Archive for May, 2014

Should I tell you now, or should I tell you later?

By:  Steve Martin,

In the introduction of Influence, Robert Cialdini recounts the story of a friend who, in an attempt to sell off a consignment of slow moving turquoise jewelry, left a hand-written note for one of her sales staff to mark down the stock at “x ½” price before leaving for an out-of-town trip. On her return, she wasn’t surprised to learn that the stock had sold out, BUT she was surprised that due to her bad penmanship, the saleswoman mistakenly reading the “x ½” on her note as “x 2”, and everything had sold for twice the original price. The story illustrates nicely how, in the absence of other information, the price of an item can often serve as an effective decision trigger—in this case if something is expensive then it must be good.

Such an effect doesn’t just apply to high-end keepsakes like jewelry. It can also sway our evaluations of consumables too.  For example, studies have shown that people’s evaluations of wine are significantly higher if they’re told it is expensive before tasting. Similarly, learning the quality brand name of a food before sampling often leads to improved perceptions of taste and satisfaction. 

In each case the information, be it about the price or the brand, is presented prior to sampling the product at hand. But what happens if that same information is presented after, rather than immediately before, sampling? And what are the implications for your business when it comes to presenting information to your clients and customers? 

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