To Choose or Not to Choose

SAMIR MARDOLKER shares a few aspects of choice that will hopefully get people to think differently about choice

Choice is what makes life interesting. We value it – as a human right, as something that makes us feel good or even define who we are. There is a billion-dollar industry rallying to study choice and advise brands on how to be the chosen one. By virtue of being a part of that industry, I am naturally obsessed by how important choice is and how choices are made. In this short article, I am sharing a few less salient aspects of choice that hopefully will get you thinking about choice differently. Thanks for choosing to read on.

While we are told ‘who we are has a lot to do with the choices we make in life’, it is also true that ‘who we are’ is equally about the choices we do NOT make. Clearly, where we are born, who our parents are, where we grow up etc. has a profound influence on who we are and yet they are not really chosen by us.

We fail to recognise that we are not exercising our choice on many matters because the default is taken for granted. For instance, we took it for granted that going to office was the most effective way of working until we discovered that ‘work from home’ was actually an option.

Upon reflection on your own tough choices, you may agree that since options have a different type of value and are not comparable to start with, chances are that you have, in fact, made an easy or safe choice

We also fail to recognise the extent to which our right to choose is bounded by societal norms, fear of retribution, limited resources etc. For instance, it is only very recently that the choice of affiliating with a gender is being appreciated. Even when we think we have made a choice, we fail to realise that we may have been ‘led into one’. Specifically, that the ‘choice architecture’ had been designed to ‘nudge’ you to choose what the brand or the government wanted you to choose. This is a profound revelation from behaviour economist that became mainstream only in the last 15 years or so.

Lastly, we feel we have really exercised choice when we deal with ‘tough choices’ i.e., options which are very good in their own way but not necessarily one better than the other. For instance, which town to live in, which job to take, which partner to live with, where to retire, etc.

For tough choices, in making a decision, we often disregard the fact that these choices are not comparable. This is because each one has its only unique value and one is not better than the other (else it would not have been a tough choice). Despite knowing they can’t be compared per se, we default to a choice process that involves due diligence in carefully evaluating each option. We reassure ourselves that we have picked the better or more fitting of the two options –when in fact, both have different type of value and were never comparable to start with.

Upon reflection on your own tough choices, you may agree that since options have a different type of value and are not comparable to start with, chances are that you have, in fact, made an easy or safe choice. A choice that most people like yourself in your situation would make because they too would go through the same ‘evaluation’ process. When faced with tough choices, we fail to realise the missed opportunity in evolving into a person we deeply desire to be by picking an option and ‘making it work’. As an example, deep inside I really loved my small village in Goa, and always wanted to be there. However, in evaluating the tough choice between Goa and every other glittering city in the world in my early 20s, I did what most would do – pick other cities rationalising the choice to what most others in my situation would also do. And now I am like most others versus growing up into someone I would have liked to be – a lazy bum on a beach, happy with beer, music and good fish.

PS: I have ‘chosen’ content for this article from various sources: Movies (Gone Baby Gone, The Internship), Ted talks and chats with friends. The tattoo in the image says “Make reasonable choices!”

The last point on tough choices has implications for good branding. If you can position a brand that inspires a consumer to FIND his/her own reasons that stretch beyond aspects that can be compared across brands, you have truly leveraged consumer choice!

Creating such a strong proposition requires deep appreciation of the ‘human condition’, a strategic mindset and out of the box thinking to inspire creative execution. This is when you will land a differentiated and distinctive proposition to the right market segment.

Mobile Ad 1

Mobile Ad 2