Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unknot Distortions from Using “Not”

“Never say never” is a fine inspirational motto because the self-contradiction in the phrasing reflects the incompleteness of most inspirational mottos. In that same spirit, I’ll say “Do not use not,” although the complete advice is the less pithy, “Be aware that using ‘not’ when communicating with consumers often leads to misunderstandings.”
     Here’s an illustration: Which toothpaste dispenser would receive higher ratings from your customers, the one you describe as “not easy to use” or the one you describe as “not difficult to use”?
     Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern University, and INSEAD found that the “not easy to use” alternative receives higher ratings.
     Why? The answer has to do with how the two alternatives were presented:
  • All the study participants were given one of two versions of a list of characteristics of the toothpaste dispenser. 
  • The two versions were identical, except that one version included the “not easy to use” and the other, the “not difficult to use” phrase. 
  • The average ratings of liking were obtained for each separate group. 
     The participants had little trouble remembering what the phrasing said. It wasn’t as if they failed to see the “not.” Instead, it was that the “easy” or the “difficult” had much greater emphasis in the decision making than did the “not.” One group was evaluating the toothpaste dispenser with “easy” in mind, while the other had “difficult” in mind.
     The researchers found similar effects with a range of product categories. The use of “not” in product descriptions or usage instructions adds to the cognitive demands on the consumer, with the result that confusion is more likely. Consumers, especially older consumers, who were in a hurry when told that a product had “no added sugar” often remembered the product later as having added sugar.
     Sometimes the confusion operates to the advantage of the retailer. A tag line for DiGiorno frozen pizza reads “It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno.” The tag line makes us associate the frozen pizza with the quality of pizza delivered to our home. In fact, one of their ads reads, “If it looks like delivery, smells like delivery, and tastes like delivery, it’s DiGiorno.”
     To avoid confusion, omit “not.” Or to use “not” to emphasize a contrast, employ “not this, but instead that.” Employ with employees, for instance. When giving instructions to staff, if you say what not to do, add what the desired alternative behaviors are.

Click below for more: 
Avoid “Not” in Influencing Shoppers

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