Bye-Now Effect And Why It Matters In Business

The bye-now effect describes the tendency for consumers to think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”. In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye-bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.

Understanding the bye-now effect

The bye-now effect is a relatively new cognitive bias that is based on two core components.

The first and perhaps most obvious is that the words “buy” and “bye” are homophones. That is, they are words with a different spelling and meaning that have the same pronunciation.

The second component is the concept known as priming – where consumers are exposed to one piece of information that influences their response to subsequent information. In combination, these components result in homophone priming. Here, the brain cannot ignore the alternate meaning of a homophonic word.

The buy-now effect, consumer behavior, and marketing

In a study that tracked diners at a name-your-own-price restaurant, each diner was asked to read one of two phrases before ordering their meal. The first phrase, “so long”, resulted in diners paying an average of $32 per meal. But when diners recited the phrase “bye bye” before ordering, the average price per meal rose to $45.

The results of this study found that the bye-now effect makes consumers buy more, even when links between homophonic words are non-existent. Further studies have also found that consumers who are distracted or multitasking are also prone to the effect. When consumers are presented with large amounts of information, the brain becomes overloaded and uses shortcuts to decipher the meaning of individual words. Thus, the words “buy” and “bye” are interpreted to mean the same thing.

Businesses who are building a brand can use the buy-in now effect to their advantage. One real-world example is the weight-loss drug Alli –pronounced the same as “ally” – implying that the drug is a useful friend in the weight loss journey. 

In another hypothetical example, consider a resort hotel company called Beech & Son. In this case, the buy-in effect may automatically generate the positive associations of holidaying with a brand despite the lack of supporting evidence.

Limitations of the buy-in effect

  • Potentially damaging to a brand. The strength of the buy-in effect can also be its biggest weakness. “Sam & Ella’s Chicken Palace” is a real-world restaurant where consumers might associate the owners’ names with salmonella.
  • Lack of profitability. Research has found that low-skilled readers are most susceptible to the effect. This may limit the ability to attract consumers with purchasing power.
  • Does not work for uncommon associations. While many consumers will associate the word “ewe” with “you”, it is much more unlikely that the word “you” will be associated with “ewe”.

Key takeaways:

  • The buy-now effect is a cognitive bias where consumers think of the word “buy” when they read the word “bye”.
  • The buy-now effect is comprised of two components that distort cognitive thinking: homophones and priming. In this situation, the overloaded brain automatically makes an association with the alternate meaning of a homophonic word.
  • The buy-now effect can be used to build a brand by generating positive associations with a product or service. Nevertheless, some words have the potential to damage a brand if not chosen carefully.

Connected Business Concepts


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What is marketing can be associated with social proof.

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