What Is In-Group Bias?

How Does In-Group Bias Apply to Marketing?

Henry Foster
Last updated: Aug 14, 2020
Originally published: Apr 11, 2019

Also Known As: In-group favoritism, in-group–out-group bias, or intergroup bias


In-group bias occurs when customers favor people who belong to a certain group that others are not a part of, the out-group members.

In-Group Bias Examples:

Facebook Groups: Communities can be valuable assets for companies. Putting time into building or joining a tribe leads to a sense of belonging. It also positions the individual or company as a leader in a certain space. For example, there are Facebook groups on nearly any subject.

The best ones are selective about who can join and what type of content can be shared. This creates a tight knit ecosystem for people to help each other out, since it tends to keep the “good” members in and the “bad” members out.

Causes and Controversy: Politics can bring out the best and worst in people. It certainly leads to the feeling of “us vs. them”. Taking a strong stand on issues may alienate some, but it will bring others closer. For example, some companies give a percent of profit to clean the oceans, others plant a tree for every sale, and some even take a stand on political issues.

The idea here is that the brand is strengthening its relationship with people who care about these causes and issues. The most important part is aligning your cause or controversy with the right people: your ideal customers. Otherwise, latching onto a cause will not help generate sales.

Brand Rivalry: Some people love Pepsi, others love Coke. Despite the products being nearly the same, most people have a clear idea of which they prefer. The same is true for Xbox and Playstation, Verizon and Comcast, Nike and Reebok.

They continue to pour marketing dollars into the community they have built in an effort to keep customers for life, and also to steal them from the opposing brand.

See Also: Collective narcissism, Common ingroup identity, Cronyism, Ethnic nepotism, Groupthink, Linguistic intergroup bias, Marginalization, Marking your own homework, Nepotism, Old boy network, Out-group homogeneity, Priming, Psychological projection, Protectionism, Scapegoating, Terror management theory, Xenophobia

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Henry Foster

Henry Foster is a digital marketer from Boston, making money for B2B companies by generating leads via paid search and social.

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