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”.
- 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.