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Bandwagon Effect


Disciplines > Communication > Diffusion > Bandwagon Effect

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When people see some new idea or product and wonder if they should adopt it, evidence of others enjoying and having fun is highly influential.

Numbers are important for the bandwagon effect to take hold. If we see three people on the bandwagon and know that hundreds have not joined, then the reverse effect will take place and we will be loathe to join. If, on the other hand, we see the wagon nearly full with lots of people we know or admire, then we will desperately try to grab the 'final' places.

Once bandwagons have enough participants they are often self-sustaining and people get on board for social rather than ideological reasons.

Bandwagons often have limited lifetimes and eventually run out of steam. People will quickly abandon the 'sinking ship' if they see others leaving.


A company releases a new product and shows adverts with a big group of people having a good time using the product.

A political party holds a rousing rally, with music, speeches and much cheering. Those who go are encouraged to 'keep the faith' and 'bring others on board' and otherwise keep the bandwagon going.


Building the early bandwagon may require ideological appeals, but then when we see desirable others in a group we feel the pull of social proof and seek to join in. A deeper need that drives the bandwagon effect is the need to belong. When we see a desirable group, we want to join in. Expectations and promise are important in the assumption of being a 'winner' of some kind.

To get people to adopt a new product or idea, show them how others are 'on board' and having a good time together. You can also highlight how not joining in means being left behind, left out and generally being in an undesirable state of rejection and loneliness.

A bandwagon is a float or wagon in a parade that encourages people to jump aboard and enjoy the music that is being played. The principle was used from the 19th century in political campaigns to link candidates with the notion of having fun and to paint those who are not 'on the bandwagon' as missing out.

This principle was extended to imply joining of any group, in particular those who are voting for a party. The term also has become overused and can be used as a pejorative, indicating that people are joining in just because of the bandwagon effect rather than from any real ideological conviction.

See also

Bandwagon, Appeal principle, Social Proof principle, Scarcity principle


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