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'Choice' Is a Four-Letter Word in Direct Response

I happen to be a Rush fan. Their music is incredible, but what I really love are the lyrics. One of their songs, Freewill, has the line, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

‘Choice’ is an interesting word. People like choice. We like the idea of having options, being individuals — having free will.

As consumers, we want value and part of value is having more choices. We like to have the choice between the blue or the red, the large or the small, this bell or that whistle. So, marketers naturally want to give consumers the right to choose in the hopes that giving them more choices leads them to buy their product. Choice gives consumers the idea that a particular product can be customizable to their specific needs and wants — and that is very appealing.

We want response to be immediate!

In traditional marketing, choice is a good thing. But in the land of direct response advertising, choice is a bad word. In direct response, you want people to respond immediately and if they have too many choices, they simply choose not to decide. Choosing not to decide becomes their choice as opposed to the one you want, which is for them to buy your product or service.

I once spent a week looking for a new sleeping bag — the right size, warmth, comfort. I went to a number of stores, looked at quality, pricing, etc. I liked that I had so many choices (I obviously had a lot more time on my hands back then). Imagine if I had seen an ad on TV for a sleeping bag that listed all of the possible options: different colors, warmth ratings, sizes, closures, material, etc. I literally would shut down thinking of all my choices — I simply could not choose.

Thinking too much is a bad thing!

You may have a product with a bunch of options, but if you start listing all of these options in your DRTV spot, people start thinking too much — and thinking too much in this case is a bad thing. DRTV purchases are emotionally based and rationally justified. But it’s direct response or immediate response. If people think too much about what option to choose, they lose their motivation to purchase and decide not to choose at all.

Timing Is Key

In DRTV advertising, that’s not what you want. You don’t want people to take their time and think about it. You want them to choose your product or service NOW!

That doesn’t mean you have to limit the choices you offer for your product or service. You can certainly have options. You can showcase more options in other ways, like on your website or as part of the upsell with your call center.

But in your DRTV advertising campaign, you need to limit the options you provide to the viewer. The old KISS rule — Keep It Simple, Sunshine — definitely applies in DRTV advertising. Tell them the core thing that they want; what will make their life easier? Will make them smarter, look better, feel better, be better?

When you start filling in with all the peripheral noise (and let’s face it, TV advertising has enough noise already), people shut down.

The Choice Formula That Works for Direct Response

More features, more options, more choice = bad.

Simple message, clear presentation of a problem and a solution, limited choice = good.

I’m all for choice for consumers but as a direct response advertiser, choice has to be limited to make your DRTV campaign effective. Because if your consumers choose not to decide, that’s not the choice you want.

We can help you grow your brand and drive results.

About the author

Anna V Fowles, Executive Vice President, Performance Creative

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