Over the last month or so, I’ve taken note whenever a company used a psychology trick to get consumer’s attention. Here are the top 5:
1. The Rebate – This allows a company to advertise a low price which consumers see as a great deal. It can be a great deal if you are one of the consumers to see their money back from a rebate. Getting your money back on rebates is intentionally made difficult. The hope is that consumers will make a mistake in the process and disqualify themselves from the rebate. The retailers have a name for this: breakage. They know in advance that on average X% of people will fail all the steps or simply be too lazy to cash in the rebate. One company even holds a patent on encourage breakage. Yes the whole business model is based on how the psychologically trick people.
2. The Contest – Every year or so McDonald’s brings out this popular Monopoly game. Millions of people will go out of their way to collect pieces with the hopes of winning. I’ve witnessed this over and over again. The odds are winning are really low – you should see them. Also these already small chances are likely cut in half as the winning piece (say Marvin Gardens) is likely to be thrown out by someone not collecting all the pieces. Food Facts says that the odds of winning more than $50,000 is 1 in 41,497,391,309 or more than 6 times the population of the entire world. Your odds of winning the $50,000 are an also incredibly unlikely 1 in 3.5 Billion.
3. The Surprise – I actually like this psychology trick and I’m surprised it’s not used more often. It’d be great if some online psychology degree program offered a class about these tricks. A great example of this is the mystery beer that my local Trader Joe’s sells. They put 6 different (and random) beers in brown paper bag for a low price. I love opening that bag and seeing which ones I get. Often times on Ebay “winning” an auction (another psychology trick), will come with a “free gift” (which is always better than the gifts you pay for).
4. The Charity – I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials for a red Motorola RAZR cell phone from Sprint. They’ve been advertising that a portion of the sales will go to charity (Product Red). At no point in the advertisement do they say how much is going to charity. I’m sure that they are donating a fair portion, but just because they don’t tell us, it makes me suspicious.
5. The Game Show Contest – The best example of this is the 1 vs. 100 text message lottery that I’ve mentioned previously. They allow viewers to “play at home” by giving them a ridiculously easy question often via a text message for a fee. People think that by knowing the multiple choice question, they are getting themselves a good chance at the grand prize.
Update: I just saw a commercial for the Sprint Motorola RAZR that says that $17 from every sale goes to charity. So sometimes they do tell you how much goes to charity. Maybe other people have been critical of the commercial and they changed their tune.