David Miliband keeps reminding us that his brother Ed, is really a great leader. The former Foreign Secretary doth protest too much, methinks. When we have to be reminded of things, when politicians keep telling us they don’t mind losing an election or when some hapless no-hoper from The X-Factor appears in the tabloids blaming the judges for their demise, we all start to get suspicious. Shakespeare had it right, it seems, in Hamlet.
So, how well do you respond to web pages which constantly remind you of how brilliant the item on sale actually is? Do you like it when someone keeps on poking you in the eye with the usefulness of their product? What do you think when you get yet another email reminding you of the never-ending use you’ll get out of the item, if only you were to buy it?
The chances are you respond negatively. When you are constantly reminded of how useful something is, the reverse impact to the one the seller wants starts to happen. Instead of people going “wow I must buy it” they go “oh no, not again”. And new research from the University of Maryland shows one of the reasons why this is the case. It turns out that when we evaluate products on offer we judge not only the amount of usage we will get out of it, but we compare ourselves to how often other people might use the item. If we think we will use it less frequently than other people we avoid buying the item as we think we will “never keep up”. Hence reminding people of the usefulness of anything you are selling merely helps confirm that your buyer is in some way inadequate compared with people who are using the item regularly. And that’s not a good way of creating a positive mindset…!
So when David Miliband reminds us he has a great brother (I am sure the love each other) all he is doing is making us feel as though we are unable to work that out for ourselves. Similarly, when the X-Factor rejects constantly blame the judges or the media, all they are really doing is helping us focus on the judges’ abilities and ensuring we increase our trust in them. In other words, when you repeatedly try to bring attention to one element of something, what you do is confirm the converse.
If you want people to buy your products online, rather than constantly mention their usefulness, emphasise the benefits. The more you remind people of how many times they will actually use your products, the less likely they are to buy them because they feel they will not be able to maintain such regular usage. Once again, this is more research which confirms the value of explaining benefits rather than a feature, such as the number of times the item will be used.