William Blake, the 18th century, English poet, and painter, as a young fourteen-year-old did something rather strange for his time. His father had planned to make him serve as an apprentice to a famous engraver, William Ryland who was required to train and develop his talents. Blake junior refused, telling his father that; “I don’t like the man’s face, he looks like he will live to be hanged”. Ryland was famous and well respected at the time and Blake junior’s outburst was incredibly irrational for his time. His father unusually indulged him and sent him off to learn under James Basire a less known engraver. Ryland eventually committed forgery and was hanged. Blakes irrationality earned him legendary status for this outcome. As with Blake, irrationality sometimes leads to interesting outcomes.
Here is food for thought. Ever walked into a shop; smelled the perfume, saw the prices, and thought, gosh! those clothes were great? It’s possible you were not thinking rationally!
Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany recently showed that the perceived taste of wine is directly related to its price. The more expensive the bottle; the higher is the expected enjoyment and it doesn’t end with food and drink. Perfume manufacturers understand this phenomenon rather well because they sell easy to manufacture perfume, charge high prices and leave the buyers feeling good with a much lighter wallet.
This phenomenon also applies to diamonds. Are diamonds really that great or difficult to mine, lasting forever to command any meaningful premium? Probably not! The rationale behind these price premia lies in the way customers think and make poor buying decisions. In Nigeria, we tend to see invoices from club outings in the tens of millions of naira surface on social media. Was it the bottles of Champaign consumed or the perception of spending large sums of money on Champaign that gives the spender pleasure? The club promoters understand this psychological bias and take advantage of it by adding sparklers to bottles of expensive drinks when ordered to announce to other club-goers to get the extra service as well.
Most people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty using simple rules or heuristics; not complex, not clever, and certainly not complicated mathematical models that few understand. It is imperative that when designing products and services, one must take these simple rules into account. A good outcome from the research is that customers tend to show consistency in their behaviours within a given set of circumstances.
A very common observed behaviour amongst people is the avoidance of regret. For example, my friend says that this school is great for his kids. Why would I try another school I know nothing about? I may regret it. KFC’s chicken tastes the same every time, everywhere. Why should I go to Iya risi to buy chicken and run the risk of days of suffering from food poisoning? Avoiding regret and relying on information from our in-group is one of the keyways scientists have shown we make decisions. This phenomenon is called social proof, where we use the experience of others to decide. Smart business owners who understand behavioural patterns of their target audience can develop the best-suited products and services in a profitable manner.
Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy in the UK shares the wonderful example of the Redbull brand. Redbull walked into a saturated drinks market and carved out a niche and category for itself; the energy drinks section. They sell a product that is a lot more expensive than coca-cola and Pepsi, and in a smaller can.
That contrasts with what the usual drinks manufacturers do. They sell more volume at a cheaper price than their market competitors. This is a hamster on a wheel strategy where you’d keep trying to keep up with the competition.
Do you want your customers to love the furniture or product you are selling? Make them invest their time in assembling or creating it. Ikea has built its furniture empire by ensuring their customers invest in their purchase by assembling it themselves. Even if it is assembled badly, the investment in time makes the owner love it even more. It is called the Ikea Effect!
Customers love some choice, too much choice tends to overwhelm. There is good sense in giving customers some options but more important is providing a default choice. The default option or choice is usually the most popularly ordered option. It however needs not to be the case. Fast food restaurants do this by bundling various goods together to create a package or option. Who really orders jollof rice without chicken and a coke? A great package would also include plantain as a default option.
Individuals love free stuff. Give them something free that also involves a future investment or commitment. Netflix and many other companies offer a month’s free trial. I recently signed up for the Press reader app after getting a 3-week free subscription, I liked the product and decided to keep it. You use the product, you get to like the product, you get to pay for the product later! Once the customer is attached to the product, they are less inclined to give it back or cancel a subscription, it works!
Good rhetoric also pays, nice sounds and good sights help sell products. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an example of the show’s makers thinking about how the title sounds to the audience and makes it easy to remember. William Shakespeare was a master user of rhetorical devices and alliteration specifically. He was concerned about how the audience received the words from the actors of his plays.
As a product developer or business owner before you finalise your plans, remember that your client like you is not necessarily rational. Design your products for them.