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KISS – Too much choice reduces the impact of your marketing

April 20, 2010
An image of cars in a car lot - too much choice causes customers to walk away

The horrors of customer decision making - too much choice is proven to reduce decision making


Neuroscientists discovered a long time ago that when given too much information, the mind can become confused and a decision less likely. It is also now understood that emotional responses to information are crucial to the final decision, rather than cold, rational instinct. So marketers need to leverage emotion while providing rational choice in order to create a purchasing decision. 

At the moment in the UK we need look no further than the general election to see the impact of too much choice. The minds of the voters have now turned to personalities to guide their decisions rather than grasping at a core emotional deliverable which the mind can simplify as a rational, yet emotional decision. 

The Conservatives offer “change” but don’t define what “change” is. The Labour party offers “a future fair for all” but don’t define what that future will be or how it will be fair. And the Liberal Democrats offer change and fairness… The parties which are attracting instant decisions from voters are those which offer a defined purpose: SNP for an independent Scotland; UKIP for an independent UK etc. 

The same applies with marketing messages. Irrespective of how much information you include on a marketing piece, on an advertisement, on an email campaign or website, there must be a defined “emotional” hook for your customers’ minds to focus on. Vogele called it the “dialogue method” but the truth is that the skill of the marketing writer is to do two things: trigger the emotion and justify with factual data to enable an informed action. 

But have a care. You can create emotional overloads by offering too much choice. Consider buying a new car. Take a look at the brochure for the model you want and then start to compare the options. Which model comes with the 2 litre diesel engine and the electric windows?  Ah yes, but do I get the metallic paint with that one? Oh, wait a minute, I can get metallic paint but only in the 2.2 litre size. 

The nightmare of the car brochure highlights the importance of making an emotional decision easy – and how failure to do so can actively discourage a decision. Many years ago I was tasked by a product manager to produce a brochure for a product in 4 different offer variables. My advice then was to avoid so complex an approach but my advice was over-ruled. The campaign flopped. 

When trying to get a customer to act, ensure you have a definite emotional “hot button” to which the customer can respond and then make sure your back up data enables the customer to justify his or her decision. But give your customers too much choice and your campaign will fail. 

We have three weeks to go to election day in the UK. At the moment there are no emotional hooks for any of the main parties. With a confused electorate there will be one outcome – a confused one. It will be interesting to see if more finite emotional campaigns can be created in the final days of the party campaigns. As they say in marketing – KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

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