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Definition of Decoy Effect

The Decoy Effect, also known as the attraction effect or asymmetric dominance, is a phenomenon in digital marketing where consumers tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when presented with a third, less attractive option. This third option, the “decoy,” is strategically designed to influence the user’s choice towards a more profitable or desired outcome for the marketer. In essence, the Decoy Effect is a psychological technique that leverages consumer behavior to guide decision-making.


The phonetics of the keyword “Decoy Effect” can be represented as:/dɪˈkɔɪ ɪˈfɛkt/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Decoy Effect is a cognitive bias where people tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when a third, less attractive option (the decoy) is introduced.
  2. This effect is commonly used in marketing and pricing strategies to influence consumer decisions, making one option seem more appealing relative to the other options presented.
  3. Being aware of the Decoy Effect can help individuals make more informed choices by evaluating options independently and considering personal needs and priorities rather than falling for the decoy.

Importance of Decoy Effect

The Decoy Effect is an important concept in digital marketing because it influences consumer decision-making and affects their buying behavior.

It refers to the strategy of adding a third, less attractive option to a product lineup, effectively making the initially less popular option appear more appealing in comparison.

By leveraging cognitive biases and perceived value, this psychological phenomenon encourages customers to choose a higher-priced or higher-margin product, consequently boosting sales and revenue for a business.

Understanding and implementing the Decoy Effect within marketing campaigns can contribute significantly to achieving desired outcomes and improving overall results.


The Decoy Effect serves as a strategic technique in digital marketing, primarily utilized to steer consumers towards a specific product or service by presenting them with a “decoy” option. This decoy option is intentionally designed to be less attractive and appealing, which in turn highlights the value and advantages of the target product.

The primary purpose of using the Decoy Effect is to subtly influence consumer behavior and choices, ultimately enhancing the perceived value of the intended product or service, and thereby increasing its sales and gaining a competitive edge in the market. When skillfully implemented in digital marketing campaigns, the Decoy Effect can successfully leverage human cognitive biases to facilitate favorable decision-making among the target audience.

By incorporating this technique within various marketing channels—such as online ads, email marketing, or website pricing pages—marketers can create an illusion of value that not only nudges customers to make a specific choice but also fosters long-term loyalty through positive customer experiences. In summary, the Decoy Effect is a powerful psychological tool used by digital marketers to artfully manipulate consumer perception and ultimately drive desired purchase outcomes.

Examples of Decoy Effect

The Decoy Effect, also known as the “asymmetric dominance effect,” is a phenomenon in which the presence of an additional choice influences a consumer’s preference between two options. This marketing strategy uses the decoy to make one product seem more attractive compared to the others, leading the consumer to select a specific item. Here are three real-world examples of the Decoy Effect:

Movie theater popcorn pricing: At the concession stand, you might find that a small popcorn costs $4, a medium popcorn costs $6, and a large popcorn costs $

The medium popcorn serves as a decoy, making the large popcorn appear as the best value since it costs only 50 cents more but offers significantly more popcorn. This influences consumers to choose the large option over the small one, leading to a higher average spending per customer.

Magazine subscriptions: A magazine may offer three types of subscriptions – digital, print, and a combo package. The digital version might cost $20 per year, the print version costs $40 per year, and the combo package costs $42 per year. The print version serves as a decoy, making the combo package appear significantly more valuable for just $2 extra. Consumers are more likely to choose the combo package, thus increasing the company’s revenue.

Streaming service plans: A video streaming platform may offer three subscription plans – basic, standard, and premium. The basic plan could cost $5 per month, the standard plan costs $10 per month, and the premium plan costs $12 per month. The basic plan serves as a decoy here, since it might only allow viewing on a single screen and have limited content. By comparison, the standard and premium plans appear to be much better deals for only a few dollars more. Consumers are more likely to upgrade to the more expensive plans, boosting the platform’s revenue.

FAQ: Decoy Effect

What is the Decoy Effect?

The Decoy Effect (also known as Asymmetric Dominance) is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to make different choices based on the presence of a third, unattractive option. This “decoy” option makes one of the other choices look more appealing in comparison, thereby influencing people’s decision-making process.

How does the Decoy Effect work?

The Decoy Effect works by presenting an additional, less attractive option that is similar to one of the original choices. This decoy option highlights the positive attributes of the more attractive choice, making it seem even more appealing. As a result, the individual is more likely to choose this more appealing option due to the presence of the decoy.

What are the applications of the Decoy Effect?

The Decoy Effect is widely used in marketing and consumer psychology, as it can significantly impact people’s preferences and choices. Examples of applications include pricing strategies, product design, and other techniques where businesses want to influence consumers to choose a particular option or product over others.

Is the Decoy Effect a cognitive bias?

Yes, the Decoy Effect is considered a cognitive bias because it involves an irrational influence on people’s decision-making processes. It demonstrates how the presence of an irrelevant option can sway individuals to choose specific alternatives, even if their preferences would be different without the decoy’s presence.

How can I identify the Decoy Effect in real-life situations?

Recognizing the Decoy Effect in real life involves being vigilant and aware of situations where a third, less attractive option is presented alongside two original choices. Carefully analyze each choice’s merits, and try to evaluate them independently of the decoy. This can help you make more informed and rational decisions, avoiding the potential pitfalls of the Decoy Effect.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Asymmetric dominance
  • Anchoring bias
  • Consumer choice manipulation
  • Pricing strategy
  • Preference shift

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