Choices, more choices and too many choices
This is the week that Chrysler is set to begin an all-out advertising blitz for its newly developed subcompact – the Dodge Dart. Hoping to complete against the likes of Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, they have positioned the car to appeal to younger drivers by including artists Jay-Z and Kanye West in their advertising. Chrysler is also making a big bet that consumers will flock to the car because of the number of features and choices that are offered; what the Wall Street Journal calls, “a menu offering as many as 100,000 possible combinations of colors and optional features."
Chrysler Group LLC’s newest compact car will be available in five different basic styles, 12 different exterior colors and up to 14 different interior color schemes, including black and ruby red, and “diesel gray and citrus.” Buyers will pick from up to seven different wheel choices and can get a dashboard they can personalize to show either digital performance data, or virtual analog gauges.
The array of choices is designed to appeal to drivers in their 20s and 30s, says Richard Cox, director of the Dodge brand. Chrysler, which has long been weak in compact cars, concluded that offering more customization and technology was a way to stand out.
The problem with choice (and specifically, too many choices) is that it can lead to something called decision paralysis – where as the choices available (even if they’re all good options) increase, so too does the likelihood that indecision follows. It’s a well-established psychological bias that limits our decision making process. In The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz highlighted one of the most obvious cases from a recent study.
Researchers at an upscale gourmet food store set up two tables where shoppers could taste different varieties of jam; one table had six different flavors while the other contained twenty-four. The table with twenty-four different types of jam attracted more people to taste (than the table of six) – makes sense so far, (more choices, more interest) right? But when it came to buying, thirty percent of the people exposed to the smaller choices of jam actually bought a jar – ten times as many compared to the people exposed to the table with more choices.
There are two important takeaways here. First, just as the table with more choices of jam in the study above attracted more people, I suspect that Chrysler was swayed by similar evidence from their pre-launch focus groups, When offered a choice of more options (as opposed to less), their target audience was much more positive towards the increase in choices. Again, it makes sense as most consumers initially view more choice as better than less choice. Second - when it comes to the actual buying habits of their target audience, I also suspect that these same “multitude of choices” that focus groups loved so much during the pre-launch phase will actually deter a significant number of folks from actually making the decision to buy. Too many choices will inevitably lead to decision paralysis. And decision paralysis will cause buyers to leave dealer showrooms without making a decision to buy.
The proof, of course, will be in the final sales numbers over the next twelve to twenty-four months. Having said that, I’d be quite surprised if a year from now, the Dodge Dart continues to offer consumers the same number of choices as offered today.