? Think of someone who is really good at sports. Would we assume they would be a leader in the classroom? All of this is the halo effect. Two things, actually unrelated, color your impressions.
The halo effect can be useful. It occurs in several different ways, and it happens unconsciously. It tricks your brain into choosing one product over another, or selecting people that are more attractive over people that are not so attractive.
Companies and marketers take advantage of the halo effect when they sell products and services. For example, when a celebrity endorses a particular product, our positive evaluations of that individual can spread to our perceptions of the product itself.
The halo effect also works to explain the bias shown by customers towards certain products because of a favorable experience with other similar products, or products made by the same company. A perfect example of this is Apple. The extraordinary success of the iPod built a halo effect for Apple. When the company launched new product lines, such as the iPhone or iPad, people stood in line to get it, just because they had a favorable experience with a previous product.
Companies can also use the halo effect in brand identity, visual design and packaging of products. If a juice box label design looks fresh, delicious and healthy, if it looks “attractive”, then we are more predisposed to choose this juice box over others.
How to take advantage of the halo effect?
You can’t avoid the halo effect, but you can manipulate it. If you are aware of the halo effect, it can really help you in life and in business. Instead of going against the stream, you can ride the wave, and make things a lot easier for yourself. Just keep in mind that you are always being perceived and then judged.
Here are some examples:
1. Dress for the role when you go to work, a job interview or a sales meeting.
2. Always keep yourself well groomed with clean-cut hair, good hygiene, and clothes that fit well.
3. Have a great posture, smile and be genuinely enthusiastic.
4. Because others assess you by the way you speak, try to speak up in a reasonable tone with proper grammar and vocabulary.
5. Have a firm handshake.
6. Exude confidence. If you are confident physically and mentally, then you must know what you’re talking about, … right?
7. Associate yourself or your product with other credible people or companies with a solid reputation.
8. Be sure you build a solid reputation for yourself. Be your own brand!
9. Make sure your product or website looks amazing and are appealing and attractive.
10. The brand identity of your company should look honest, reliable and trustworthy.
11. When you arrange meetings with clients, or potential clients, make sure that the meeting is in a suitable environment, such as clean comfortable office space or a boardroom. These physical surroundings also present an impression of you.
12. Know how to make an effective and lasting first impression.
13. Get favorably featured in magazines, online articles or other press coverage.
I hope this gave you some ideas on how to be aware of the halo effect and how to take advantage of it. If you have any questions or anything to add, let me know in the comments!
Let’s move forward…
– Casper Stang