The Curation Cure Jennifer Maer

Turns out, you actually can have too much of a good thing

Walk into a mainstream supermarket these days and it’s row upon row of products—an assault of color and screaming brand names—stacked floor to ceiling. Want cereal? You’ll have up to 40 different varieties to choose from. Looking for soup? Step up to “the maximizer” (a gravity-fed, canned-goods torture rack) and just try to locate Tomato. The experience certainly isn’t limited to the grocery store. Consider the wall of flat screen TVs at an electronics superstore. Or the seventeen kinds of cough syrup at a pharmacy. Which one? Which one? Which one?

More and more, consumers are gravitating toward brands that deliver an edited experience. It’s not a new idea, the whole “less is more” thing. (Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice, is a great primer on the subject.) What’s interesting, however, are the ways in which people and businesses are responding.

The Evidence — Stories from around the globe

.
The luxury of less

Karen is a 34-year-old New York entrepreneur who lives the kind of jet-set life most of us can only dream about. (A half-million dollar salary, an East Village condo.) And what she wants, more than anything, is less.

Less fuss. Less stuff. Less to choose from, all around. “What I need,” she says, “is a well-edited selection.” Who wants to choose from five kinds of bottled water in a hotel mini bar? Or pore over a printed menu with six different types of pillows? For Karen, thoughtful editing provides an invaluable service that she calls “headspace.” Her life is full of important decisions—and which shampoo to buy simply isn’t one of them.

.
When too much choice is unhealthy

Imagine you’ve just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. You’re wondering, “Will I be able to see my kids graduate? Will I need a wheelchair? Can I still take that trip to Peru?” But the first question most doctors ask their patients is: “Which therapy do you want to try?”

Newly diagnosed patients are frequently handed two, three, or four starter kits for different MS therapies, then told to go home, review the kits, and pick one.

One patient named Diana was shocked. “He wants me to pick the drug? He’s the doctor!” Though the goal is to get patients involved in the decision-making process, the result is often the opposite—total paralysis from fear. In Diana’s case, she put the kits aside for months as her conditioned worsened. Finally, her fear of ending up in a wheelchair outweighed her fear of making the wrong decision, and she chose a treatment based on somewhat arbitrary reasoning. Still, she struggled to feel good about her choice, believing “The doctor should know which one is best.”

.
Easy as 1-2-3

24-year-old Akira is Japanese college student who wanted to buy two laptops—one for himself and one for his parents. But with so many brands, so many processors, and so many features, the number of options felt dizzying. Then he saw a sign featuring the top three laptops with Core 2 Duo processors at Yodabashi Camera (a big box electronics store in Japan). The sign helped him decide which laptops to focus on, and he took home informational pamphlets on each of the three suggestions.

Problem solved.

.
Ranking Ranqueen

The name says it all. The Japanese store Ranking Ranqueen has curation down pat. Their entire brand is based on the idea of limited selection: they only sell the top three, five, or ten items in a given category.

.
Fresh & Easy

British grocer Tesco opened its first 10,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stateside last fall. (Compare that to the average US grocery store at 47,500 square feet.) Just a year later, 72 more have been opened across Nevada, Arizona, and Southern California.

The Best Coffee in Copenhagen

As the founder of Monocle magazine, as well as a columnist for the Financial Times, New York Times, and International Herald Tribune, Tyler Brûlé knows about living the good life. At a recent luxury conference in London, he recounted an anecdote about having a coffee in a small coffee bar in Copenhagen (a big coffee town). He asked the owner for a macchiato and was promptly told “We don’t make those, they’re American and not good.” After to-ing and fro-ing and trying to negotiate, the guy finally told him “I make the best coffee in Copenhagen. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay.” He gave Tyler a coffee and not only was it good, Tyler said it was the best he had ever tasted. “I realized something; that as someone used to luxury experiences, the biggest luxury of all was to be directed towards something by an expert.”

Discussion

Jim Meredith

July 29, 2009

The recent Microsoft and Apple ads (among so many others) illustrate the emergent complexity in many buying decisions, “The best coffee in Copenhagen” illustrates the most important factor – trust – backed by an easily redeemable warranty.

427 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

Jenn Maer

August 5, 2009

You’re absolutely right, Jim. And there’s a beautiful simplicity in the coffee example—something I think we all long for, but marketers tend to forget about in their rush to offer as many features, benefits, and options as possible.

478 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

Tru

August 31, 2009

This was relly eye opening for me. I will keep this in mind next time im designing some thing. Less is often more.

405 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

Moses Ting

September 2, 2009

‘Choice fatigue’ makes me walk out of the super market because my head hurts from trying to figure out which shampoo to buy.  So many choices to satisfy each and every single individual, but so many individuals are unhappy because of the amount of unnecessarily enforced choices in life.  Something has to give.

Spend a little more time developing or creating your product/service to provide true value, quality, and craftsmanship, and stop wasting time working on mediocrity to satisfy ‘all’.

392 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

tee

November 16, 2009

the coffee example misses the point I think. The guy in Copenhagen isn’t an expert…coffee is a matter of taste I would suggest, so there is no globally agreed best or worst. However, what he did have was a passionate conviction and belief in his own POV based on his experiences…which he wanted to share with the customer. It was about sharing his passion, not his expertise.

317 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

Jenn Maer

November 16, 2009

I agree, he was definitely sharing his passion and personal taste, Tee. But I’d also argue that passion and expertise often go hand in hand. Think of a master sommelier—a passion for wine (which is a matter of taste), turned into expertise.

379 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

s

August 10, 2010

I would have to agree it is a matter of personal taste.  I am willing to bet though it was his passion that made the sale. Seems to me it’s the inner zeal, passion and believability that makes others jump on board. At least it is that way for me.  I have made purchases in the past and after getting home I know it was the marketer that sold me more than the product itself.

305 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply

josef

September 8, 2010

So many choices to satisfy each and every single individual, but so many individuals are unhappy because of the amount of unnecessarily enforced choices in life.  Something has to give.Spend a little more time developing or creating your product/service to provide true value, quality, and craftsmanship, and stop wasting time working on mediocrity to satisfy ‘all’.

290 people agree with this comment

Agree | reply



Comments are now Closed