When faced with overwhelming options, consumers often choose based on their attributes rather than the product's.
I was reminded of this over the Christmas holiday at a party where several of the guests brought a bottle of wine to share. Each person brought a different wine. The wine isle in typical store includes hundreds of options so I asked each of them how they made their choice.
All three people wanted to bring a nice wine to the party, but only one of the three knew how to choose based on the quality of the wine itself. To the wine expert the label was purely informational. It simply helped them identify a product about which they already had knowledge.The other two did not know good wine from bad. They found labels that connected to their personal interests and then projected those positive associations onto the wine through a process that went something like this.
"I like dogs. This wine has a dog on the bottle. Therefore, I will like this wine."
I think this behavior is similar to social proof where, when we cannot decide for our selves we often watch others and mimic their choices. In this case there were no other people to observe and so our shoppers solved their dilemma by shifting their selection criteria from the product's attributes to their personal attributes
Is your product part of a crowded category? Do consumers have difficulty understanding all the options in order to make a rational choice? Consider differentiating it from the field by giving it (or highlighting) attributes previously unrelated to the category.
Apple, for example, isn't touting traditional computer attributes like memory size or processor speed for its new MacBook Air. Instead it is touting the computers amazing thinness. Is thinness the most important quality by which to judge computer? Perhaps not, but it is certainly one that average folks can quite easily judge for themselves.
Spread the fire. GS