Are you giving your clients too many options?

Brain Games is an ambitious new program on National Geographic that tries to get in viewers’ heads with different interactive experiments that reveal the inner workings of our brains.

Many of the experiments challenge what you think you know to be true about something, and a recent episode focused on the notion of ‘choice’ – how choices we are given impact our level of happiness or displeasure. The host put forward the assumption that providing people with more choices makes them happier, because they do not feel restricted selecting an option that is not right for them. In the show, the hosts asks whether you preferred choosing between more than 20 flavors of ice cream, or between three flavors of ice cream.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? There is a reason Baskin’ Robbins used to be called 31 flavors, and that we have frozen yogurt chains called 16 Handles. Not a lot of entrepreneurs today eyeing to start a franchise called ‘3 flavors.’

As the host challenged the notion that more choices equates to more satisfaction, I could not help but think about how digital marketing and advertising firms pitch new and existing clients. There is a fear that by providing, say, three logo choices, website designs, ad creative, etc., a client might not connect with any of them and would have potentially connected with a fourth or fifth idea. Agencies might also feel that the more options they show the client, the more it demonstrates creativity (i.e. – look at all the amazing choices we have provided to you).

As you might have guessed by now, the Brain Games episode contends that more choices complicates the decision making process and opens the door to second-guessing and inaction. While I’d still prefer the option of Rum Raisin as opposed to just Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla, the episode should at least offer agencies pause in how they pitch new business and ideate.

It isn’t about offering more choices, but going through a process internally and collaboratively that is thorough enough to land at a point where the agency truly knows the business prospect and has the confidence to put forward three corporate logos instead of thirty, or five new product names instead of fifty. In these cases, putting forward several options basically says “We don’t really understand your business, so we are going to throw a bunch of darts against the wall and hope that one of them hits the bulls eye.”

There is an argument to be made that agencies will have better success with fewer, quality options than more options of questionable quality. Savvy digital marketing, PR and advertising agencies consistently challenge conventional wisdom; we might think the client wants to be overwhelmed with options, but in fact they are often just looking for their three favorite ice cream flavors. Figure those out, and it is one brain game you are likely to win.

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