When is too much choice a bad thing?


I have a love/hate relationship with shopping. Unlike common notions of a female reveling in hours of aimless wandering, I’m the type of shopper who likes to get what I want and then get out. Quickly.

The choices can be overwhelming. From jeans to toothpaste, beauty products and even cars, there are times when it all becomes too hard.

I understand choice is valued as one of our basic human rights, but too much choice seems to be doing us an injustice. It reminds me of that infamous jam study, which questions the satisfaction people found in their decision making abilities when presented to many vs. limited options.

The perception that there are never-ending options seems to both hinder and empower us. Think of dating, careers, houses, mobile phones, mobile phone plans and even varieties of tinned tomatoes. With so many options, loyalty has become the premium. Yet, does anyone want to commit these days when you can always try something new?

I think this is why branding can be such an effective marketing tool. It simplifies the decision making process so instead of looking at a product’s attributes, you merely go for something familiar, whether it fits what you want or not quite…

I wonder if there will come a time when consumers will prefer a simplified experience, when we’ll rebel against all of these choices.

I’m not sure how, but I’m definitely entertained by the notion.

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One response to “When is too much choice a bad thing?

  1. Maybe consumerism has messed up basic human fundementals…

    I agree, shopping is an ugly fight to get in and out of the store without buying the things that I never intended on purchasing! (I should NEVER shop hungry!) Or those moments where I can never decide which can of tomatoes looks prettier. It’s screwed up!

    Instead of smart branding/consumerism being a bi-product or choice that we have as marketing tools, is it possible that we have adopted it into our fundemental value system?!

    As you mentioned above, dating…

    There is too much choice and you cannot walk out of the house without being confronted with a “do I make eye contact or don’t I?!” Loyalty has become another option. Just like it is with the can of tomatoes.

    Maybe single ladies can take a shopping list with them when dating… hot- check, funny-check, stable job-check, loyal…damn… guess I’ll put it back on the shelf, I dont really need him I guess.. and down the isle we stroll.

    Or maybe loyalty is a case of- we ought to strategically brand ourselves!

    “…Hi I’m Esther, I have clear labels, pretty colours and instructions, I have a great theme songs and hope that you’ll choose me for all your life”. ha!

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