Give me a choice! (but please don’t make me choose)

Choice is a funny thing. Consumers will tell you they want more of it. And get angry when options are taken away. Even ones they never would have used.

Direct marketers have known for a while that ending an offer with “but the choice is yours” increases response.

However, when consumers actually get more options, they often buy less. And feel worse. They suffer from choice paralysis and buyer’s regret.

You see, choice makes us feel like we’re in control. Our brains like that. But choice also gives us responsibility, which we pretty much hate.

In the end, every additional option just increases our chances of screwing up by picking  wrong.

So it’s best to give people some choice, but not too much. And to cluster options: pale ales, lagers, porters. Our brains love categories (even ones that make little sense, as the mere categorization effect shows).

Creative cues can nudge people towards the ‘right’ option. The expert’s choice, our most popular model, the original flavour … there are many ways to signal that yes, the choice is yours … but some options are more equal than others.

And if then the choice is still difficult, simply reframe it through choice substitution. “The question is not which car you want, the question is do you want to love or hate driving to work every day?” People will prefer to answer the easier question and let that guide their choice.

In the 80s, pop group Wham! wore shirts with the slogan “Choose Life”. In two words they took a difficult choice: “Do I spend my allowance on a Wham! LP or one by Culture Club, ABC or Simple Minds?” And substituted it for a much clearer one: do I Choose Life or the alternative? One thing is for sure: they made it big.