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I’ve listened to this podcast 5 times

September 27, 2010

Ever been sitting on the couch on a Saturday, and there’s nothing on TV, but you watch a show you’ve seen about 5 times, because there’s nothing on?

Yeah, me too.

Now let me ask you another question.

Have you ever listened to a radio show more than once?

Maybe it’s a This American Life. Or the WTF where Marc Maron interviews Judd Apatow. Or maybe it’s Radio Lab, and the episode is called Choice.

If it’s the latter, then you’re like me.

Consumers have a choice. Sometimes, in the case of too much choice, it can be overwhelming.(See the Paradox of Choice)

Additionally, our brains aren’t designed to remember much. Indeed, if you wondered, it’s 7.

7 numbers is the most we can generally remember. (many people can remember more, but 7 is the ‘industry average’ Ergo, the whole phone number thing).

In a classic experiment described in the aforementioned episode of Radio Lab called “Choice”, they describe an experiment called “The Magic Number Seven” that purported that most people can naturally hold seven (+/- 2) numbers in their heads. When people are asked to remember more than seven numbers, strange things happen. People are asked to remember a number on a piece of paper. They can take as much time as they want, and then walk out of the room and into another room to recite the number.

Some are asked to remember a two digit number and some are asked to remember a seven digit number. As they walk down the hall, they are interrupted by a woman who offers them a “Thank you for participating snack”. The choices are a healthy bowl of fruit, or a huge piece of non-healthy chocolate cake.

The results. The people with two numbers almost always picked the fruit. The people with seven numbers almost always picked the cake. The reason is that the rational part of the brain is in competition with the emotional side. Emotional side wants cake. The rational side knows that fruit is better for them. However, when the rational side is given seven numbers to remember, it can’t compete with the emotional side of the brain, meaning people don’t make a rational decision, they make an emotional one.

Listen here.

So what are the implications of all this?

Don’t ask people to remember too much. Indeed, in advertising, we only ever expected to communicate one thing. For some consumers, making it easier to make choices would be smart.

Also, it seems that consumers might like a choice in how they contact brands. Just not seven choices.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2010 4:10 pm

    It is amazing how many times we actually have to watch or listen to things to really comprehend the message. There is no way this happens in our culture today!

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