Electric Vehicles, Confirmation Bias and Debunking the Myths

Customer Experience

Electric Vehicles, Confirmation Bias and Debunking the Myths

Nicole Grantham
Nicole Grantham
February 15, 2024
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A few months ago, I sat in a presentation listening to our Head of Automotive, Ben Sullivan, speak about electric vehicles (EVs). Feeling like an expert, I nodded and smiled my way along until I heard “there’s potentially a confirmation bias going on…” – wait, what?

What’s that? Having searched my memory banks from my long-ago completed marketing degree and coming up blank, I turned online and exercised my desk research muscles. Here’s some of what I learned:

So, what is confirmation bias, anyway?

Confirmation bias is a tendency to favour information that confirms existing beliefs – that is, when searching for results, consumers will look for information that supports rather than rejects what they think they know (maybe even ignoring any conflicting information)1.  

What does this mean for EVs? 

We’ve all heard the noise… batteries are worse for the environment, there aren’t enough chargers, Australian distances are too far, we don’t know how many years batteries last etc.  Confirmation bias means that consumers out there who believe these myths may give more ‘weight’ to information that supports their misconceptions, and even unconsciously seek it out when researching their next vehicle.

That’s tricky… how do we overcome it?

What I didn’t find while I was reading was a definitive ‘how-to’ guide on debunking myths or overcoming confirmation bias with marketing.   Even if there was, in the Automotive industry consumers aren’t listening all that often (only when it’s time for their next car), so there’s probably no formula to follow.  With more EVs coming to Australia whether we like it or not, and in the absence of any big plays from the government to drive EV uptake, the work needs to be done.  Here are a few thought-starters I’ve collected on my journey.

Appeal to emotions. Don’t overload with facts!  Use storytelling to convey how owning an EV will ‘feel’, use testimonials, talk about benefits (eg. home charging is just like having the petrol station at your house), and personalise your communications.  As we know, an emotional message will grab more attention and be stickier than one that is factual and rational (and loaded with numbers).  Not sure if what you’ve got planned will hit home?  We can help!  

Change the conversation.  Customers don’t have off-street parking for home charging?  Perhaps showing charging options near home (with coffee!) in an app would help?  Keep it conversational with anecdotes and make it feel easy.  After all, so many of us could easily build EV charging into our routine (say, plugging in before ordering an Uber to Friday night drinks)!  

Make it easy.  Is it easy to find and digest the information consumers need about performance, charging, costs, and range?  It’s tempting in early adopter territory to use technical language and include lots of detail but, as we approach the chasm to cross into early majority, information needs to be easier to find and digest (and easy to compare, from EV vs. EV and EV vs. ICE).  How can you be sure you’ve got it right?  If in doubt, test it out (talk to us about UX testing!)

Source credibility is important.  If you’re in the business of selling cars, this is a tricky one to achieve on your own – you directly benefit from selling the car, so of course you’ll tell the consumer what they want to hear (let’s not forget only 3% of Australians rate car sales people as trusted2).  Consider how you can use your press fleet and third-party independent content to your advantage.  Already using a Professor of Sustainability or some other industry expert in communications?  Remember, consumers aren’t great at attending to information, so be sure to explicitly call attention to why your expert is an expert and therefore credible.  And, as we always suggest (because that’s what we do!),  – do your research – be clear about what (and who) resonates with buyers before executing it.

Sit in an EV and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  That is, bust myths with experience.  Sure, for the performance enthusiasts out there, EVs don’t roar (purr?) or vibrate like an ICE sports car, …. but I’d guess at least some would reconsider beliefs about performance after driving one.  Service loan cars are an obvious choice, but don’t stop thinking there! On a related note, if you’re selling EV’s, isn’t it worth having everyone in the dealership drive an EV home for a few nights?  Imagine the stories they could tell…

Herd mentality. Harness your existing EV owners.  If you surprised and delighted them at purchase and they’re loving owning their EV, then they’re more likely to spill to their friends!  Do they love it enough to create a video review for you?  How else can you creatively harness the power of advocacy?

Surely it’s not that easy…?

Okay, maybe not, or is that your confirmation bias talking? Either way, I hear EVs will keep coming so it’s worth a shot!

  1. https://www.simplypsychology.org/confirmation-bias.html
  2. Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2021

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