The Dilution of Choice

The Dilution of Choice

What attracts you more – an image in a magazine or a 400-word text advertisement?

Do you prefer short blog posts or longer ones?

Do you watch short movies on YouTube, or longer?

Do you prefer a one-sheet menu or a multi-page one at a restaurant?

At a bar, is your preference for 100 bottles of liquor to choose from or a more specific collection?

We spend a lot of our lives making decisions on decisions. We look at multiple choices and then wonder if we picked the right one after all. Doubt creeps into our minds, and no-one likes to doubt their decision.

Do we need so much choice all the time?

Do your customers, your blog visitors, your newspaper readers, your immediate connections need that amount of choice? They come to you for a reason – should you potentially dilute that reason with too much choice?

Don’t get me wrong – choice is good. Choice stops us from stagnating. But are we choosing to offer too much choice at times?

image: vanhookc

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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.
18 comments
AmyVernon
AmyVernon

Sometimes the amount of choice we have drives me batty. I feel like I make one choice only to have to make three more choices based on that choice. It's especially bad in restaurants. It's like, THIS IS WHAT I ORDERED, JUST GIVE IT TO ME.

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lucb202
lucb202

I love discussions about choice. Very practical in talking about business, but it applies to our entire lives, really. What's confusing is that maximizing opportunities is the most intelligent thing to do but minimizing the number of choices we can have increases our happiness. 

2 interesting TED talks reach this point. If intelligence (read: genius) is the tendency to maximize future possibilities (http://new.ted.com/talks/alex_wissner_gross_a_new_equation_for_intelligence), but maximizing future happiness means creating conditions in which we are bounded or we cannot change (http://new.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy), is it possible to strive for both genius and happiness?

If we applied this to business (instead of personal) development the question would more likely be phrased: is it possible to have services and features that appeal to a wide audience but also offer great customer satisfaction? I'd have to say that you can try to do many things if that's what you're aiming for, but it is unlikely that you can do many things and do them all well. 

Limiting your choices isn't just good for your customers. I believe it's also good for the quality of your service to begin with.

Thanks for this post, Danny!

AhmedAljonaid
AhmedAljonaid

Very valid questions and right to the point.  When I started doing business offline, we made that mistake by offering so many choices it was hard for our customers to chose.  We thought we were doing them good. 

I still did the same mistake when I went online first in 1998, it worked at the beginning because the whole internet thing was new, but then gradually it fired back at me.  

At the end we offered one single product offline and it made us 400% more profit than when we had more choices before that.  And the same thing is being done online now.

PeterJ42
PeterJ42

I put this down to the lazy marketer.

Rather than work out who his/her customers really are they try to appeal to everyone.

Totally ignoring the experiment which proved that if you offer 30 types of jam you sell less than if you have six.

The reason is fear of missing out. But it is also reactive marketing, rather than pro-active.

What we need to do is educate marketers that they need to identify who they are appealing to and what matters to them.

Then they can provide something exactly right. And spend time tailoring it until it is really special.

Not simply provide everything and hope.

CorinneRodrigues
CorinneRodrigues

Very interesting questions, @Danny Brown . I prefer short posts and less choices. It's got me thinking about whether my blog posts come across as having a common thread or are they all over the place! As always - you make me think! :)

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

Hi Danny,

Reminds me of one of those restaurants you go to and they have a 10-page menu … East meets West with a little Guacamole thrown in. Talk about a bland result. And of course these are the places with one type of bad Scotch and only three beers on the menu.

Now don't get me started with this vortex we inhabit ;)

Cheers to a great week!

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

Interesting post Danny, syncs up with something I've been thinking about lately - as someone who's in the business of getting people to be more visual in their content / communications I have to be honest: we're headed for a lot of junk imagery. The same people that write awful blog posts are already and will be posting even more visual crap. That loops back to your point, which is at the heart of signal v. noise. If we have all the options in the world doesn't that mean we have no choice at all? 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Cream freaking Cheese. I normally buy @cabotcheese There is one choice It comes in a foil wrapper in a box old school style. I don't like cream cheese it is for the wife and kids. At the big generic supermarket we have to shop at now the last time I shopped for it they didn't have the cream cheese. So I got Kraft Philly. 

Well went I last went to get some I got the wrong one. It said it was the normal cheese. Not whipped. Not chived. Not strawberry. Not low fat. But there was on the package that it had more protein than something else (not vs regular cheese). I just thought kraft was highlighting a benefit of their normal cheese vs alternatives. My wife said 'this sucks something is wrong it is way too cheesy'. Turns out if was like a greek yogurt style cream cheese. I could not tell from the package. 

So I went back and looked at this mess on the shelves. All these freaking choices. I JUST WANT REGULAR CREAM CHEESE! I am looking and as I scan down....there is just one product slot for cabot. They offer just one cheese. In foil in a box. Sold.

I was channeling this post the rest of the day.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@lucb202 Outstanding comment, Lucy - thanks!

I think this part sums it up perfectly:

What's confusing is that maximizing opportunities is the most intelligent thing to do but minimizing the number of choices we can have increases our happiness. 

It reminds me of the Dunbar's Number theory, about the maximum number of "friends" we can actively have and remain attentive. Same goes for growth - the more we grow in one area, the less we have to spend in another. It's that constant ying and yang of seeking for validation then not knowing what that validation should look like.

I think Homer says it perfectly. ;-)

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Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@PeterJ42 Exactly, mate, and a key point a certain book uses as its core premise... ;-)

One of the problems is the advance of technology has encouraged lazy marketing. Want a demographic? Look to the Pew report (even though that only covers a fraction of the populace). Want an influence? Target them by a random score, and to hell with relevance to your audience.

I often wish we didn't have so many "tools" at our disposal - at least that would force us to do the legwork we used to pride ourselves on...

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Craig McBreen Hey there mate,

There's a faux Italian-style chain in Toronto that my wife adores, and has about 12 pages of menu. And all the meals are a variation of chicken parmesan. With or without salad. Hey ho, and on we go... :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@JoeCardillo Great point, mate - and one of the reasons the recent Canva love-in was such a turn-off. Yes, it's a great little app and opens up visual design to the masses. But the skill still lies in the artist, not the canvas - and too many are throwing all sorts of paint colours on there. Here's to Visual.ly keeping better QA. :)

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

Which of course emphasizes the importance of editorial, storytelling, and actually caring about the connections we build....and knowing that they are not there solely for scaling dollars. Marketing, PR, and comms in general have to have a strong voice on that. If they don't, they can count on their efforts being temporarily sustainable. 

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

@Howie Goldfarb And this, Howie, is why you should never stop commenting on blogs, and why blogs should leave their comments switched on. Simple yet effective marketing advice - thank you. :) @cabotcheese