Thoughts & Notions

Aspiration vs. Exaggeration


Consumers are skeptics. They see advertising and marketing as a sea of lies, and for good reason. They’ve been deceived too many times. Building a strong brand means managing consumers’ expectations, honestly and consistently. However, all too many try to be something they’re not, only to disappoint consumers with outlandish claims they couldn’t possibly live up to.

There is a difference between a brand having aspirations (setting a goal it aims to pursue and someday achieve) and over promising (making a claim it isn’t capable of backing up). Too many are guilty of the latter. Consider the photographic representation of fast food vs. reality or the underpowered car that slides across your TV screen at 100 miles per hour, “Professional Driver. Closed course.”

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Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a well-understood phenomenon that causes all of us (yes, that means all of us) to run information through highly personalized filters. This personal bias is created by the confluence of our genetics and our environment, so much so that our genes can predict our political affiliations.

Be it a product or a president, most of us make choices based on what we already believe. Without really considering them, we dismiss the facts that do not support our beliefs and readily accept those facts that do. In his post “Why Politics is Hard,” Rodger Dooley points out how surprisingly easy it was to sway liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans equally, simply by saying a liberal idea was invented by a conservative, and vice-versa. In both cases, people reported loving ideas that didn’t line up with their stated politics when told those ideas had come from their own political party.

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Option Paralysis

What happens when consumers are faced with too many options? Depending on the urgency of the purchase, this can result in commoditization (“They’re all the same. This one’s the cheapest.”) or failure to make a purchase at all (“This is too confusing. I need to do more research… Do I really need this? I don’t have time…”).

Consumers say they want more choice. However, research paints a different picture. Too many choices have the tendency to paralyze consumers. This isn’t only true within categories, but also within brands. It’s why with over 500 channels, there is never anything to watch on TV. Psychologists call this phenomenon “Option Paralysis” and it is happening more and more often in every sector of commerce. So what can companies do to ensure consumers have adequate choice, but aren’t overwhelmed with options?

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