Question Gazal Business & Management

What are cognitive dissonance and cognitive consonance? How can marketers manage cognitive dissonance?

What are cognitive dissonance and cognitive consonance? How can marketers manage cognitive dissonance?

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Cognitive dissonance is when a person has conflicting views or opinions, so is uncertain or indecisive. In marketing this refers to the customer’s views of a product or service, and generally it is observed after a person has purchased a product.

Cognitive consonance is when a person holds a single view or their views are in agreement, thus they have certainty. This is the opposite of cognitive dissonance and would manifest in a happy customer that is certain that they have made the right decision by purchasing a product.

Cognitive dissonance can be a problem for marketers as it can lead the customer to question whether their purchase was a good decision. This can harm their experience of the brand even if the product or service is not particularly at fault, it can also lead to customers returning goods.

Cognitive dissonance can occur where the customer is not fully convinced of the benefits of the product, or where their expectations of the product do not match to the actual product received.

To manage dissonance, marketers must fundamentally make sure that customers’ expectations and perceptions are aligned, and that they have full information to make the purchasing decision. This should reduce uncertainty after the purchase. Expectations can be managed through promotional materials being informative and accurate. Perceptions can be managed through product quality and elements such as packaging and after-care (customer service, support etc). Techniques such as misleading adverts or hard selling are likely to result in greater levels of dissonance as customers make a purchasing decision without the full/correct information or with less time spent reaching a decision – so these methods should be avoided.

A certain level of dissonance may be unavoidable for customers who are prone to indecisiveness or self-doubt, but the effects can be reduced by the above methods.


Eser Telci, E. Maden, C. Kantur, D. (2011) The Theory of cognitive dissonance: A marketing and management perspective, Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences 24(2011) pp. 378-386