The follow is a guest post by Neil Davidson. His bio is at the end of the article.
Sheena Iyengar gave a TED talk called The Art of Choosing which was about her research into the nature of choice in the Western world with some very telling comparisons from other cultures. She talked about three main assumptions about choice in the West. The first is that the primary locus of choice is the individual. The second is that more options will mean that people will make better choices. Finally, that one must never say no to choice.
In her research Iyengar carried out experiments to provide counter-arguments to these assumptions and revealed that Western values around choice have some serious holes in them. There are other ways of looking at choice that western cultures should learn from and introduce into their narrative around choice. She talks quite specifically about the US and the advertising culture. Choice in this context is as much about who a brand is as well as the product itself. Americans are accustomed to this environment of advertising and choice. They have grown up with it and their beliefs about choice are founded on the assumptions mentioned above.
However, this isn’t necessarily healthy. Iyengar’s experiments reveal comparisons which suggest alternative ways to look at choice. One study involved bringing three separate mixed groups of 7-9 year old Anglo-American and Anglo-Asian children into a class room. The first group was given a choice as to what activity they could do. The second group were given the same activity as the first group but they were told to do it by the teacher. The third group were also given the same activity but they were told that their mothers had chosen the activity for them.
The way that the activity was given to the children affected their performance at the tasks (anagrams). The Anglo-American children performed less well when they thought the task had been dictated by their mothers. The Anglo-Asian children performed better when they thought their mothers were responsible for the task choice. The first generation children were positively influenced by their parents. Choice for them wasn’t just about satisfying individual preferences; they trusted and respected the choice of their mothers on their behalf. In other words, their individual preference was shaped by the preference of others in their ‘community’.
The assumption that the individual should be the locus of choice only applies when the individual sees themselves as separate from others. The natural consequence of this is to think that an insistence on independent choices can be damaging to relationships. Also, it can’t be the case that everyone thrives under the pressure to make all of their choices independently.
How it can help you
So, this is all very interesting, but you are probably wondering how you can use it to make people choose your company over your competitors.
An understanding of how people make choices incorporated into your marketing strategy should give you an edge. It is likely you are already so familiar with the western approach to advertising, and as a result, western attitudes about choice. I definitely don’t need to tell you how to market your product by adding value through branding to encourage particular types of people to choose you.
Rather, the lessons you should take from this research are from the alternative approaches to choice which focus on community. First of all, you need to buy in to the fact that no single way of looking at choice can serve the needs of everyone everywhere – you need to be open to the possibility of alternatives. Specifically, be open to the following (which I have to admit, does make me feel a little bit uncomfortable!):
Other people can make choices for you
- some people allow others to make choices for them
It is okay to let other people make choices for you
- some people have no shame about allowing others to make choices for them
Allowing other people to make choices for you can be a relief
- people enjoy the relief of not having to take responsibility for all of their decisions
On this basis, you can create a different kind of marketing strategy. One that focuses on positioning yourself as a benevolent and authoritative leader in your field. By demonstrating leadership and building trust, people will make the choice to listen to you and do what you suggest.
This is where video content comes in – by using certain types of video such as testimonials, interviews with the CEO of your company, VOX pops you will raise your authority and trust through becoming known as an industry thought leader; over time this will then translate into people choosing to listen to you.
The myth of the search for authenticity
At first glance, it appears that people are aiming to be unique. However, when you look closely at what is happening in most markets, people aren’t striving for authenticity, they are looking to fit in, to be like everyone else. They seek advice from others about what clothes to wear, gadgets to use, places to go.
Your aim should be to present your business as a trusted, tried and tested, leader in your industry area. Make it easy for people to choose you by focusing on your successes and your reliability. Demonstrate how your product or service has benefited lots of other people and ultimately, don’t be afraid to tell people that you will solve a problem for them – it’s what they want to hear! Just make sure you can back it up.
Neil Davidson is the Founder of My Web Presenters, a leading video production company specialising in video spokesperson videos. They work with businesses of all sizes to create and market compelling and emotive videos. They also write a video marketing blog regularly, so please check it out.