Less Is More : How To Be More Persuasive With Your Marketing

Giving one great reason to purchase your product trumps a dozen good ones.

In his TEDx London Talk, organisational psychologist Niro Sivanathan discusses The Dilution Effect; a cognitive bias that weakens your strongest points when you are trying to influence or persuade someone.

In understanding this cognitive bias, you can craft marketing messages that are more persuasive.

To understand why, let’s walk through an experiment (which I’ve modernised slightly) by social psychologist Christopher Hsee:

The Dinner Set Experiment:

  • Not content with the IKEA plates that have served you for a decade, you are hungry for a new dinner set. Perusing eBay, you find a set that catches your eye. It’s a brand new 24 piece set: including 8 dinner plates; 8 soup bowls; and 8 dessert plates.
  • But what’s this? In the ‘Similar Items’ section, you see an identical dinner set. Well, not quite identical, it’s the same set but with more items. It’s a brand new 40 piece set, and also includes 8 cups and 8 saucers. Unfortunately, 2 of the cups are broken, and 7 of the saucers. But hey, that’s still an extra 6 cups and 1 saucer.
  • With the clock running down, it’s auction time. What’s the maximum you would be willing to bid for each set?

Hsee posed this to students at the University of Chicago, and the results were telling. Participants were willing to pay an average of £390 for the 24 piece dinner set, and £192 for the 40 piece set. They saw the 40 piece set to be 49% less valuable, even though it included 7 extra items, all brand new, in perfect condition.

And this is the Dilution Effect. The broken items dilute the overall perceived value of the entire set.

So what should we do with this information? Start by ask yourself:

What does our customer value most?
What would persuade them to choose our products, over our competitors?

It could be the best customer service. Quick shipping and easy returns. Products that are higher quality, locally produced, more sustainable… or maybe it’s partnerships with creditable influencers.

Now consider your competitors and identify where you are stronger than them – or deduce how you could become stronger – in what your customer values. Double down on this strength in your marketing creatives (copywriting, design visuals), and project it on your website, email marketing, your organic and paid social posts, etc.

You are identifying what your customer values and marrying it to your company’s key strength.

Focusing on this one strength makes your marketing message clear and concise. It gives you laser focus in showcasing how your product will add value to your customer’s life. It offers them something persuasive and eye-catching in the saturated abundance of social advertisements they see on a daily basis.

Better yet, they decided it was valuable, all by themselves. We might be using persuasive psychology, but it’s on something your audience already cares about (and you are pushing to be the best at).

Why are we focusing on just one strength? Because with more information dilution occurs. Weaker arguments reduce the overall weight of your argument. The broken pieces reduced the overall value of the 40 piece dinner set.

I’m not saying your product has faults; I’m saying it definitely has strong points, so focus on them. Work at being the best at something in your industry. If you focus on where you are adequate or equal to competitors, you are diluting the impact of your strongest influencer:

That strength which makes you the most persuasive choice.

Takeaway Questions:

What does your customer value that you can do better than your competitors?

Look at your brand messaging – are you projecting weak arguments that are reducing the persuasiveness of your key strength?
Ctrl+Alt+Del these, they’re harming your persuasiveness.

Are you unsure of what your customer values most? Can you test this?
A/B test your website & social advertising with creatives for each of your potential key strengths. Whichever strength has the highest conversion rate… you’ve found what your customer values most. Write this into your marketing strategy and work at being the best at it.




Brand Voice Specialist. Amateur Ethnographer. Curious blogger. Check out my website at davidcowancreates.com, or say hi at david@davidcowancreates.com

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Defining your customer avatar-Day 2 of Internship

17 free SEO keyword research tools

Download In <PDF You Should Test That: Conversion Optimization for More Leads, Sales and Profit or…

Meet the Team

Did These Disney Stars Turn Drama Into a Brilliant Marketing Strategy?

My most recently played artists on Spotify, featuring the Disney love triangle (Rodrigo, Bassett, and Carpenter).

15 Undeniable Reasons to Love Galena Park Flood Insurance

Clearing the Path to RFQ and Sales Automation

12 Easy Steps to Create a Successful LinkedIn Marketing Strategy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David Cowan

David Cowan

Brand Voice Specialist. Amateur Ethnographer. Curious blogger. Check out my website at davidcowancreates.com, or say hi at david@davidcowancreates.com

More from Medium

Do you trust me?

How to Talk to Users?

It’s Not Magic, It’s Marketing

The Different Types of Business Financing You Should Know About