You Don’t Want To Choose

Red Pill or Blue PillLet’s face it: you don’t like to make decisions. It’s ok, I don’t either. The problem is everyone in the world thinks we do! We are constantly bombarded with choices, options, and decisions to make about everything we do and everything we buy, but are these choices what we really want or need?

Case #1


You’re at the grocery store buying some soup because you’re sick 🙁 You go to the soup aisle to decide which type of soup suits your palette. After five minutes pass, you realize that you’re staring aimlessly at all of the choices! There are hundreds of soups! You decide on clam chowder because it’s your favorite, but there are 3 different variations from each of the 4 different brands. You end up grabbing the one that you decide has the prettiest label because, how else are you to decide? You also grab some chicken noodle just for good measure.

In this case, it’s great to have a variety of choice for those with different appetites, but anyone who has been to the grocery store (especially if you’re not a regular shopper) can identify with standing in the aisle, gazing off into never-never land at all of the countless choices for any number of different products.

Case #2

Despite the recession, life has been good to you and you decide its time to get yourself a new whip. You have your sight set on something sporty, so you decide to check out the new Bugatti Veyron, the $1.7m price tag is merely a drop in the bucket for a baller like you.


As you configure your Bugatti on the website before heading over to the dealer, you realize you have a whopping 29 color combinations to choose from! How on earth will you ever decide which one is perfect for you? Do you like the white on soft silver, or the white silver on grey silver better? Camera one, camera two. CHOOSE NOW!

I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve bought 3 new cars in my adult life – 2 of them there was one color available on the lot, and 1 of them I chose between 2 colors. My car right now is grey, because that’s what they had, and I like it. Simple.

Et cetera

How many more scenarios like this are there? What are we going to eat for dinner, what movie do you want to watch, what kind of cell plan to get, where do you invest your money, and on forever.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz said: “If everything is possible, you don’t have freedom –  you have paralysis.” This statement brings a whole new meaning to the cliché “Less is more.”

When choice is given to the individual at infinite detail, it creates chaos. As marketers it is our job to look for ways to expand our markets and often this results in more options, more choice, and ultimately more decisions for the end user. The problem is, when we leave decision in the hands of the customer, we take it out of the hands of the expert.

When Nike launched their “NIKEiD” campaign that allowed buyers to design and purchase their own custom shoe, it got major attention. I personally know several people that jumped on the opportunity to design their very own shoes right away. As a result of this campaign, I have seen some of the ugliest shoes EVER to come from a major shoe brand. What was previously handled by a professional, the design, is now a series of options and choices for the untrained consumer; and the result is potentially catastrophic.

Less Really IS More

Like it or not, all clichés are cliché for a reason. There is something powerful about simplicity. It’s why all Apple computers are silver and all iPods are either black or white. It’s why gas stations offer 87, 89, and 91 octane gasoline. It’s why 70% of users in the US prefer Google to other search engines.

Simplicity, and removing extraneous choice strengthens the offer of any product and/or service by putting the focus on what’s really important. Most people think they want all of the choice to themselves; but when it comes down to it, they find it much easier to choose between clam chowder or chicken noodle, than having to sift through a hundred different soups.

12 Replies to “You Don’t Want To Choose”

  1. We went to Friendly’s last night for dinner and the waitress gave us each THREE menus. THREE! It took us like 45 minutes to decide what we wanted because we were starving and it was all too much. Who wants that many options?

  2. My wife and I talk about this all the time in regards to where to live. Since I can work from anywhere it is actually harder for us to find a place to settle down as opposed to most people who move and stay for a job. That quote is right on.

  3. @Lisa – This is why I’ve always thought In-N-Out was brilliant, do you want a hamburger with or without cheese, and how many patties?

    @Chris – Definitely Hawaii.. Or maybe Santa Barbara.

  4. Kenny – Eh, but that’s only if you’re order off the printed menu. In N Out has that whole other “secret menu” that is fairly complicated in itself. I mean, the 2×4, 3×3, animal style, flying dutchmen, protein style, grilled cheese, veggie burgers, etc — you’ll be there forever. 🙂

  5. @Lisa – Yeah but you don’t “choose” from that menu, you only order from it if you know about it and know what you want. Newbs order from the printed menu and its painstakingly simple = win.

  6. Kenny – You choose from it when you go with someone who’s a regular and they try and show off by reciting the entire secret In N Out menu because they’re douchebags who get off on making you feel inferior and it’s the only thing in their life they have “going” for them. I mean…what we were talking about? Never mind. I hate choices. Just order for me.

  7. Reminds me of that scene in Moscow On The Hudson where (Russian defector) Robin Williams passes out in the grocery store when he sees all the varieties of coffee on the shelves.

  8. My wife is like Lisa, always needing to read every item on the menu. I’m different, I typically find something I like and go with it. Even with an infinite selection, I’ll decide on something and make that “the thing I want the most” on the whole menu. It’s like a subconscious “less is more” button that I push to make things simpler for myself even if they don’t appear to be that way.

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