I Knew in an Instant, Did You?


It seemed so obvious just by looking at his face.  You could see the glint in his eyes, the slight up curl of his top lip resembling the snarl a cat gets just after eating the mouse.  This guy was cool, not a drop of perspiration.  He was guilty, you knew it and he knew it, and he was relishing the fact that he had fooled everybody.  Your gut was telling you, this guy did it, but with the wealth of testimonies, charts, diagrams, witness depositions, and all other types of evidence, the jury found him innocent.  How was it that with all that information available, they could make such an obviously bad decision?

This is a fictitious story however we have all been there.  How many times has your gut told you, don’t do this, you’ll regret it, but after you thought about it, weighed all of the possible outcomes you made a decision that turned out to be the wrong one?

This is the gist of Malcom Gladwell’s book “Blink” (after his best seller “The Tipping Point”).  When confronted with lots of information, humans can and often do make dreadfully wrong decisions.  The part of our unconscious brain that processes information very quickly and undetectable to us, the part that is a necessary hereditary trait that has kept our species in existence, is remarkably accurate.  It is our instinct, or our gut, that sometimes we choose to ignore because we’ve been taught to pause, gather information and deliberate before making a decision.

I don’t think it was Mr. Gladwell’s contention that we only rely on instinct to make decisions and I urge you to read his book to find out when deliberate conscious thought is better, however I believe he makes an important point relative to how good marketing can help or hurt this process of decision making.

In marketing collateral, signage, websites and other forms of communication, it never ceases to amaze me just how much information companies feel they need to include.  We are absolutely inundated with information and choices and yet we’re expected to sort through all of the possibilities and make the correct decision to take action.  More is better, right?  Worse yet, with too many choices, we will sometimes choose not to choose: paralysis by analysis.

As Mr. Gladwell says, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Don’t be afraid to have “white space” in your marketing communications.
  • Strive not to present too many choices or force a lot of information on your potential customer.
  • Keep it simple and more than likely, their “instinct” about you and your product or service will be correct.
  • Help them to understand how your product or service will make their life easier or better.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “I Knew in an Instant, Did You?”

  1. I don’t agree with everything in this piece of writing, but you do make some very good points. I’m very interested in this subject matter and I myself do alot of research as well. Either way it was a well thoughtout and nice read so I figured I would leave you a comment. Feel free to check out my website sometime and let me know what you think.

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