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Understand the barriers and bottlenecks which limit desired behaviors of patients and HCPs in the pharmaceutical industry and how messaging boosted by heuristic science can effectively influence any stakeholder audience.

Selling to those resisting change

Selling to those resisting change: End-of-history illusion & Status quo bias

18 FEB, 2021

Psychologists define personality as a relatively stable & enduring pattern of behaviors and tendencies. But looking at ourselves from an instantaneous point of view paints a very different picture of personality. Our brains are constantly changing to accommodate every cumulative experience, making us slightly different people every day.

When we retrospectively assess our experiences, we fall for the End-Of-History Illusion, which describes how people believe their experiences have changed them dramatically in their past to arrive at a stable personality that is unlikely to change in the future. People of all ages can fall for this illusion of stability. This illusion becomes our retrospective identity - supposedly stable, but with a phantom future.

Another bias called the Status Quo Bias affects our choices about things attached to personality - objects, possessions, and beliefs. The status quo bias describes our tendency to remain in inertia and keep possessions even when they are no longer needed or useful. One mechanism at play here is an emotional commitment to the object that is a part of our identity. In essence, the status quo bias is a rigid preference to let things be the way they are. It’s an aversion to change.

Marketers and salespeople may see customers resist new options that imply change. Suppose you are selling a new range of erectile dysfunction remedies or itchy skin lotions. Or perhaps evaluating if a market is ready to take a different approach - say, a skin lotion instead of a pill. The end-of-history illusion and the status quo bias could become a barrier to convert potential customers.

People have routines built into their lives. For example, a person undergoing treatment for Erectile Dysfunction (ED) may have a dating routine that tries to minimize failed attempts to hook-up. Sexual performance anxiety could be a major reason to keep a functional routine.

Patients with severe Eczema may have a handy SOS pill and an elaborate skin-care routine to manage symptoms. If a patient feels comfortable and in control because of the pill or routine that involves many other compatible products, the patient may not want to change what’s functionally working.

To sell change to a customer (like a daily treatment for underlying causes of ED instead of pills to overcome ED), it’s essential to understand the behavioral part of a customer’s identity.

What’s the solution to overcome this resistance to accept changes?

A quick way to do this is to make the change salient. Learn your consumer’s story; their history of behavioral changes. Because of the end-of-history illusion, consumers are likely to say things like, “I have tried dozens of topical creams. I know what works for me, and I’ve finally found the right one.” Acknowledge this story. Highlight how new changes will only help them get more and more satisfied with their choices. Tell customers how they have refined their choices/routines over time through trial and error. The new medical intervention you are selling, or testing, would also help them refine/simplify their routines. However, marketers and researchers may need to walk them through possible routines and solutions.

Customers may also demonstrate the status quo bias - keeping things as they are. Since this bias is fundamentally emotional and based on numerous self-definitions like “I have eczema, and therefore my skin-care is a part of me,” it’s vital to understand the client’s identity. The marketed change shouldn’t be a threat to the client’s identity. It should be an opportunity for refinement and growth.

  1. Quoidbach, J., Gilbert, D., & Wilson, T. (2013). The End of History Illusion. Science, 339(6115), 96-98.
  2. Samuelson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal Of Risk And Uncertainty, 1(1), 7-59.