Making Decisions: Facts or Feeling?

Attending last week’s fifth annual MSN Strategic Account Summit at Microsoft headquarters was worth the precious time out of the office. It’s no surprise the kind folks from Redmond would put on a first-class event. A full list of top-notch online industry vets presented compelling case studies and the latest and greatest in effectiveness research. Most compelling was a session with Malcolm Gladwell, whose book, “The Tipping Point,” had an unforeseen affect on viral marketing.

Gladwell’s about to surprise us again with his upcoming book, “Blink.” The book’s premise is we make decisions in one of two ways. The first is the “carefully thought-out, logical consideration of the facts” decision process. The other is the “snap” judgment, in which we rely on intuition or gut feeling. Gladwell’s view is we’ve grown dependent on numerous sources of information, research, and data to the point where we unknowingly let this overflow cloud our decision-making process.

Gladwell noted the process Herman Miller went through to bring the Aeron chair to market. During the development process, the company conducted customer research to affirm this new design direction. The chair tested well for comfort but lacked solid visual appeal. Herman Miller launched the product anyway to record sales. Why did it ignore the negative customer comments on appeal? It realized the new design wasn’t really perceived as ugly, but so different and unique customers really didn’t know how to react to it.

Gladwell also noted a twist on the famous Pepsi Challenge. Most people can easily distinguish a sip of Coke from a sip of Pepsi. Add a third drink, and there’s too much information to process to accurately determine which brand is in which cup. According to Gladwell, only a third of us would pass this more complex test.

The Online Advertising Connection

Perhaps we put too many case studies, data points, research results, and analyses in front of clients. They’re paralyzed with information. We must streamline the media mix decision into a different selling proposition. Perhaps something like this:

Hey, Mr. Marketer:

Today, your best customers will spend 14 percent of their media day online. Reallocate your budget or you’ll miss them.

Who wants to miss his best customer? No one.

Next time you have a client debate about spending allocation, tell them to make a snap decision and just make the buy. You know in your gut this will work. And if it doesn’t work, have on hand stats regarding the 1,500 brand impact studies and the dozens of sales impact studies proving online works for building brand and demand. Not that anyone’s counting.

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