A study suggests that consumers' purchasing decisions are influenced by how much they think they know, not what they actually do.

One of the foremost goals of content marketing is to educate prospects about products and services, essentially providing them with enough evidence to compel them to buy. Traditionally, advertising has been a triple threat, persuading consumers through logical, emotional and ethical appeals. The rise of content put a greater emphasis on the former, with consumers insisting they want cold-hard facts to make better-informed buying decisions.

What if that wasn’t actually what convinces them to buy or not to buy? An article just published in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Market Research makes that exact assertion. Consumers aren’t as swayed by objective knowledge as they think. It’s subjective knowledge, or the perception that they understand something well, that pushes them through the sales funnel.

The study, “Subjective Knowledge in Consumer Financial Decisions,” was conducted by Liat Hadar, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Arison School of Business; Sanjay Sood, Associate Professor of Marketing for the Anderson School of Management at UCLA and Craig R. Fox, Professor of Strategy at the Anderson School of Management and Professor of Psychology at UCLA.

Customers are more likely to make investments when they read content that leads them to believe they know a lot about products and services. 

The study focused on individuals’ willingness to invest in financial products when they are presented with content that provides objective or subjective knowledge. Findings reveal customers are more likely to make investments when they read materials that lead them to believe they know a lot about items. They are less compulsive when content provides too many technical details that undercut their assumed knowledge.

While this report focuses on financial buyers, the same ideas might apply to other B2B and B2C marketers. Brafton recently reported that consumers want branded content throughout the sales cycle to inform their purchasing decisions, but brands might see stronger conversion rates when their web content both educates and affirms readers’ subjective knowledge.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.