Just listened to the the Radiolab Podcast – Choice and was intrigued by one experiment they were talking about: Participants had to either memorize two or seven numbers. Once they memorized them, they had to go to a different room to recite the numbers. On the way to the second room, they were offered two choices: Either a beautiful piece of chocolate cake or a fruit salad. Surprisingly, the participants that had to remember 7 numbers chose the chocolate cake by a wide margin. The people with two numbers to memorize chose by a wide margin the fruit salad.
Apparently, our rational brain can only handle a small amount of information until it’s so clogged that the emotional side wins: The people that had to memorize seven numbers weren’t able to make a rational decision. Instead, the emotional side took over and the chocolate cake with all it’s issues attached to it (Calories, Health, etc.) won handily. When people only had to memorize two numbers, the brain had enough bandwidth to compare two choices and go for the fruit salad. This study has fascinating implications for any kind of marketing: When you’re on a automotive site such as Edmunds or KBB, researching, filling your head with facts, it makes no sense for advertisers to fill up your brain with more info since your rational side is already on overload. Emotional messages would deliver much better results. Or you’re watching a news program, the last thing your brain needs is another fact-filled message. Since most Internet interaction is based on a lean-forward, rational premise, should all online messaging be focused on the emotional side?
This study makes a case for the advent of Social Marketing since it combines the benefits of rational thinking with forming emotional connections. It’s the best of both worlds.