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Book Review : The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton

Book Review : The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy
Author : Richard Shotton
Review of podcast interview on Everyone Hates Marketers podcast

Building a brand is tough – what’s worse is that destroying a brand is easy. Standing on the top of the roof and shouting (ok, nationwide TV ads on a major sporting event) does not build a brand with the message you want.

People have biases and they react to the message. Effectively brand is what someone perceives.

The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioral Biases That Influence What We Buy by Richard Shotton is a great book. Richard was recently interviewed on the “Everyone hates Marketers” podcast. Here is a summary of the podcast where they discussed 3 of the 25 biases. The podcast was very interesting overall, but here is the brief as a review of the biases.

Bias 1 : The pratfall effect

A pratfall is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as “a humiliating mishap or blunder”. It’s the idea that if you admit a weakness or you exhibit a flaw you become more appealing.

Examples : VW. They went out and said, “Ugly is skin deep.” So, admit they’re ugly.
Listerine, the taste you hate twice a day. They admitted they taste awful.
Guinness, good things come to those who wait. They admitted they were slow.

It can be applied to reviews : Northwestern University did a study in 2015 … “As the product review gets better, likelihood to purchase increases until it hits a tipping point. So ,somewhere between 4.2 and 4.4 out of five. And then after that point, if the review gets any better then likelihood to purchase declines.”

Perfection was not trusted. It was seen as too good to be true. Consumers didn’t trust perfection. Most brands do not use this effect and hence people don’t trust brands.

Bias 2 : Confirmation bias.

It’s the idea that people are very good at maintaining their existing point of view. For example, if you dislike a brand and you hear a message from them. Your brain can generate counter argument after counter argument which maintains it’s existing point of view. It just doesn’t agree with the new information.

Research has shown that distraction is a good tactic to move away from confirmation bias.

Example :
“In the late-80s British Airways were struggling with perceptions of quality.

What they didn’t just do is talk about how they had amazing stewards and stewardesses, great big seats. What they did was always accompany their ads with this wonderfully evocative piece of classical music. Now there is no logical argument about quality. Therefore the brain doesn’t come up with a list of counter-arguments.“

Bias 3 : Habit

“what are the moments when people’s habits become destabilized? And therefore as an advertiser you can persuade them. ‘Cause there’s an argument that’s there’s a huge amount of complexity in life.”

People buy brands that they always do. To make them change is not persuasion as they are not even considering the brand.

A tactic discussed is “people’s habits become destabilized just after they undergo a life event. So what I mean by that — a life event is getting married, divorced, retired, moving house.”

During a research conducted by the author “what we found was that on pretty much every life event and every product we looked at people between two and three times more likely to try a new brand in that short window after they had undergone a life event.”

So, as a brand think of the moments or events in your customers’ lives that you can introduce your brand or “putting a disproportionate influence on people when they are entering your category” or personalization.

However, he cautions about over personalization “If it tries to target different messages to different people. To begin with, that will look amazing. It will have a great effect but sooner or later we ill overhear those messages and therefore we’ll know that it stands for nothing or that it can stand for many different things. So it’s value is a signal to other people about what we believe in no longer stands.”


If you liked the review or book please post your comments . If you want to see more reviews, let us know on the chat.

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