Don’t showcase all your good features, it backfires

When you showcase your good features alongside your best ones, you’re diluting your best ones and you’ll be perceived as worse overall.

An iPod can be promoted as either:
A) iPod + Free cover + 1 free song download
B) iPod + Free cover 

When asked in an experiment, 92% of participants (posing as marketers) chose option A. But how do consumers see it?

Potential customers were willing to pay $177 for option A. But for option B they were willing to pay $242.

People would pay 36.7% more, for the option that offers less. What’s going on?

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Previous tip: When to use emotional vs informational ads (All tips here)

Tip type: Existing research (February 2012)

Showcase only your best features, not all of your good ones

Impacted metrics: Customer acquisition | Customer spending
Channels: Sales team | Ads | Website/app | Promotions | Product

Recommendation

Showcase your best feature(s) instead of showing all your good features - the latter water down the good impression.

Effects

  • Presenters of information (e.g. marketers, salespersons, candidates at job interviews) instinctively follow a more-is-better strategy when presenting information. They tend to include not only their best features (e.g. a hotel’s infinity pool, that they’re fluent in both English and French) but also any better-than-neutral feature (e.g. the hotel also has an average restaurant, the candidate also knows a few words of German). They expect more positive information to make the final product more appetizing.

  • In reality, the opposite is true for receivers. Good features dilute excellent features, and the final outcome is less than if only the excellent features were presented. It’s similar to how warm water added to hot water lowers the overall temperature.

  • The effect can be reduced when the presenter is prompted to think of the ‘big picture’ message the final product gives, instead of the individual benefits. Likewise, it can be reduced if the receiver is encouraged to think of and add up all the benefits individually.

(In one of the experiments, owners/marketers expected that customers would be willing to pay more if they showcased both their 5-star pool and 3-star restaurant on hotels.com. The opposite was true - Click here to zoom in)

Why it works

  • When presenters are preparing their information to present (e.g. a product’s ad campaign, their new website, their pitch to the board of directors), they usually take a bottom-up approach of collating pieces of information into a narrative. Doing so gives them the expectation that the receiver will perceive it the same way.

  • Receivers of information usually process information by combining it into a ‘big picture’ summary of it. To do so, we don’t usually add the information. Instead, we average it, so less positive information - even if still good - drags down the great information.

Limitations

  • This research builds on a strong background of previous research and consisted of seven experiments, most in different contexts. This makes it widely generalizable.

  • The researchers didn’t test whether the number of ‘excellent’ features presented has an impact (i.e. is it better to just showcase 1 or 2, or should you list all of them, even if you have 20?). Based on previous research, you should probably limit the number of features you present to max 3-5, to avoid overwhelming the receiver. You can highlight different features to different customer segments.

Companies using this

  • The amount of good (diluting) features presented by companies seems to be highly variable over time and across different products.

Steps to implement

  • When you’re considering which features of your product, advantages of your proposal, or personal qualities to communicate, focus on the best and remove others, even if they are positive.

  • Apply this to your website, ad campaign, pitch deck, CV, LinkedIn profile, and almost any other situation.

Study type

Lab and online experiments, United States

Source

Weaver, K., Garcia, S. M., & Schwarz, N. (February 2012). The presenter's paradox. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(3), 445-460.

[Link to paper]

Affiliations

Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech; Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California; and Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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