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March 6, 2015
Can Consumers Get Better at Choice?
 
When we cover marketing and advertising, the overarching point is that we are in the profession to help consumers choose an option that will best fit their wants and needs. That's it. When we remove the fluff, the pomp and circumstance, our goal as communicators is to display information and influence decisions.

But we have to assume that our consumers know exactly what they want.

In the field of behavioral economics, there have been plenty of studies suggesting that although consumers have the best intentions of following their emotional and logical desires, they can base their decisions off irrational or even irrelevant data. Seeing five people eating at restaurant A versus two people at restaurant B doesn't mean that restaurant A is a better and more sought-after restaurant. Yet studies show that a restaurant slightly crowded suggests popularity, and consumers flock.

When marketing professionals try to influence consumer decisions, they try to find a place in the consumer's consideration sets; the top options for the consumer for whatever they might need. It is much harder for brands to usurp a spot in the set versus staying there. 

Why are consideration sets important? For example, research suggests that consumers who budget have more control of their spending, and increase their productivity. Both instances would suggest a positive experience. With budgeting comes less impulsive buying and overspending. Less impulsive buying and overspending would suggest that the consumer would be trying fewer new things, and sticking with what they know works. They become less adventurous. So unless a brand moves its way into the consumer's consideration set, part of the consumer's budget, it will never have the opportunity to be tested by the consumer.

Now, the research comes with a caveat: Can consumers, or, the majority of them, make the "hard choices" and refuse their impulses and desires? It's hard to say, and though we love our consumers, we're not afraid to bet against their efforts.

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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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