From ads in the newspaper to banners on websites, consumers quickly process advertising information to ease their decision making process. What if you could create a positive effect by using negative information about your products or services? Entrepreneurs, marketers and optimistic people in general tend to see (and to show others) the positive angle of things. That's a great thing to keep your sanity. However, what if I told you that by presenting some negative information you could make things look more attractive?
Being Too Optimistic
Most marketers are trying to promote their company's core values and benefits. They promote outstanding reviews about their companies and so on, sometimes to the point that it sounds "too good to be true." Don't get me wrong - you should definitely keep doing so. However, you should make your marketing messages seem more realistic and down to earth, by exposing some of the cons of using your service or product, but in a managed way. As in other aspects of life there's no good without bad, you will experience no joy if you won't know what sadness feels like. A recent research conducted at Stanford University shows that a tiny bit of negativity actually strengthens a consumer's positive impression of a particular product or service. As long as the negative information about a product is minor, the pitch to the customer might be more persuasive, particularly if consumers have already learned some positive things. This is called the Blemishing Effect.
The Blemishing Effect
The Blemishing Effect is one out of many natural biases that affect our decision making, and not necessarily in a rational way. As on an average day we make hundreds of decisions - all the way from choosing the right time to cross the road, through what to eat for lunch, and up to your rapid business decisions - our brain has sorts of "shortcuts" to allow us to make quick decisions. In some aspects of our lives it works perfectly; For example, you don't need to calculate the length of a road, speed of oncoming cars, your walking speed and so on, just to make a decision about crossing the road, but rather just look both ways and take action. Yet in some other aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to consumer behavior, our decisions are not that rational. The good news is, they are predictable.
When the negative information presented is very minor, it won't help you to benefit from the positive effect. If it is too substantial, then it can actually hurt you (e.g. If you are selling shoes - having a very limited set of sizes in stock will hurt you). Typically smaller purchases rather than large expensive ones will benefit from listing a bit of negativity about the specific product. Yet, there are limitations to the Blemishing Effect. First, the positivity must outweigh the negativity, customers cannot be too invested in their purchase and lastly, the positive must come before the negative.
Here are three ways to put the Blemishing Effect into full throttle:
1. Unflatter Your Product, Mildly
Most products or services have attributes that are less appealing than others, make sure to always list these attributes after you have already listed some strong positive ones.
For example, assuming that you don't offer free delivery on a certain item, list your "low delivery rate" right at the end of the list of features, rather than emphasizing that.
2. Downgrade Your Offering a Bit
If you are in the hospitality services (e.g. Hotels, Restaurants), you might want to add a bit of negative news such as "During busy hours, service might take longer than usual". Or if your product or service really does magic, you could mention that it might take a few months to start and see results (though it's tempting, as marketers, to promise quick results).
3. Be Honest and Direct
There are always some difficulties along the way, and you already know about some issues that other customers gave you feedback on. Don't be afraid to mention them to new clients. It could actually work to your benefit.
Curious about other cognitive biases and how do they influence our online shoppers decision making? Checkout this slideshare.