The Why Axis

The Why Axis Book Cover

Many of the assumptions we make in our marketing are based on commonly-held truths (what we think of as “best practices”). We listen to the experts sharing their expertise on what works (and doesn’t) and adjust our marketing strategy accordingly. That’s also how we likely create our healthy lifestyle. We follow the pundits who share their knowledge and meta-analysis of medical studies. But we often don’t do the research ourselves nor actually ask the question, “Is this the best way to achieve my goal?”

Each of the chapters contains easily-understood economic analysis (i.e., “does it make money?”) on important topics:

Incentivization works only in concert with a deeper understanding of people’s values.

Women earning less than men isn’t caused by genetics, ability, or fear of competition. It’s simple assertiveness: the authors show that in our culture, women are risk-adverse (“it’s not lady-like”), and don’t ask for more money (or raises).

Children in poorer communities not succeeding as well their richer counterparts isn’t simply “just the way it is”. It’s a problem because the children (and their families) have trouble meeting their short-term needs and working towards long-term results. Incentivizing the students (and their families) can make huge difference short-term and produce long-term changes (the incentive simply gives them the freedom to do what they know is the right action).

The way to overcome minority pricing prejudice for services is convey the message to your salesperson that you’re comparison shopping (“I am getting three price quotes today”) rather than simply entrusting the transaction to the first person you deal with. That switches the dynamic from salesperson-as-god to salesperson-as-commodity, and pricing will drop to fair levels.

The way to overcome pricing prejudice for products is to do your homework before starting the buying process. Salespeople will give fairer prices to those that are well-informed, thinking that people who don’t know much about the options are likely not to know what a fair price is.

Sometimes changing the default is all it takes to change people’s actions. In marketing-speak, this is the difference between opt-in (“Please send me information”) and opt-out (“We’ll send you information unless you don’t want it”). And people generally stick with the default option. You can even get people to “pay” you to opt-out (called “Once and Done”) – promise to not contact them again if they only will donate some funds (of course, legally they can always opt-out of your marketing efforts).

People follow the crowd in making decisions, since everyone is busy and they figure if everyone else is doing something, then they likely should also. Simply saying that a large percentage of people in your community are doing something will likely stimulate like-minded action.

People donate to charity not for altruistic reasons, but for self-serving ones. Instead of trying to entice people to donate because others are, give them something tangible: a small prize, a chance at a big prize, or even a smile from someone attractive. In marketing, show people that look like your target audience – it’ll make people feel more connected to your offering.

Replacing management-by-edict with testing-by-design-thinking has been shown to produce dramatically better results. Data trumps intuition or ego and the investment in testing is cheaper than the likely cost of management mistakes (including company acquisitions).

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