Marketing Overload: A Blessing in Disguise?

Have we actually come to the stage in marketing where we’re simply deluged with too many choices, whereby our ability to effectively and adeptly choose which product best fits our needs or preferences is being severely hampered?  Some market analysts believe so.  Scheibehenne et al (2010) assert that when we are faced with too many options from which to choose, our motivation to make a choice wanes, or we become dissatisfied with the choices we made due to constantly questioning ourselves as to whether the optimum choice was made. th

Oh sure, we try to convince ourselves that we researched the product, shopped for the best deal, and even tell ourselves that we outsmarted the salesman into giving us a better price than anyone has ever attained.  Of course, deep down, we know that’s far from the case, and moreover, as soon as we leave the store, the car lot, or the furniture store with our purchase, we encounter that internal nemesis known as “buyer remorse.” th (1) Why do we conjure up these emotional doubts in ourselves?  The answer lies in the fact that regardless of when we purchase, why we purchase, and from whom we purchase; no sooner than we do, another ad pops up on the Internet, in the newspaper, or on the radio alerting us to an alternate to that product that we just purchased, with better features, lower price, and better warranty.  Geez!  How can we possibly retain our sanity in this world of marketing abundance constantly being spewed in our direction?  Is it time to get on that 2013 version of the SS Minnow, and only hope that our fate is the same as that which Gilligan encountered – to be marooned on a deserted island, removed from all forms of marketing techniques, away from the barrage of minute-by-minute advertisements, only to be left alone with our fellow castaways with no form of solicitation levied our way? th (2) Really? Is that the answer?  Of course not, because we all know that regardless of the remoteness of the island, an Internet service provider is sure to follow us.  As such, there’s no escape!

So what are we to do in our attempt to coexist with the relentless array of marketing campaigns targeting us daily in order to retain our sanity? The answer is quite simple; we should embrace the multitude of options that these campaigns provide.  It is easy to think back to the simplicity in purchasing decision-making that once existed when there were only two choices available (chocolate or vanilla).  Sure, the decision-making process was easy then, but at the same time, we were unwittingly being deprived of our freedom of true choice.  Marketing campaigns were limited in their reach, demographic  research abilities, and overall breadth of consumer advocacy.  Basically, we were stuck with the limited choices thrust upon us.  It was either regular or de-caf; now the lattes, frappes, cappuccinos, and the rest scramble our brains to make the choice of the day, but aren’t we truly better off for at least having these options?  I, by no means, partake in any of these indulgences, but I am empathetic to the consumers who have these choices at their disposal, for they are free to select the product they want, not just the product granted unto them.

So the next time you reach the point of sheer frustration over being inundated with marketing campaigns for anything from cars, computers, furniture, clothing, shoes, sporting goods, audio, video, digital, technology and the other million ads with which we are subjected to on a regular basis, keep in mind the alternative. Wouldn’t you rather have brands competing for your dollar, rather than you having to compete against other buyers in a market with limited products from which to choose?  Ultimately, these inexorable campaigns induce the true spirit of capitalism, inasmuch that given multiple choices, the consumer ultimately holds the cards, and that makes for a much more leveraged dollar in terms of our buying power vs. their selling strength.

Reference:

Benjamin Scheibehenne, B., Greifeneder, R., & Todd, P. (2010). Can there ever be too many options? A meta‐analytic review of choice overload.  Journal of Consumer Research , 37(3), 409-425.

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9 Responses to Marketing Overload: A Blessing in Disguise?

  1. Ramona Chiapa says:

    Al,

    Great post! I am notorious for buyers remorse, even worse, I toil over my purchase decision (especially when its a big one) and then second guess myself all the way home. That being said, I’m with you I would rather have never ending options as opposed to limited and bleak half way attempts to get my money. At least now with all the options, we know that companies and advertisers have to work for our business as opposed to holding a monopoly in the product category. Furthermore, while it is a rarely celebrated joy, I love reveling in the moment when I realize I got the best deal on a product purchased. That one moment makes all the other moments of product overload worth it and I would be willing to bet most consumers feel the same way.

    Good insight, I never thought I would be saying I appreciated the overstimulating and intrsuive advertising of today.

    Ramona

  2. amonda says:

    Hi Ramona,

    Thanks for the great feedback; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s true, we are so inundated with the plethora of ad campaigns thrust our way that we tend to react negatively at first, until we realize, “hey, this is a good thing, for now I have many options at my disposal, which is better than only one or two.” Further, I couldn’t agree with you more; that feeling of wow, I got the best deal available! makes the sorting through all the ads, researching products and dealing with the array of marketing campaigns all worth while – at least until the next purchase process, and then we start all over again.

    Thanks again for the kind feedback and insightful comments.

    Al

  3. Hi Al, this is an amazing post.

    I had never heard of buyer’s remorse, but have certainly felt it. Thank you for making me mentally aware of something completely new. I think that your defense of consumer choice is impeccable. This is definitely a keeper for when people ask me about my advertising job and question my scruples or motives. A killer party conversation-starter.

    Thanks to you my response to some folk who hold my profession in disdain will be: How much do you value having a choice for what you own? How did you know you HAVE or HAD those options.
    Voilà, Q.E.D., advertising is the fuel of our gorgeous capitalist, free-market economy.

    Thanks for the great post.
    JMA

  4. amonda says:

    Thanks Javi for the kind and complimentary remarks. I’m glad you liked the blog, and I hope it opens up some conversational doors for you, as I know this appeals to your line of work.

    Isn’t it amazing how we become so immune to the host of ad campaigns tossed our way that we forget to appreciate the value and leverage in buying that they provide us in the long run. You’re absolutely correct when you note that it’s impossible to value your choice if you didn’t have one to begin with. This is where the true value of marketing blitzes help us appreciate that it’s better to have options than be stuck with limitations in the realm of purchasing decisions.

    Thanks for the great feedback.

    Al

  5. clionberger says:

    Oh buyer’s remorse. We’ve all felt it, even if we didn’t recognize it at the time. I think what your post really tells us is that we have to help our consumers get past buyers remorse before it sets in. This means instilling confidence in the decision for our consumers. How many people are proud to be iPad owners? How many are proud to own Corvette? The best cure for buyer’s remorse is to develop brand loyalty, so when a competing product comes out that is cheaper with more features, the buyer can look that product in the face and say, “yeah, but it’s not the one I wanted.”

    • amonda says:

      Chuck,

      Thanks for the great feedback. Yes, buyer’s remorse is omnipresent for most everyone, but as you aptly noted, brand affinity, which fosters brand loyalty to some degree, is a good counter to this emotional construct. I do think though, that even if we’re completely loyal to a brand, when we are deluged with a plethora of marketing campaign ads for products that compete with “our brand,” some semblence of consideration to convert over to them enters our minds, either conscioiusly or subconsciosly; I think that’s a component of the human element of curiosity. Nonetheless, when we’re loyal to a brand, we tend to want to stick with it; if for nothing else but to validate our decision to be loyal to that particular brand over another.

      Thanks for the reply and insightful feedback.

      Al

  6. crwillia says:

    Hi Al,

    Terrific post and a lot of fun to read, however, I had the complete opposite reaction to your blog topic than our classmates. And yet I agree with the responses. For me, your post offered an excellent, albeit implicit, explanation of why “friends and family recommendations” top the list of touch points that influence a purchase (Young, 2010, p. 89). I debated for six years whether or not to purchase an iPhone, and I used a wide variety of inexpensive phones that looked “smart” but had basic features – the Pantech being the nicest of that bunch – until I could decide. I examined the pros and cons from every conceivable angle, looked at all kinds of phones, considered the Android and the Blackberry, and was truly suffering from “decision paralysis” (Heath & Heath, 2008 p. 244). What finally pushed me to my first iPhone, now in its 5th iteration, was one of my good friends was intently searching online for a piece of information, something I had witnessed many times. For some reason, I happened to ask, what do you think of your iPhone? Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “best thing I ever bought.” That really did it. As I am writing this, I realize that my brand loyalties to Nike, Apple, and Ford are all the result of family and friend recommendations. I agree that brand loyalties make choices easier and having choices is a great thing… as is getting an awesome deal!

    Cathy

    References
    Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2008). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. New York, NY: Random House

    Young, A. (2010). Brand media strategy: Integrated communications planning in the digital era. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

  7. amonda says:

    Cathy,

    Thank you for the feedback, and I’m glad you had fun reading my post. You bring up a great point about the elements that affect our buying decsions. Many of these decisions are in fact rooted in convention of what we have been led to believe by others is the best choice of product or service to purchase. One that comes to mind readily is that of receiving referrals from our friends and family members to employ the services of “their” doctors. Oh, they always tout them as being “the best” out there, and that we must absolutely use them. Does anyone feel that their doctor is the worst? They all can’t be the greatest, some have to be the worst, but no one will ever admit that. “Go to my guy; he’s the best there is.” The insanity behind it all amazes me, but it does speak to your point, that not only does conventional marketing barrage us with choices, but so do subliminal forms such as word-of-mouth, traditions and referrals from those so-called “experts.”

    Thanks again for the great insight.

    Al

  8. lynnhoff17 says:

    Your post immediately brought to mind a time when I was shopping with my mom and we walked into a big department store. You could barely move among all the racks, and the racks themselves were so tightly packed it hard to take anything out and examine it.

    “Enough is enough!” my mother exclaimed. “I don’t need this many choices!” My mother has never been a fan of the mall, but I think this finally forced her permanently into Internet shopping.

    As you note, however, the sheer proliferation of marketing makes Internet shopping no less, and maybe even more, dicey than traditional brick and mortar. Think you’ve seen a lot of purple sweaters at Nordstrom? Wait until you go online … you’ll never see them all.

    I think you’re right in that this is the spirit of capitalism. And one of the freedoms we enjoy is the extent to which we comb through mountains of products to find what we want. Maybe some of us are adventurers, maybe some of us find a couple brands and stay loyal. As you say, it’s better to have the choice.