Ep #100: The Business of Choice with Matthew Willcox - Roger Dooley

Last updated: 05-18-2019

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Ep #100: The Business of Choice with Matthew Willcox - Roger Dooley

Do you wonder why people often make irrational decisions? Or why some marketers know just the thing to say to keep their consumers coming back time and time again while others can’t make a sale? Would you like to learn how to simplify the decisions your customers have to make so your product seems like the only choice?

This week is the 100th episode (yay!) of The Brainfluence Podcast, and I am excited to bring you a true expert in human behavior and decision making, Matthew Willcox. Matthew is an author, brand strategist and the founder and Executive Director of the Institute of Decision Making

Matthew has spent more than 25 years studying brand strategy and consumer behavior. In his book, The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumer’s Instincts, Matthew shares his simple methods to make decisions easier for your customers and make them feel better about those decisions.

Matthew and I talk about how people make choices and how marketers can leverage psychological studies of human behavior to market more effectively. With Matthew’s help, you can help your customers make the easy choice and buy your product or service.

If you enjoy the show, please drop by iTunes and leave a review while you are still feeling the love! Reviews help others discover this podcast and I greatly appreciate them!

If you like The Brainfluence Podcast…

Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley, author, speaker and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.

Roger Dooley:              Welcome to TheBrainfluencePodcast. I’m Roger Dooley. My guest this week is an expert on how people make choices and how consumers behave. He’s founder and executive director of the Institute of Decision Making, a part of the global marketing communications company FCB.

The Institute of Decision Making brings the findings from scientists who study human behavior and how people make choices into the practice of marketing. Kind of what we do here but in a far more organized manner.

He has more than 25 years of brand-strategy experience throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and he’s the author of The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts. Welcome to the show, Matthew Willcox.

Matthew Willcox:          Thank you, Roger. Thank you for suggesting that I might be more organized. You’re the first person I think ever to have said that about me.

Roger Dooley:              We can have a lack of organization competition sometime. I guess I was referring more to the corporate structure because they probably keep you within some kind of boundaries there and it’s impressive that they’re, a big ad agency if you will, has its own Institute of Decision Making. That’s pretty cool.

Matthew Willcox:          Yeah, it came about I think from a recognition that there was so much interesting work happening in the field of behavioral sciences that really marketers are not paying enough attention to. Now, I know the listeners to your podcasts are probably way more involved and engaged in this area than many other people, but it really is something that has been a bit of a blind spot for the general population in marketing.

One of things that struck us a couple of years ago was that the lens we do go through as to behavior change and through choice is that kind of everything you do in marketing is about getting chosen in some way or another. If you want to be the best at it, you need to be next, rather than have people choose.

So really what we’re doing is bringing in another flow of insights into their process. It’s not to replace anything that strategists in the agency do, it is simply to say, “Here is a source of insights that we should be thinking about when we’re trying to influence choice on behalf of our clients, when we’re trying to change the behavior. Make behavior changes that they need to happen when we try to influence those.” That this is an area that yields wonderful insights to kick-start the creative process.

Roger Dooley:              Very good. So, Matthew, I feel that we’re kind of kindred spirits. Neither of us is a real behavior scientist but in different ways and in different venues we’re both trying to translate the work that the real scientists do into practical advice for business people.

Matthew Willcox:          Yes, I think that’s a really good way of putting it. I think it happened for me because I was asked by a client to define marketing about ten years ago. That definition, I kept coming back to the idea that marketing is about influencing choice and about getting chosen.

That led me to investigate a worldthat to be honest, I knew nothing about. I happened to be working on a new business pitch for the online retailer Zappos and got in touch with Barry Schwartz who wrote the excellent book The Paradox of Choice.

Roger Dooley:              We had him on the show too.

Matthew Willcox:          Yeah, and that just started me down the road of discovery. So, you’re absolutely right, as I kind of often say, I feel like one of those people in white coats who say, “I am not a doctor” or “I am not a dentist.” I am not a behavioral scientist but I think the value that people like you and I can bring is this practical approach for marketing, sprinkled with some creativity, to bring some of these principles to life.

Roger Dooley:              Right. You’ve got to remember too those white coats not only make you appear more intelligent to other people but they actually boost your own cognitive ability in small amounts.

Matthew Willcox:          Absolutely right. We get into the area of embodied or enclothed cognition.

Roger Dooley:              That’s right. So never be without your white coat. A little piece of trivia that I found in your book, Matthew, I didn’t realize that FCB could trace its roots all the way back to the legendary Claude Hopkins who wrote Scientific Advertising way back in 1923. That book influenced folks like David Ogilvy who was a pretty scientific guy himself. I think that actually many of my slide decks feature a quote from him about the importance of testing.

Today the importance of testing doesn’t seem quite so strange but back in the Mad Mendays at least my impression of them is that there was a lot more of this sort of Don Draper-ish type of rolling out a campaign that was developed after a few Scotches and a bunch of cigarettes as opposed to with a lot of scientific rigor of testing alternative approaches and so on.

Has this sort of scientific approach been part of FCB’s roots all along the way?

Matthew Willcox:          It has. I mean, I think if you look at the advertising industry you get this wave where science becomes a really important thing and you’re right to mention Claude Hopkins and Ogilvy. But it’s at its best when it’s a blend of science and creativity. I think that many of the best agents somehow bring that to bear. I think we’re in an era now where it sort of happens when there’s something new happening in science. I think we’re in an era where that’s happening.

So I think the idea of the very best innovations don’t just come from science, they don’t just come from someone having a good idea. They’re normally fused. A fusion between the two. I kind of mentioned earlier on of the importance of—you know, what we do is not—we’re not saying this is the only way to do things. What we’re doing is providing another stream of insights.

I really think that is the way to think about the role of these scientific discoveries which are, we can call it science, but at the end of the day it’s about insights into human nature. Insights into human nature have always been important to creating the best and most effective marketing.

Whether they come from a creative person sitting down and looking and seeing what people did or do and being inspired by that. Or whether they come from reviewing the latest in science from fMRI and into what parts of the brain and what neuroprocesses are associated with a certain choice or task.

I think some of the most wonderful things for marketing ideas that come from—and you cover this a lot in your book as well—that come from this field are actually incredibly creative experiments. One of the things I talk about is, you take people like Dan Ariely, you take some of the research that people like Hal Hershfield have done. The idea, the hypothesis, and the stimulation of doing the experiment was a creative idea that I think the best creatives in marketing would be proud of.

Roger Dooley:              Absolutely. Yeah, sometimes you wonder what on earth possessed them to test that in the first place because it wasn’t an obvious extension of past work or anything else. Maybe that’s where you need the Scotches and the cigarettes to come up with those ideas.

Matthew Willcox:          Well, yeah. I think it’s true that to really get—human nature has kind of held its secret from us for a very long time and will continue to hold some of them. So it does take a level of creativity. It’s not just raw science. It takes a level of creativity and lateral thinking to get beneath the surface of it.

Roger Dooley:              You know, out there today we’ve got these cool graphics tools like Pablo and Canva to let you take a quote and put it in a fancy font and apply it to an inspirational background and then post it across all social media.

I ran across one quote in your book that I really had to restrain myself from immediately jumping over to Pablo and pasting it into something. The quote was, “Marketing is more about choice than consumption.” I think that’s really profound. What do you mean by that?

Roger Dooley:              Maybe you didn’t find it that profound, I just thought it was—because I mean we think of marketing as being all about pushing product out the door and getting customers to buy more of your stuff. I mean, that’s sort of the job of marketing and sales, to sell more stuff. So I found that kind of significant.

Matthew Willcox:          Thank you. First, and next time don’t restrain yourself, please feel free to push anything all over the place, all over the web. The idea really there or the thought really there comes from a couple of places. It’s an ongoing debate amongst enlightened companies of the moment, which is kind of sustainability is a really really important thing for all of us to be considering.

Most large companies are trying to think about how to reduce their impact, how to even move from just being about getting people to consume things. Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever, I won’t get the quote exactly right, but he talks about how we shouldn’t just treat people as consumers who have a head of hair or armpits in need of shampoo or deodorant needs. His perspective is more from that of it’s not about consumption, it should be about sustainable options. That’s also what our people are increasingly interested in.

I think I’m building on that and saying that is absolutely right but also marketing if you think about it, very little of what we do or any one part of what we do is about consumption. Many of the things we want people to do relate to them making choices that will help us meet our objectives.

Sometimes that choice is to eat something, to use something. But very often that choice is to just choose it in the first place or it is to have people tell other people about it. To share their experience. To continue to buy something. To not do something.

I think that marketing is, the modern definition of marketing is not about consumption at all because that also excludes things that really fit with the idea of consumption. Do you really consume an entertainment experience?

Some of the NGOs we’re doing work with are trying to get people—trying to change behavior around contraception in the developing world. That is not so much about consumption. In fact, very often it’s about just really, it’s about behavior change rather than getting people to consume things.

Another thing, finally, everything we do, if you just look at the whole elements, and marketing mix sounds like a very old-fashioned word these days, but if you think about all of the sort of things in the marketing mix, many of them are not directed to consumption. Really sort of starting to create a memory in the first place is more about I think influencing choice, a future choice, than it is about influencing consumption.

Roger Dooley:              I think in the digital space that’s certainly true. If you look at the developers of apps or websites, they are often more focused on behavior change than particular consumption. You aren’t really consuming anything on Facebook but by changing your behavior, they’re making a lot of money because they can serve you ads and do all sorts of other wonderful things.

Matthew Willcox:          That’s absolutely right. I think as I suggested earlier on, the way I define marketing is it’s about influencing choice. The idea that choice is absolutely central to things I think is just really sort of opens up, it sort of—even if you think about a lot of the research that both you and I have reviewed and looked at and studied, it is much less about consumption but about how people choose.

I think the mechanism that we are trying to influence as marketers, the human mechanism we’re trying to influence is not the mechanism of consumption. It is how people choose.

Roger Dooley:              One other comment or quote that struck me that I hadn’t run across before was from John Bargh who I’ve talked about his priming work that’s really fascinating. You quote him as saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, not quoting, but we’re in a revolution now. That just as Galileo removed the Earth from the center of the universe, behavior scientists are ending the central importance of conscious decision-making. I think that’s something that we all talk and write about but that very simple statement from Bargh puts it in perspective.

Matthew Willcox:          I think it does. That was actually a quote from an interview of Bargh by Albert Brooks. So the only place I’ve actually found it is Albert Brooks talking about it so I don’t know if John Bargh himself has written it down anywhere.

Roger Dooley:              Well he should take credit for it. It’s a good one.

Matthew Willcox:          It is a great quote, exactly. Yeah, I think, again, it’s kind of interesting you know because if you think about marketing, there have been huge changes. Huge changes in marketing over the last 15, 20 years, 25 years. But nearly all of them, in fact, all of the major ones are down to the pervasiveness of digital in marketing, how that’s changed the landscape.

Very few of the big ones are actually about that paradigm shift that you just talked about, that Albert Brooks and Bargh talk about. It’s kind of interesting because I think it’s almost like—poverty for example causes a lack of cognitive—it means that people are cognitively challenged. I think one of the problems in the developing world is that when people are poor, they don’t necessarily make the best decisions for themselves. They can’t because their cognitive bandwidth is stretched by circumstance.

I think one of the reasons why this understanding that rationality doesn’t lie at the center of human decision-making has not been as fundamental a shift as it should be for marketers, has been, because this whole digital revolution has come along pretty much at the same time and it’s very very difficult I think for people to focus on many things at one time.

Roger Dooley:              I think right now, of course, we’re in the midst of the presidential primary campaign in the states. That’s probably a good example right there of the effects of nonconscious and emotional intuitive decision-making.

Matthew Willcox:          For sure, yes.

Roger Dooley:              In neuromarketing we talk a lot about the potential for various types of brain imaging or brainwave measurement or Implicit tests and so on. Something you mention in the book, RCTs, randomized controlled tests as another way of understanding how people really behave and also how that behavior can be influenced. Can you explain what that means and what they are?

Matthew Willcox:          Sure. Really it’s a little bit different from how marketers will often go about testing something. Randomized control tests are really using very large datasets where people randomly are assigned different frames and looking at the effect from a behavior perspective on those different frames.

I think the best examples in the real-world at the moment comes from the work done by the Behavioral Insights Team in the UK government which I think has been renamed something else. It was…

Roger Dooley:              The nudge team or something, maybe?

Matthew Willcox:          It used to be, the nickname was the nudge team. It has recently been moved as a standalone, not-for-profit business as opposed to being a part of the government. They have done some really interesting largescale work, partly because they have access to large datasets.

One of the famous studies I talk about in the book is where they looked at different frames for consent to organ donation and were able to—I’m not quite sure what the total dataset was. By looking at sort of hundreds of thousands of people and by having people randomly given large samples, randomly exposed to different frames, they were able to identify, which I think, and I won’t get the numbers right off the top of my head, but led to potentially a 100,000 extra consents to organ donation in the UK.

They did that by testing eight separates frames, four of them looked at social proof. One looked a loss frame. One looked at a gain frame. One was a control and one looked at reciprocity.

I think it’s an interesting study because I think that money would have been—given there was four social proof frames in the mix—I think they probably expected that social proof would be the most motivating frame. But actually the reciprocity frame turned out to be the one, which led to that predicted 100,000 increase in consents I talked about.

Roger Dooley:              Well certainly a lot of their other work indicated that social proof was very powerful. I assume that was the same group that worked on the tax study that Cialdini talks about in his recent book.

Roger Dooley:              That simply telling people that other folks like them pay their taxes on time was the most powerful motivator to get these tax delinquent folks to pay up.

Matthew Willcox:          That shows something which is really really important, which is the importance of context in all of these things. I think one of the warnings that I give to people is these insights from behavioral science can be incredibly powerful but it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Just because social proof works in one circumstance, it’s not necessarily going to work in another circumstance.

There’s a great expression that I hear used a lot in the world of behavioral science which is “There’s no silver bullets, only silver buckshot.”

Roger Dooley:              Yeah, and there are actually A/B tests, probably 99 times out of 100 social proof will improve conversion on a website if you can show that other people are doing the same thing that you want your visitors to do. But there are differently A/B tests that show in this particular case adding social proof reduced conversions. So that’s why you run the tests.

Roger Dooley:              While we’re on the topic of social proof, I was thinking of an article that I wrote just a few weeks ago. It was about the wrong kind of social proof. You covered that in the book too that oftentimes well-intention people try to call attention to a situation by showing the people who aren’t doing what they should be doing.

The examples I gave were a pastor who told his congregation that 80 percent of the people didn’t contribute and that’s why the church needed more contributions. Or that one very visible one was when Wikipedia was running their fund drive. They had a statistic that 97 percent of the people did not support the site despite using it.

That is basically exactly the wrong thing to do. I suppose there could be an exception to that rule too or that really does work but that sort of negative social proof is what you want to avoid, right Matthew?

Matthew Willcox:          I think so. Yeah, I think absolutely. Intuitively, it allows people to think, and Cialdini of course talks about this very eloquently. It’s also part of the Petrified Forest study that he talked about in Influence which is that if you make the behavior you want—sorry—the behavior you don’t want seem like the correct behavior, that is what people will default towards. That becomes the easy, intuitive choice, the effortless choice to get towards.

It’s interesting you say this, Roger, because I was standing in a check-in line at LAX a week ago and took a photograph of a poster that does exactly this which is in California we’ve had a terrible drought and there’s huge programs to try to get people to reduce water consumption.

But this poster that I saw which is part of “Save the Drop” campaign has a headline which says, “Water isn’t angry about your 20 minute shower, just disappointed. Keep showers to five minutes or less to save 5,500 gallons a year.” Now my suspicion would be actually this does exactly what you’re talking about. This almost suggests that there is a social norm to take 20-minute showers.

Matthew Willcox:          Even if people aren’t taking them.

Roger Dooley:              Yeah, definitely. If I was taking five minute showers, I might up my time to ten or fifteen.

Roger Dooley:              I’d still be better than the other folks, so.

Matthew Willcox:          Exactly. You can see how the creatives got there or how the organization got there is they wanted to dramatize this sort of thing, this ridiculously indulgent shower. But what I think this really does is exactly as you say, “Then my ten minutes ain’t so bad.”

Roger Dooley:              Yeah. Another principle that’s probably well known to our listeners is the human aversion to loss. But you have an interesting example in the book about windshield wipers. Explain that one. I thought that was kind of an amusing thing.

Roger Dooley:              It’s probably one that those folks who haven’t read your book have not seen yet too.

Matthew Willcox:          So we had a 2004 chili pepper and white MINI which we decided to replace in 2010. What happened was that we bought the first car, the original car we bought off the lot. Sorry, the original car we’d ordered specifically with all of the packages we wanted.

Then six years later, we bought a new car and by definition, that new car had got loads of things that the old car didn’t have. It had Bluetooth audio. It had heated seats. It had a way a better stereo with six speakers. It had a six-gear gearbox. This was a significantly better car and we even got a deal on it because we bought it off the lot.

Literally the first week I’m driving it and driving it down a road in San Francisco and it starts raining. Just little drops of rain come on the windscreen wiper. The previous car had auto-sensing windscreen wipers which the Top Gear guy James May described as the most stupid thing anybody could ever want specified in their car. The most useless accessory ever.

So the windscreen wipers didn’t come on so I have to turn them on, which means I have to move my hand about one and a half inches off. I mean, it’s a minor cognitive and physical effort and the windscreen wipers come on, but I kind of felt uneasy. I felt disgruntled about something. I felt really sort of—and I started thinking about this car.

Had we bought the right car? Should we have waited and ordered one specified as we wanted it because this one hadn’t got this feature the previous car had had. I was kind of really bummed out about it. Then I realized what was happening. I think this is one of the great benefits that people like you and I have, which is that we probably become at least if not better decision makers, we’ve found ways to be at more peace with our choices.

I was able to say, to rationalize it, to say, “I know what’s happening here.” This is a classic case of loss aversion which is that I have lost one feature even though I’ve gained about fourteen. Yet the effect of losing that one feature is having a much more niggling effect on my gut than the joy that I should be having from the fourteen that I’ve acquired.

So it was a very personal experience. As you study these things, you find them all over the place. As I said, I really do think if there’s one thing that many of the people who are listening to these podcasts and follow you will benefit from, and probably already benefit from studying and keeping abreast of this area is a better understanding of how they make choices themselves. That’s a very valuable thing.

Roger Dooley:              Probably at least a little overthinking at times too. Trying to self-analyze, “Why do I feel that way?”

One of the more amusing anecdotes in the book, Matthew, is M&M consumption. You talk about how the Google New York City office managed to reduce their M&M consumption by three million M&Ms per month by merely putting lids on the bowls.

The first thing that really stunned me was that Google employees could eat that many M&Ms that three million was the reduction from this trivial change. You wonder what the total number of M&Ms they do eat is.

Matthew Willcox:          That stuck at me as well. Actually some of the sources put it at three million calories through M&Ms rather than three million pieces, so it may be the latter which I’m not sure how many M&Ms…

Roger Dooley:              Yeah, I don’t know how many there are but that’s still a lot of M&Ms I think.

Matthew Willcox:          In a much smaller way, we actually did this in our own office where we—and our scientific measure wasn’t the amount of pieces but how long the jar lasted. What we found was that if we put the lid on the jar what would have lasted a day lasted about a week.

Roger Dooley:              Wow. In that case, a more or less five-time extension of time.

Well, you know, this seems like such a simple thing but I think we can all look at those kinds of examples and laugh and say, “Well of course, people don’t want to take that little bit of extra effort or make it obvious that they’re grabbing candy or something.” But despite the simplicity of that lesson, it seems like it is so often overlooked by companies who are designing their customer experience or actually they’re not designing their customer experience. They’re just sort of letting it happen.

These little tiny things, sort of a metaphorical lid on the candy bowl, is involved somehow in the ordering process or somewhere in the customer conversion process. Companies aren’t even aware of this and they end up having worse results than they could otherwise.

Matthew Willcox:          Yeah, I think there’s so many things. I mean there’s a great Richard Thaler quote about that which is, “If you want to encourage somebody to do something, make it simple.” That’s one of the two mantras he talks about in his book Misbehaving.

It’s one of those things, I actually wrote a piece recently about this suggesting that people talk about doing audits in terms of customer service. There’s been some really interesting work written in the area of how you make customer service as effortless as possible.

But I think it’s a valuable thing for marketers to do as well, which is kind of just do a marketing—how simple is my…? How easy to go through? How easy have I made the process of getting chosen through my marketing and have I made it as easy as possible?

I think another area that relates to this is something which I haven’t really yet seen much in practice but there’s some interesting research on by David Faro and Simona Botti at the London Business School which is the effect of closure.

I think we hear in face-to-face selling closing is really important but there is some evidence that if you can just somehow help people get closure around a choice it does a couple of things. One is it obviously makes that choice more sticky with them. But it also helps them feel better about the choice that they’ve made as well. I think almost satisfied with their choice.

I think this is a really huge area because I think if I talk about marketing as being about influencing choice. I think that one thing I would add is that one of the huge opportunities that one could derive from applying insights from behavioral science is actually creating choices that make people feel better about what they’ve chosen.

That to me almost seems to be the next frontier for marketing which is the things that you can do to help people feel good about their choices, to help them feel they’ve made the right choice. Because when people feel they’ve made the right choice a number of things happen. In fact, some of these things you talk about in your book.

One is they’re more likely to repeat the choice which is a fairly obvious thing. The second is that they’re more likely to tell other people about it. But the third is that they actually will get more out. You know, when you feel you’ve made a good choice about something, you actually derive more utility from that thing that you’ve chosen.

Roger Dooley:              Yeah, makes a huge amount of sense. Again, so often companies just focus on, “Okay that transaction is complete.” Rather than pursuing a little bit farther. Of course, if you look at the customer journey as potentially a circular process, that’s certainly a key part of it.

So I wonder if you have any favorite example or two of your own work at FCB that you could relate to our audience where perhaps you’ve used a science-based behavioral nudge of some kind to alter a campaign or something that the agency was working on for the better?

Matthew Willcox:          Sure. I mean, there’s a few. One is for a—and I can’t reveal the names of the exact clients—but there’s a couple. One is a video game where we actually used reverse social proof. We actually showed that one of the interesting things that Cialdini talks about in the towel example is how you increase the behavior change if you say more people do this but you actually then sort of get it even further when you say more people like you do this.

This was a campaign that we did for a video game called Dead Space which used this idea of actually your mum hates Dead Space. So the idea was that this video game was disliked by mothers because it seems sort of yucky and sort of horrible and things like that.

This was actually, we won a number of Effies for this campaign. Really that whole idea of reverse social proof came out of the creative process rather than us really pointing the science at it. But we were able to say this is an interesting way of doing it based on behavioral science insights.

Roger Dooley:              It’s sort of an us-versus-them approach too there where by creating the parental group, you’re emphasizing the kid group that the game player is part of.

Matthew Willcox:          Exactly right. Again, which is something you talk about in Brainfluence as well. Sometimes the implications of ingredients to large mass media campaigns, sometimes they’re much smaller things. One thing we’re looking at at the moment is the effect of social proof on people returning products.

One sort of hypothesis is that the idea of people buying six or seven things online and returning five or six of them is actually not really that good for anybody. I mean, you might say it’s good for the customer in terms of choice but it puts costs up. It’s not good for the environment that more boxes are being sent out via FedEx and UPS and things like that.

Sometimes just helping people feel that actually most people feel good about their choice might be a way of reducing those levels of returns. So that’s something we’re testing at the moment.

Roger Dooley:              Yeah, I like that idea because obviously it’s a huge cost for the company but there’s also I think a level of customer dissatisfaction that goes along with it. I appreciate the fact that I have an easy return policy with Amazon or some other vendor but at the same time, I’ve still got to put the thing back in a box, pack it somehow, tape it up, label it, print out a label perhaps, then maybe they’ll pick it up. Maybe I’ll have to drop it off at UPS or something.

So my overall satisfaction with that transaction is significantly reduced than if I just bought the darn thing and kept it and said, “Oh this is pretty good.”

Matthew Willcox:          I think really even though it seems like an attractive proposition, it’s probably a lose-lose in terms of both satisfaction and the environment and indeed how people feel about the company.

Roger Dooley:              Well, yeah. I think it’s good to make an easy and cost-effective process for those situations where you do have a need for a return. The product is defective. It’s totally the wrong size or something. But you don’t necessarily want to encourage returns. Not just because of the cost but I think it does reduce customer satisfaction too.

Matthew Willcox:          Yeah, I think it gets back to the point I was trying to make about how making people feel good about their choice is a really really important part of marketing. Choice is very subjective, very intuitive, and very emotional. So if you can provide some of the intuitive prompts that make people feel good about their choice, then potentially people will feel they’ve made a good choice. Which is ultimately a good thing. Which means they’re going to be less inclined to return the product.

I agree with you, if it is the wrong size, if it is a defective product, then of course, you make that as easy as possible for them to return it. But you know the hypothesis would be that around the margins of that is a significant amount of choice in which people are kind of like on the fence about. They’re not quite sure about. And a little nudge, a little intuitive message that says, “Hey, maybe this works for you,” actually could be a helpful thing for everybody.

Roger Dooley:              So let me remind our listeners that we’re talking with Matthew Willcox. He is the founder and executive director of the Institute of Decision Making at FCB and the author of The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts. I can assure you that if you like the sorts of things that I write and talk about, you’ll like Matthew’s book a lot.

Something I really like too, it’s got plenty of footnotes so you can drill down more deeply if you really want to. Matthew, how can our listeners find you and your content online?

Matthew Willcox:          We have a website the InstituteofDecisionMaking.com. That’s part of FCB’s Thought Leadership Program on FCB Exchange but if you just go to the URL www.instituteofdecisionmaking.com we post recent thoughts there.

In addition, I’m on Twitter @MatthewWWillcox so that’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W-W-W-I-L-L-C-O-X. The extra w is important because there’s another Matthew Willcox who is a fantastically talented urban planner who does a lot of work on cities of the future in Melbourne, Australia. I don’t think he needs to get another tweet or another…

Roger Dooley:              Maybe we should follow both of you, then they can make a choice.

Matthew Willcox:          We’ve contacted about doing a conference together because it could be an interesting thing to do. Those are really the best ways of getting in touch. As I said, we do consultancy work. We work with both the clients of FCB and Interpublic, our holding company, and also with clients outside beyond that.

Recently we’ve started doing quite a lot of work with NGOs as well which is a fantastic area to bring this work to.

Roger Dooley:              Great. We’ll link to those places and the other resources we mentioned in our conversation on the show notes page at RogerDooley.com/Podcast. We’ll have a full-text version of our conversation there too. Matthew, thanks for being on the show.

Matthew Willcox: Roger, thank you very much for having me on. It was a pleasure.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at RogerDooley.com.


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