by: Idris Mootee
Choices are a two-way sword. Common sense tells the more choices the better and as consumers we welcome more choices. We are all overrun by brand names, product choices, delivery choices, pricing options and payment options. These explosions of choices together with rising mistrust of corporations together; a bland corporatization of the world, and people just don't know what to believe anymore. More choice can mean less consumption. Companies need to rethink their portfolios.
The world remains divided and even becoming more polarized. There is the maximizer, whose continual search for finer things - the latest LV bags or the newest Blackberry - makes them feel good: it is the paradox of choice, and whatever you have got, it's just not good enough. Then there is the satisfier, who is happy with things as they are. And there is the minimizer whose continuously on a journey to simplify life and stay ‘zen’ and then there are those at bottom of the economic pyramid who don’t have any choices.
The concept of ‘choices’ is an interesting one. There's story my friend Scoot Danielson was telling me this funny story about this restaurant that you can order what you need, but the guy will give you he wants. Funny story the way he tells it. I forgot what was the restaurant he was referring to. If you’ve been to the sushi bar Sasabune in New York, choices is not part of the menu. The chef will decide what you eat. Use extra soy sauce at your own risk. Don’t try asking for a California roll, you will get kicked out. They are ‘sushi bullies’; they decide what is good for you and if they want you to be eating there. Don’t you love that idea? I am sure marketers would kill to have that position.
Each sushi dictator has his own pet peeves, but there is common ground. Most do not allow sushi bar patrons to order off the menu. Instead, diners must accept whatever the chef gives them, a tradition known as "omakase" -- a Japanese expression that can be loosely translated as "trust the chef." They reserve special enmity for spicy tuna rolls -- typically made with scraps of raw tuna, mayonnaise and chili powder were only invented so that restaurants could mask the taste of substandard fish. Don’t ask for California roll, it is an US invention. The chef decides what his customers eat and doles out soy sauce by the droplet. Patrons who rudely demand miso soup and extra rice are often shown the door. It is estimated that they eject a customer or two per month simply because they take too long to eat.
The question is are we given enough choices as consumers? I think answer is not about "choices"; it is about truly differentiated options that are meaningful to consumer. By merely providing more choices based on undifferentiated options is turning customer off. We said we wanted choices. Now carriers are offering plans that no one can understand (unless you have PhD in mathematics). Check out the number of cell phones available out there? Check the type of accounts available from your banks? Same for toothpaste, detergent, motor oil, shampoo, sneakers and digital cameras etc. Marketers have only one strategy, it is to confuse us.
Wireless is the best example. We don't need more devices, services or applications. Most wireless shoppers are not even aware of available services. They may ask for some key features such as GPS etc. They are not aware of most other options. For many products, more is less. Overwhelming choice paralyzes people into indecision. Marketing dollars are wasted to educate consumers. The strategy is to do less (do right) than your competitors to beat them. Let them overshoot and you bring to your customers a few simple solutions that help them solve their problems. It's just that simple.