Psychology in marketing: Zero Risk Bias

The Zero Risk Bias, sometimes known as The Certainty Effect does what it says on the tin. Essentially, our minds have a tendency to favour paths that seem to have no risk factors ie they are certain.

For as long as people have been bartering or buying products there have been pitches working to entice the consumer as to why they should purchase their product over that of a competitor. One of the oldest pitches ever devised is the zero risk advertisement. This advertisement is better known as the “money back guarantee” or the risk free trial offers. This marketing tool is typically the most the most successful and there are several different factors as to why that’s the case.

Ever see brands offering money-back guarantees and risk-free trial offers? Of course you do. This marketing technique is everywhere. This feeling of zero-risk is really appealing to customers especially when it’s a new product or service that they haven’t used or experienced before.

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So how does it work?

We have been conditioned from the time we were young to believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but we have been tempted by these time and time again. The idea that there is no true downside to giving the potentially new product a chance lets the consumer feel as though they are brave enough to try a new thing but conscious enough to not risk their financial well being over the venture. The belief that you can try a new razor or try on clothing for up to a week and not have it cost you anything, and if you don’t like it you can give it back with no cost to yourself.

The more that you can reassure customers and potential customers of limited risks, the more likely they are to think positively about your product or service and give it a go. Of course, other factors of marketing do play a role and already well trusted companies may benefit more heavily from the Zero Risk Bias theory more so than lesser known brands. More trust = less risk.

There are a lot of ads out there now, especially so on Social Media, where on top of showing the product there’s always that little bit of text says “money back guarantee” or “risk free.”

How can you use this?

Zero Risk Biases work the best for established brands. Part of the reason those fly by night infomercials that guarantee money back if you aren’t satisfied is that you don’t think they will be around long enough for you to get your money back. The message resonates differently when an established brand is either calling you back or working to establish a new relationship with you. This brand has been around for a long time and is established. You know that at the end of three months if you are not satisfied they will have the money to return it to you. There is also this belief that you have nothing to lose by trying out a competing brand because you are getting it for free. You can see what you are missing and return it with no doubts if they’ll still be there. It plays to our belief in authority.


If your business is established running your risk averse advertising is a lot easier. For those of you looking to get your business off the ground and seeking out those who use your competitor’s products, your pitch needs to be much more in-depth. Why should they switch and trust you over their established brand name product and then an assurance that if they don’t like it that you will be there to here why they didn’t like it and return their money. If done properly, this is an incredibly useful tool to get people in their door and grow your small business. The only risk being taken here is by the business owner that their product is as good as they believe it is. Once the product goes out, you hope they money comes back in later. This business method requires incredible patience.

There are loads of ways you can incorporate this effect into your own marketing strategy. Use it on your website to advertise your product or service, run some social media ads or add it as an extension into your Google Ads campaign.

You can read our other “Psychology in marketing” articles here:

Zero Risk Bias

Confirmation Bias

The Bandwagon Effect

The Endowment Effect

In-group Favouritism

Not Invented Here

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