Horse Power was comparison everyone could understand.
Suddenly, Watt had put the steam engine into a language that made sense to the layman. Which is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he launched the iPod.
He didn’t compare it to to other MP3 players for speed and fidelity.
That would have been a market-share comparison.
Steve Jobs had a much bigger opportunity in mind, market-growth.
That’s why he compared the iPod to something ordinary people could understand.
He simply held it up and said “A thousand songs in your pocket.”
Because 200 years later the rules for creative communication haven’t changed. You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours.
As another example, an HBS study of the freelancer contracting site oDesk (now renamed Upwork) found that surprise incentives resulted in greater employee effort than higher pay. Harvard Business School researchers posted a data-entry job on oDesk that would take four hours. One of the postings offered $3 per hour fo the job; the other offered $4 per hour. People with past data-entry experience were hired at either the $3 or $4 rate. But some of those who were initially told they’d be paid $3 were later told that the hiring company had a bigger budget than what they expected: “Therefore, we will pay you $4 per hours instead of $3 per hour.” The group initially hired at $4 an hour worked no harder than this hired at $3. But those who received the surprise raise worked substantially harder than the other two groups, and among those with experience, their effort more than made up for the cost of the extra pay.
One battery in particular was critical to the bombardment due to its elevated terrain. But it was also the most vulnerable to counterattack, thus making it the most dangerous to operate. Bonaparte’s superiors informed him that no soldier would volunteer to man the battery. Walking through camp in contemplation he spotted a printing machine which gave him an idea. He created a sign to hang near the battery: “The battery of the men without fear.” When the other soldiers saw it the next morning they clamoured to earn the honor of operating that cannon. Bonaparte himself wielded a ramrod alongside his gunners. The cannon was manned day and night. The French won the battle; Bonaparte won the acclaim.
A survey of US college students asked them to reach to a description of a professor teaching at a top tier school. For some students we described the 45 year-old professor as wearing a t-shirt and having a beard. For others, we described him as clean-shaven and wearing a tie. The students rated the professor in a t-shirt as having higher status. The perception that an individual is consciously choosing not to conform is critical.
To signal status, deviations from the norm must demonstrate one’s autonomy to behave consistently with one’s own inclinations and to pay for the cost of nonconformity.
For example, in 2017 budget airline Ryanair announced that 92% of their passengers were satisfied with their flight experience. It turned out that their satisfaction survey only permitted the answers, ‘Excellent, very good, good, fair, OK’.
It is not only sports teams that are ranked in league tables. Take the example of the PISA Global Education Tables, which compare different countries’ school systems in mathematics. A change in league table position between 2003 and 2013 was strongly negatively correlated with initial position, meaning that countries at the top tended to go down, and those at the bottom tended to go up. The correlation was -0.60, and some theory shows that if the rankings were complete chance and all that was operating were regression-to-the-mean, the correlation would be expected to be -0.71, not very different from what was observed. This suggest the differences between countries were far less than claimed, and that change in league position had little do with changes in teaching philosophy.
I give a final striking example, this time to do with publishers. In 1969, Jerzy Kosinsky’s novel Steps won the American National Book Award for fiction. Eight years later some joker had it retyped and sent the manuscript with no title under a false name to fourteen major publishers and thirteen literary agents in the US including Random House, the firm who originally published it. Of the 27 people to whom it was submitted no one recognised it had been published and all 27 rejected it.
Except from: Irrationality by Stuart Sutherland
They asked 40 owners of iPods how influenced they were by the trendiness of the product relative to their peers. The scale went from one (much less than average) to nine (much more than average), with five as average. So the neutral answer was clearly five. However, the average response from participants was 3.3.
When asking ourselves about such a person’s trustworthiness, we should keep in mind a little tactic compliance practitioners often use to assure us of their sincerity: They will seem to argue to a degree against their own interest. Correctly done, this can be a subtly effective device for proving their honesty. Perhaps they will mention a small shortcoming in their position or product (“Oh, the disadvantages of Benson & Hedges”). Invariably, though, the drawback will be a secondary one that is easily overcome by a more significant advantages — “Listerine, the taste you hate three times a day”; “Avis: We’re number two, but we try harder”; “L’Oreal, a bit more expensive but worth it.” By establishing their basic truthfulness on minor issues, the compliance professionals who se this ploy can then be more believable when stressing the important aspects of their argument.
Consider Nespresso. They sell in distinctive pods, which provide the right amount of coffee for a cup. Because they’re sold in that unit we compare their price to other places selling by the cup, such as Costa or Caffe Nero. When compared to the £2.50 Costa charge, Nespresso pods, costing 30p-37p, feel like a bargain.
But stop for a second and remember back to when they launched. If Nespresso had sold their coffee in standard packaging the natural comparison set would have other brands of roast and ground coffee, like Taylor’s or illy. Their price would have been judged against the norm for other coffees — roughly £4.00 for 227g. Even with tens of millions of pounds of advertising they could never have persuaded consumers to pay £34 for a 454g bag. But that £34 figure equates to 7p per gram, exactly what they’re charging now.
In 2010, a group of mathematicians, historians and athletes were tasked with identifying certain names that represented significant figures within each discipline. They had to discern whether Johannes de Groot or Benoit Theron were famous mathematicians, for instance, and they could answer, Yes, No, or Don’t Know. As you might hope, the experts were better at picking out the right people (such as Johannes de Groot, who really was a mathematician) if they fell within their discipline. But they were also more likely to say they recognised the made-up figures (in this case, Benoit Theron). When their self-perception of expertise was under question, they would rather take a guess and ‘over-claim’ the extent of their knowledge than admit their ignorance with a ‘don’t know’.
After receiving the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918, Max Planck went on tour across Germany. Wherever he was invited, he delivered the same lecture on new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur grew to know it by heart: ‘It has to be boring giving the same speech each time, Professor Planck. How about I do it for you in Munich? You can sit in the front row and wear my chauffeur’s cap. That’d give us both a bit of variety.’ Planck liked the idea, so that evening the driver held a long lecture on quantum mechanics in front of a distinguished audience. Later, a physics professor stood up with a question. The driver recoiled: ‘Never would I have thought that someone from such an advanced city as Munich would ask such a simple question! My chauffeur will answer it.’
Excerpt from: The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
Houdini himself seems to have intuitively understood the vulnerability of the intelligent mind. ‘As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better he is educated, the easier it has been to mystify him,’ he once told Conan Doyle.
People are unrealistically optimistic even when the stakes are high. About 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and this is a statistic most people have heard. But around the time of the ceremony, almost all couples believe that there is approximately a zero percent chance that their marriage will end in divorce — even those who have already been divorced! (Second marriage, Samuel Johnson once quipped, ‘is the triumph of hope over experience.’) A similar point applies to entrepreneurs starting new businesses, where the failure rate is at least 50 percent. In one survey of people staring new businesses (typically small businesses, such a contracting firms, restaurants, and salons), respondents were asked two questions: (a) What do you think is the chance of success for a typical business like yours? (b) What is your chance of success? The most common answers to these questions were 50 percent and 90 percent, respectively, and many said 100 percent to to the second question.
Unrealistic optimism can explain a lot of individual risk taking, especially in the domain of risks to life and health.
Bush’s 8-year term saw the horrific events of September 11th and the controversial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. Many Bush supporters still focus on the positives of his presidency as a justification for his actions, whilst opposing Democrats will argue their candidate, Gore, would have handled the situation better.
We can often ignore opposing evidence in favour of what we believe is correct (see: confirmation bias). Once we’ve made a decision based on the evidence considered, we don’t like looking like we made the wrong one. To help ensure this, we often over-attribute positive features to the options we’ve chosen and negative features to options not chosen, like political candidates. As a result, we feel good about ourselves and our choices, and have less regret for bad decisions. This makes changing incorrect beliefs an incredibly hard task.
Consumers desire for past choices to be rational and well-made (or at least seem to be) makes them more likely to overlook any faults in an effort to convince themselves and others that they made the right decision.
“Monstromart: where shopping is a baffling ordeal” reads the slogan of a fictional supermarket in The Simpsons.
Inside the supermarket, there were whole aisles for one type of product. There were different brands of tomato ketchup as far as the eye could see, bags sugar could be bought in hundreds of varieties, the express checkout had a sign reading: “1,000 items or less”.
In the end, the Simpsons returned to Apu’s Kwik-E-Mart. In doing so, the Simpsons were making a choice to reduce their choice. It wasn’t quite a rational choice, but it made sense. Their unconstrained freedom left them paralysed to make decisions.
There is no denying choice improves the quality of our lives. When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. Choice is essentially freedom, which is fundamental to our well-being. However, like The Simpsons, the choice paradox suggests that offering consumers too much choice can leave them paralysed to make a decision.
I recently watched a competitive swimming heat on television. The race sticks in my mind because 50% of the athletes, four in total, were from the United States. Knowing very little about each participant, nor who the favourite was for the race, at first glance, it looked like the United States had to place in the top three. The result: none of them finished in the top three.
In this case, the size of each category, the country each athlete represented, incorrectly led me to believe they had a better chance of making it into the top three. I incorrectly believed “they had the numbers on their side”.
The category size bias demonstrates how our probability judgments are often inaccurate. Category size can impact the perceived likelihood of a specific outcome, such that an outcome classified into a large (vs small) category is perceived as more likely to occur.
Domestos kills all known germs. Dead’ was an example. But in a world where functional advantages are quickly matched by the competition, brands rarely own these claims for long. In fact, any bleach could make the same claim of Domestos.
And this takes us to the nub of how branding works. Brands succeed not by being different, but by being distinctive. Brands need a distinctive style, tone of voice, and personality. They need to have their own way of saying what they do. An end-line’s job is to sum that up in a memorable way.
Think about two great brand end-lines: Nike’s “Just do it” and Tesco’s “Every little helps”. There’s nothing inherently ownable about these words. Or the sentiments behind them. You couldn’t come up with a more ordinary bunch of words if you tried. But each of these lines reflects an attitude to the category in question that’s clear, distinctive and memorable. And over time, they’ve become inextricable linked to the brands in question.
And that’s the point. “Ownership” takes time and money. The smart marketing directors who bought those successful long-running campaign ideas and end-lines weren’t agonising over wether they were ownable.