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Brands & Consumers

Brands And The Power Of Choice


I swiped this cartoon image from a wonderful TED Talk by Sheena Iyengar on the art of choosing. If you are managing a brand, do yourself a favor and take some time to watch it. It has significant implications for brand marketers.

As I listened to her scholarly presentation, I thought how the power of choice affects our collective work in building the value of brands. Obviously choice, and more specifically free choice, is what we Americans have built our entire cultural narrative on over the past two and a half centuries. But is our cultural inclination for more and more choice really serving us? I ask the rhetorical question because I think it’s worth thinking about.

We have abundant choice. We are surrounded by options. This is not so in other parts of the world. It is interesting to note, that in those cultures where many choices have not been previously available, the sudden available of choice causes tremendous stress and anxiety for people. People simply have a difficult time sorting things out.  In some cultures, choosing for oneself is viewed as disrespectful to the harmony and collective well-being of all concerned. For example, in Asian cultures, it’s better to have the “buy-in” of others, particularly those who are admired and respected, who participate in the choices an individual makes. For these people community trumps individualism.

When it comes to the brandscape, our available choices in all product categories seems more and more endless. So much so that I am beginning to believe that choice is dumbing us down as a culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating less freedom to choose. I’m simply throwing the idea out there that we might have more choice than is really good for us. At a minimum, we have more choice than what is truly useful to us. I don’t believe ubiquitous marketing online or off is helping bring more clarity to people about choice. More marketing and more choice just adds to the slush pile.

When we think about the implications of choices and its effects on the consumer’s purchase behavior, the important question is not what choices are available, but why consumers choose what they choose. It’s my belief that the preferences and choices consumers have for one brand or another has nothing to do with the number or quality of alternatives available. It’s simply a matter of how brands connect with shared beliefs, values and meaningful emotional connections consumers have with a particular brand’s value proposition.

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