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It's About Choice, Stupid
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The point of advertising is not to create pretty images and fancy phrases to make an organization to look good. Advertising is meant to influence the way people look at a good or service, and to either inform them about it or persuade them to try it. Advertising is meant to influence choice; the options that consumers think up in order to make a decision.

If you're creative isn't following that basic truth, then there's a problem.

What, then, of choice? For decades marketing scientists and researchers have tried to figure out how people make decisions. Psychologists, sociologists, and other behavioral scientists have dedicated papers and experiments to how people react to choice. If we're rational creatures, then the way we make decisions should be pretty straightforward, right?

On the contrary. Research and science have shown that the more choices people have, the more difficult the decision and the less happier the decision maker is at the end. A fascinating piece in BrainWorld explains this by bringing up several studies done by scientists around the nation.

We are not rational creatures.

And although this goes against the "Age of the Consumer," we prefer to deal with facts and results rather than pleasing the masses. No matter how much consumers want to control the conversation, research proves that they are never in control to begin with. The article points out a study by a Harvard professor who found that humans like to overestimate how much a choice will affect us, while rarely underestimating it. The result is what is known as the "impact bias" and consumers become disillusioned and start "miswanting" goods and services.

Here's how advertising can help alleviate the matter of choice.

Frame the playing field. As communications professionals, we have the ability to frame the conversation; to show the consumer what choices they have. If there are 10 brands in direct competition, why not show an ad or a message that shows you competing with only two others? Then you already limited the choices and created a higher probability of consumer satisfaction. It is not a novel concept, but it is a concept worth bringing up again as choices abound in just about everything.

The point is that the more openly you frame the field, the harder the choice is going to be for the consumer, and the less happier they will be once a decision is made. Eliminate choices and boost the consumer's happiness.

Because it is always about choice.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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