Dear companies: please stop asking us to make decisions
How companies are reacting to decision fatigue with simple and elegant products.
Much has been said about information overload and decision fatigue. Basically, the idea is that we’re submitted to more information and options than our brain can process and accommodate. You’ve probably read the research that says we make as many as 35,000 decisions a day. These micro decisions take a toll on our brain, and at the end of the day we’re exhausted and want to take a break from making decisions.
Recently some businesses have been tapping into that phenomenon by offering a fresh perspective on consumer goods. These companies position themselves as minimalistic solutions to consumer’s daily lives. This is not about living in a cabin in the woods or only owning three shirts. They simply understand that pushing a busy brand image and a complex lineup of products creates fatigue and frustration. They react to the fact that consumers are tired of companies with convoluted solutions, and offer minimal and effective products.
A minimalistic approach to consumer goods usually is expressed through four attributes:
- Product line up
- Product name
- Product design
- Marketing and communication
Product line up
Let’s look at the world of men’s grooming. If you’re looking for new blades, Gillette, arguably the most well-known brand, is a good place to start.
However, once you start looking at their offerings, you might be surprised that they offer 18 different blades. Making a decision on which $10 product to buy quickly becomes a hassle and you might walk away frustrated without knowing which one to choose.
Let’s look at another company in the men’s grooming department with a radically different position. Harry’s entered the market in 2012 with a new proposition: quality, simple design and convenience. While Gilette can also make the argument that their blades are high-quality, It’s hard to say you’re convenient when the you make your customer navigate through 18 different products to select one.
Harry’s product line up is the opposite of Gillette’s: they sell two razors.
Having fewer items on your product line up is a statement. It says that you’re confident enough that your product is the best there is and that you don’t need 18 options. It says you put all of your energy and time into creating one superb product, instead of several mediocre ones.
Consumers don’t want to have to consider all of the options for simple purchases. If you design razor blades, I trust you to figure out which one is the best and sell that one to me. If you’re offering me 18 options, you’re making me have to read product specs, research and compare. It becomes a time consuming activity.
Mattress manufacturer Casper goes as far as only having one product, saying “Our award-winning mattress is so perfect we only make one.”
Naming strategy also plays a big part in how companies position themselves. The one year old luggage manufacturer Away names their four products the simplest way possible: The Carry-On, The Bigger Carry-On, The Medium, The Large. By having matter-of-factly names, they help you know exactly what they’re getting and how one product compares the rest.
Harry’s goes in a different direction, having simple, personal names to their products: Wilson and Truman. It makes their blades memorable.
Compare that with how Gillette names their products. FUSION® PROGLIDE® SILVERTOUCH MANUAL RAZOR WITH FLEXBALL™ TECHNOLOGY. Really, I’m not making this up.
I bet you can’t say the product name again without reading even if you own one and use it every morning. But if you own a Harry’s blade, I’m sure you can tell me which one.
Companies that don’t understand the importance of simplifying their brand sometimes err on the side of having noisy product designs. They often try to cram too many details which make up for busy products.
Notice the patterns, unnecessary curves and the Gillette brand name crammed twice in a 10 cm product canvas. It’s not beautiful to look at.
The technology graphic says there are 5 key features to take into consideration about the blades. But the fact that it garners three fine print disclaimers means those features have shortcomings and might be less than ideal.
It doesn’t calm me. In a world where technology and information availability overwhelm us, we respond better to elegant and simple products rather than overstimulation.
Marketing and communication
Brands like Gillette feed off of generating FOMO in their consumers. They are saying “look at all the incredible things I can do and if you don’t buy one now you’ll miss at all these amazing trademarked technologies.”
Other companies calm you by saying “You can trust us, we’ve done the homework, and this is the best possible solution for your need.” Insurance company Oscar bases their communication strategy on using simple language to show they are on consumer’s side and gain their trust.
Companies grounded in simplifying things for customers center their communication strategies on how consumers benefit from the products, instead of the latest product technology or product.
After making thousands of micro decisions a day, the last thing we want is to feel overwhelmed with trivial purchases. Companies need to be aware that generating a feeling of calmness creates trust, which is greater than the frustration and overwhelming feeling that comes from looking at complex products.