Friday, March 06, 2009

Levitation and other tricks over the line...

Elisa mentioned an article to me from the New York Times (more than) a while ago and I only got around to reading it this morning.

Essentially the idea discussed in the article is to play on peer competitiveness. It also showed how affected we are by the perception of 'normal' behaviour around us... we tend to adjust to 'fit' in.

A similar idea was utilised (at least) twice in Western Australia in regards to water usage. It manifested in two ways - one abstract, the other quite tangible.

The first involved advertisements being placed on a regular basis in The West Australian. We were shown graphically - typically in form of a water glass - what the total daily water usage target was for the previous day as well as what 'really' was used.

The collective 'we' were given encouragement if we did well (but warned to not be complacent) or scolded mildly if we performed badly.

The problem was that the numbers used were incomprehensible... A Gigalitre is a completely abstract volume to most people so if we used 1 Gigalitre over 'our limit' it really doesn't mean much unless you can 'see it'.

Admittedly the graph showed that we were 10% 'bad' or 5% 'good' but I think it still struggles to communicate it's message effectively.

A classic example of making abstracts tangible would be the unit typically used in regards to Carbon Emissions. Rather than say 2,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide, typically marketers will instead use the 'equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road for a year'. We can relate to the later whereas the first is impossible to visualise.

The second example was from the water utility and this played on the same principle mentioned in the article. It showed in less abstract numbers (hundreds of litres rather than millions or billions) what the water usage on average was in our suburb compared to ours.

This was motivation enough for us to half our water usage from one bill to the next.

On another note, someone discussed with me a long time ago the psychology of art pricing. It would seem to be the inverse of the visual trick of using $9.95 rather than $10.00 to trick the mind into thinking it's 'cheaper'.

Essentially the argument was that there is a tipping point with pricing. If you are under a certain price you are seen in such terms as 'desperate', 'cheap', 'immature', 'unripe', etc whereas if you cross a magical (but very much invisible) line you are then seen as a 'fitter'.

The trick is to find that line and hover appropriately above it... ie. not too high as to be seen as pompous or deluded and not too low as to look like you are 'copying' pricing.

Levitation anyone? And for my next trick...

1 comment:

Magic Tricks said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.