Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The devil you know

Do you remember the first time you bought your own beer? or cigarettes? or even bread?  One thing is almost certain, you bought a brand you had tried before, or at least heard of, even if just in an advertisement.

We are naturally drawn to the things we know.  Assuming our interactions with a product or company are neutral or better, we will prefer them over the alternative... trying something new.  

A restaurant you would only give 3 stars, is a better bet than one you have never tried before.  Even though 3 stars isn't great, it is a known entity, making it a safe bet.  When you try something new, you are betting it will beat the known entity (4 or 5 stars) which leaves at least a 60% chance of failure.  If you bet that your rating is accurate, you have a high chance of being correct.  And if you are wrong, there is a 50% chance that you have under-rated it.  That's a minimum 75% chance of success.  (Hit me up in the comments if you want to see my math.)

We don't need math and betting odds to tell us that we prefer the things we are familiar with, but it helps illustrate that our gut isn't just being a wet blanket when it comes to trying new things.

If you want to encourage more people to try your product/service, you have to overcome the devil they know.

There are two ways to increase a person's interest in a product and decrease their aversion to "something new"; exposure and social proof.

Exposure:
It takes being exposed to something new about 7 times to remember it.  This is why companies want you to see their television and radio commercials tons of times.  The more you are exposed to their product, the more likely you are to want to try it out.

Social Proof:
When we are uncertain about something, the quality of a restaurant, how to act, etc. we turn to our neighbors to see what they are doing.  Social proof helps us overcome the odds of failure.  
If everyone you know jumped off a bridge, would you do it?  Yeah, probably.  The social proof is too strong.  They probably know something I don't.  Maybe it's really fun or the bridge is on fire.

Exposure and social proof is why many life long products, including beer and cigarettes that have age restrictions, advertise to kids.  They know that when a young adult buys his first cigarette it isn't going to be a Maverick unless he knows someone who smokes Mavericks.  When he buys his first beer it's not going to be Fat Tire, it will be Coors or Bud light.  He will buy what he has been exposed to or what comes highly recommended.