The Law of Contrast tells us that the perception of something changes the moment it’s compared to something else.
The human mind loves comparison.
It’s one of the primary ways that me make sense of information.
And the formula is pretty simple.
A piece of information is introduced to the mind.
The mind compares that information to other information that it has received in the past and then makes it’s analysis.
For example let’s say you’re thinking of buying a new pair of sneakers that cost $79.
You really like them and you know they’ll look great with some outfits that you already have.
The question is: “Are they worth $79?”
Actually the better question is “What does that figure of $79 mean to you?”
Because let’s face it. The price of everything is subjective.
Especially when it comes to sneakers. Most sneakers sold by Nike cost over 80 bucks and probably were made for less than 10.
So back to the 79 dollar figure.
With nothing to compare it to, you’ll form an opinion about that number.
Now imagine that you walked into the same store and saw a price tag that said
$129 on sale for $79.
Now that same figure of $79 looks much cheaper even though it’s the same as it was before.
This is often why on infomercials we see an offer, a price and then another offer.
“But wait, if you call now, we’ll double the offer. That means you’ll get 2 widgets for the price of one.”
In marketing we call this bonus stacking.
You make an offer. Say one widget for $19.99.
You give the prospect a few minutes to absorb that offer and then you “sweeten the deal” by offering another widget for the same price.
This makes the offer look more appealing to the customer as opposed to just offering the 2 widgets from the get go.
Maybe this intrigues you.
Or maybe you’re thinking “Yeah no shit Paul. I know this already. I’ve seen it a hundred times.”
What’s basically happened is through repeated exposure you’re now conscious of the comparison taking place in your mind.
But what about when it happens subconsciously and you have absolutely no clue?
Make no mistake. It is happening. All the time.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely is a great read for anyone interested in knowing how the human mind works and what makes people tick.
In his book Dan sites an interesting ad he found on the web.
Basically there are 3 offers.
Offer #1 – Internet only subscription for $59
Offer #2 – Print only subscription for $125
Offer #3 – Print and Internet subscription for $125
Who in their right mind would take offer #2 which is print only when you can get print and Internet for the same price (if you want print that is).
Was this a typo? Maybe an oversight?
What we have here are a group of smart marketers who understand how the human mind relies on comparison and using it to their advantage.
Let me explain.
The majority of people do not know what they want until they see it in context.
We don’t know what kind of makeup or underwear we want until we see Drew Barimore or David Beckham showing us what they use.
We don’t know which pair of jeans we like best until we try on a pair Diesel and compare them to the Lee’s that we used to wear.
Most people don’t even know what career path they want to take until they see what a friend or relative is doing and how successful they are.
Everything in life relative.
In the case of the subscription offer the marketers know that thinking about which option (print or Internet only) can be a pain the ass for most people.
Especially since we are cognitive misers looking to reserve most of our thought energy for the stuff that’s really important.
So what do they do? They make it a no-brainer.
They structure the offer with the intention to sell #3 from the beginning by making offers 1 and 2 look less desirable.
This is why I like Dan Ariely.
This guy is a fan of science not theory.
So he took the same options and offered them to 100 students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
His results were as follows:
1. Internet-only subscription for $ 59 — 16 students took this offer.
2. Print-only subscription for $ 125 — zero students took this offer.
3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $ 125 — 84 students too this offer.
These results indicate that the strategy of placing a “decoy” (as Dan calls it) which is option number 2 does in fact move people toward option number 3.
But he wanted to be sure so he ran the study again.
This time he removed the “decoy” and only offered option #1 (Internet only for $59) and option #3 (print and Internet for $125).
This time 68 students chose option #1 (Internet only for $59) and only 32 chose the combo option for $125, down 84 from before.
And from what? The removal of the decoy.
Here’s the deal.
You may not agree with these findings.
You may think you’re immune to this type of irrationality.
That’s your call.
But for God’s sake DON’T be foolish enough to think the rest of the world (including your potential customers) are as well.
Instead embrace this reality and utilize it by somehow always having something to compare your offer to which makes it look more appealing.
Remember no matter how you hard you try you can’t help but see this circle differently when you look at it in each picture even though it’s the same size in both pictures.
That’s how the human mind uses comparison 😉