Friday, February 4, 2011

Betray the Betrayal Effect

A marketing researcher at University of Texas-Austin and forensic researcher at Northwestern University asked study participants to say which of two automobiles they’d prefer. The only difference between the two cars was in the performance of the airbag in the car. Car 1 had an airbag that was more likely to save a life than was the airbag in Car 2. However, the airbag in Car 1 also had a small, but measurable, chance of causing death because of the force necessary to deploy the bag. The airbag in Car 2 had such a tiny probability of this happening that it wasn’t even measurable.
     Please stop for a moment and predict which of the cars your customers would choose. Is it Car 1, which is more likely to save a life in case of a crash? Is it Car 2, which you can count on not to kill you from deployment of the airbag?
     Are you ready to know what the research found so you can compare that to your prediction? Okay, then. In the study, more of the participants chose Car 2 than chose Car 1. They were placing greater importance on possibilities than on probabilities. The researchers called this the “betrayal effect.” Car 1 might betray their trust. Emotions trumped logic.
     This occurs because thinking of possibilities is easier than weighing a set of probabilities. When your customers make purchase decisions, they use shortcuts. Otherwise the amount of information to process would be overwhelming, particularly when emotional decisions like life and death are involved. The shopper’s aiming to balance a whole set of risks, ranging from financial—“Is this price too much, too little, or just right?”—to psychological—“How well does the personality of this store and this product fit my values?”
     As a general rule, help keep it simple for your shoppers. Emphasize possibilities, not probabilities. Research says this is what your customers want to hear.
     However, when it comes to public safety, you might prefer to guide your customers toward more objective reasoning. The Texas/Northwestern researchers found that two techniques help:
  • Before asking shoppers to make the decisions for themselves, ask them what they’d recommend strangers should choose. This eases the excess emotions.
  • Show the shoppers graphs which are formatted to allow visual comparison of the alternatives. As long as the graphical portrayal is accurate, this appeals to the shoppers’ rational thinking.
Click below for more:
Emphasize Possibilities, Not Probabilities
Show Customers the Right Picture

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