Cognitive Marketing Series: The Law of Least Effort
Cognitive Marketing Series: The Law of Least Effort
The Cognitive Marketing Series will take a look at the psychology of marketing, and examine why people make the decisions they do and how marketers can be more efficient and effective at achieving their desired outcomes. Hosts Bobby and Cole will take listeners for a ride "In the Cognitive Clouds," and focus on one principle per episode. The first episode is about the Law of Least Effort which is the basic hypothesis that someone will choose a course of action that appears to require the smallest amount of effort. The hosts discuss why being lazy isn't necessarily bad, and explain the value of marketer's putting themselves in their customers' shoes.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the In The Clouds Podcast. In The Clouds is a marketing cloud podcast powered by Lev, the most influential marketing focused Salesforce consultancy in the world. Lev is customer experience obsessed and podcast hosts Bobby Tichy and Cole Fisher have partnered with some of the world's most well- known brands to help them master meaningful one- on- one connections with their customers. In this podcast, they'll combine strategy and deep technical expertise to share best practices, how- tos and real life use cases and solutions for the world's top brands using Salesforce products today.
Bobby Tichy: What's your least favorite thing to do around the house?
Cole Fisher: Oh, man. A lot of things, but a lot of times, I'd probably say it's mowing the lawn because it's kind of like making your bed, you have to do it again. And it's like," Well, why do it right now? It's about to rain this weekend. It's going to grow four inches practically overnight. I'm going to have to do it again." It feels repetitive, redundant, just obnoxious when I have to do that. Whereas if I'm putting in new windows, like," Ah, this is a facelift and has a lasting impact." The short impact of mowing the lawn is just the worst.
Bobby Tichy: Are you a push mower or a rider?
Cole Fisher: Yeah, I'm a push guy.
Bobby Tichy: Okay. I was going to say seeing your yard, if you were on a rider, we'd have a problem. I always liked mowing the lawn growing up and I can't really think of... We haven't had, well, we've had a couple of yards, but I haven't really mowed them. We always had a service come to it. Gosh, this makes me sound awful. Just a lazy person, which really correlates into our podcast episode. Everybody, it's Bobby and Cole. We are jumping into a new topic that is near and dear, mostly to Cole's heart, but my heart as well. But during our first annual conference, Ultraviolet, Cole conducted this great session about the psychology of marketing. And so what we're kind of talking about or thinking of in the subject is in the cognitive clouds. So kind of jumping into some of the decisions, why people make the decisions they do and how marketers can be more efficient and effective at achieving their desired outcomes. And the first episode is law of least effort. So talking about mowing the lawn and actually not actually having to do it, but anyways, it's a topic that typically gets ignored as we think about the psychology of marketing and replacement, like tactical goals and objectives. And I think a really good example and kudos to our coworker and friend Nick Burggraf for... We get this text about a preference center a couple of weeks ago and how for years, almost everybody recommends, oh, you got to have a preference. You got to have a preference center. It's the best practice across the industry, but why? What's the most effective way to provide preferences or options to subscribers? Is the preference area an effective way of measuring a subscriber's preferences or intent? So these are the kinds of questions we want to dive into to better understand as technologists and marketers, how should we spend our time? How should we give a better experience to our subscribers, our customers, patrons, patients, whatever it may be so they have the best possible experience?
Cole Fisher: Yeah. And so I'll kind of lay the foundation with the concept behind the cognitive clouds here for these next few episodes is based on a framework of, in the theoretical world, there's kind of a spectrum of beliefs on how we build models to view the practical world. So on one end, you have the neoclassical economics, which is your sort of textbook supply and demand, diminished returns, everything that we learned in school that... And it basically states that people do or should act perfectly rational or fully informed and they'll make decisions as such. And on the other end of that, we have the psychology end, which basically says people are the opposite of rational. We're all crazy. And things like influences and other people and habits and emotions and certain stimuli distract us and have a big impact on our choices and in the way we act, therefore we're all just crazy. And somewhere in the middle, there's this sort of blend where there's an attempt to kind of marry theory to practice and what they call behavioral economics. And this says that basically, we operate under what's called bounded rationality. And so it's our human nature that we have limited bandwidth, limited resources and limited access to information, but we do the best with what we can with those. And Bobby, using your preference centers example, when we look at it as that context, the neoclassical economics ground says that, okay, well, there really should be no frustration on the part of consumers because marketers should all supply preference centers. If consumers ever have issues, they go to those preference centers, they update preferences or unsubscribe or do whatever. And we live in a perfectly harmonious situation here. That sounds great in theory, right. On the other side, the psychology end, it says that, well, consumers don't even know what they really want, even if they could communicate it, they would probably do it incorrectly. The things are going to change. And actually, there's some truth to that, a principle called dynamic inconsistency, which we'll touch on a later episode, but to an extent, there's something to that, but in the middle ground, that sort of behavioral economic standpoint, it kind of says this is where we get the idea of, well, is it really incumbent upon a consumer to go through the effort of updating preferences and sharing these things explicitly with a brand or a company or is that really on the company's side to kind of figure out and explicitly and implicitly gather? And so that kind of lays the framework with these sort of three blends of what we think and a lot of times, when we think about preference centers, that is very much because of that neoclassical economics standpoint. So the first principle that we're talking about today is law of least effort. And what that basically says is that we're all super lazy and we're wired to be lazy.
Bobby Tichy: Hey, hey. Come on.
Cole Fisher: You don't even mow your own lawn. So I mentioned this author, Daniel Kahneman, in the Ultraviolet talk, but he's kind of like the... He's a Nobel Prize winner, kind of the godfather, one of the godfathers of behavioral economics. And he authored a book called Thinking, Fast and Slow. And it's really about kind of the high level and low level processing. Low level processing is just things that we don't need to make conscious decisions about, that we have certain heuristics and biases and habits that inform what we do because we don't have to make decisions about everything all day. If we did, we would just be bogged down.
Bobby Tichy: Is that kind of the thought that like, you're basically just a product of your environment. Is it kind of along the same lines?
Cole Fisher: To some extent, but there's nuances that don't really qualify that as well, but it's things like... So in the concept of cognitive load, there's a certain bandwidth or ability to bear so much load on our minds every day. And this is the same reason that Steve Jobs always wore a turtleneck, a mock turtleneck and jeans, or why Mark Zuckerberg always wore hoodies, because the concept is, and there's a lot of science behind this, if we remove the friction of mundane decisions, we can actually save that cognitive energy for higher level processing. And these are things like more strategic decisions. What should my company be doing? What's the next move? What is future technology taking me into, rather than what am I wearing today on my next zoom call or whatever it might be.
Bobby Tichy: What if you just struggle with every decision all the time, or... Well, actually, no, let me rephrase that. I don't think I have much cognitive function at all.
Cole Fisher: Bobby, I wouldn't totally disagree with you there now. Well, the thing is, it's like it's human nature to sort of have that issue. So in the law of least effort, it says if there are two products on the shelf and they're the exact same product, exact same benefits, same brand, everything, but they're two different prices, everyone, 100% of the time, will go for the lower price. Why would you expend more for the same thing? And this is true for non- monetary resources as well. So when it comes to our time, our energy, our attention, leveraging our resources, that's all considered currency to us. And so our goal is to get as much as possible while expending as little as possible. So it's not that lazy is necessarily bad, it's just that lazy is most efficient and effective for us. And so that's why, if we're being intelligent about things, we kind of remove small decisions and focus on bigger, more strategic initiatives, even though they can be bigger, scarier decisions and take a lot more of that processing.
Bobby Tichy: It's so interesting because not only thinking about on the consumer side where we're asking someone in the notion of going back to the preference in our example, we're asking someone," Hey, what do you want to receive?" Which I think to us, in our own log, least effort is, well, we just want someone else to tell us what they want, because we want to honor what their preferences are. Well, especially now in the age of how much information we have on people, we should probably be able to make those assumptions for them. But then we've also got this weird caveat where a lot of people don't want to have those decisions made for them or assumptions made for them. So it's really interesting, the kind of dichotomy of these two elements, right, where we assume people want to be catered to or personalized to a specific way, but there are still some of those people that don't, and then kind of thinking about that law of least effort in a different sense of outside of the consumer spaces, like just in our jobs, right? How impressed are you when you come to a meeting and someone is fully prepared for that meeting and they know what they want to get out of it and they are able to adequately express their thoughts or opinions. But also, how many times have we been on phone calls where someone's like," So what do you want to talk about?"
Cole Fisher: Yeah, exactly. Just yesterday, I was on an interaction studio call and we had set up a call to kind of go through and discover use cases and talk about what their business objectives were and what we could use interaction studio and real- time interaction management to apply to make progress on some of those objectives. And before we came to the meeting, they gave us a list of 30 different bullets of questions and ideas that they had, in rank order of their business objectives and we kind of looked at this and we we're inaudible and this felt so unnatural because usually, we have to schedule a meeting to pry this out of somebody because they're not prepared because preparation of course is effort, right. And so that's what was so unusual for us. It's like they were doing the opposite of law of least effort. So hats off to them. They did a great job. And so we got into the meeting, we were like," This is great. Let's just dig in." And we ended up having probably being a week ahead of where we should have been because of that. But yeah, I mean, it's very unnatural because normally, it's natural for people to kind of sit back on their haunches and wait for things to come to them. And we do that as marketers. We do that when we want. It's easier for us to just build that preference center and let that go to put the brunt of the workload on the consumer. And there's two reasons I'll cover off real quick that are kind of behind this. And they're behind a number of these concepts that we're talking about that we will talk about, but there's sort of like a cause and effect to why we're essentially lazy. And so one is loss aversion. That's a really common thread that kind of like weaves through a lot of different elements in psychology and behavioral economics. But basically, we all know that fear and humor and marketing always was super memorable when people say like, what tends to be more memorable, fear or humor? Well, the fact of the matter is most studies will suggest fear because that loss aversion, that fear of losing things, actually, and this gets into other concepts that we may or may not touch on later for prospect theory or endowment effect, but people are, generally speaking, more afraid to lose something than they are to gain something. And that actually says a lot more about the just general human psyche as is, but the fear of losing something, losing more resources or money or something on a decision that I otherwise could have saved on is a terrifying thought. The other element that plays into this law of least effort is cognitive dissonance. And for a lot of times, and in marketers and consumer behavior, this rears its ugly head in the form of buyer's remorse. But cognitive dissonance is basically when beliefs and attitudes don't seem to match up with what we know as fact and knowledge. And so if I think I'm buying the best product and I find the reviews and stuff later on say otherwise and my experience says otherwise, then I have cognitive dissonance. And then this again, in this form, is buyer's remorse. And so these are things that kind of drive us to analysis paralysis or making no decision. And so law of least effort is how do I minimize my processing? How do I get the most out of my effort while expending the least? And so when you can think about consumer's attention span, we scratch our heads as marketers when we have like, oh, we have open service cases. They can go here, call this number, go in and do this if they have an issue, but what's easier, going through that entire process of filing and following up on service cases, which we've all gone through our own personal hells of having to do that before with certain products and things, or is it easier just to leave a negative review and never use your product again? Law of least effort says I'm just going to do the easy thing. And so-
Bobby Tichy: crosstalk dissonance is the only term I remember from school, which I was a marketing major. But it's funny to think about it that way in conjunction with the law of least effort, because to your point, it's... And I think too, we've kind of been trained a little bit by these online reviews and presence where if I make a bad review, that brand will reach out to me. So I can just jump on Google, put in this bad review and maybe they'll reach out to me versus just going and functioning a return or an exchange directly on the site.
Cole Fisher: Yeah. Well, it's conditioned now, but the fact is that means that it wasn't proactively served to you in a manner that you could better address your needs. You had to go through some superfluous effort of putting down a poor review, which doesn't benefit them or you, and there's a bunch of sadly entertaining psychology studies around why people love to post negative reviews and not so much positive, but I won't get into that. Also, and kind of thinking of this in the lens, again, of that preference center, when we think of law of least effort and from our consumer's standpoint, what's easier? There's basically two things that a subscriber can do when they become unengaged. They can either go to the bottom of an email and unsubscribe there or visit the preference center and update their preference options. Or the easier thing to do is nothing at all. And so they let those emails either go to spam or they just ignore them or they just go straight to delete and they do nothing. And then we as marketers, we scratch our heads because we don't know what's going on. And it's a matter of time until we have to assume that they're just no longer wanting to receive emails from us, even though they've never actually told us that. And so it gets to this point where it's a little irrational, the way we think about as marketers, the way we think about these preference centers, because it's not the customer's job to go there and update us as much as it is for us to make it more convenient for them to update. And so whether that's building models based on engagement, implicit models, or whether that's just doing things like progressive profiling and providing more areas for input where a consumer can actually tell us what they're looking for implicitly or explicitly, whether through browse behavior, app activity, or whether it's us just sending out interactive email or AMP for email. I think it was the January release that we covered. That was AMP for email where we can build up steps and just say like," Hey, we're not driving you to a landing page. We're not making you go visit a preference center or click on things to move you to another page." We're just saying, in the email, you can just tell us interactively what you like, what you don't like, toggle here and there and that allows us to make this a better experience for you. We're not taking PI, we're not taking personal information from you. We're just asking if you'd like to provide input, here's a way to do it, without you expending anything more than the movement of a finger on your screen.
Bobby Tichy: Do you think most marketers are hopeless romantics? And the reason I say that is because how many conversations have you had over the years where people don't want to remove subscribers who haven't been engaged for a period of time, because they think at some point, this person may buy something after I send them the 304th email?
Cole Fisher: This is exactly where loss aversion is like ground zero for marketers because anything that we let go of is... And that's also true for... We'll get into this next week with paradox of choice, but that's the big misconception around the more is greater, when everything we know as marketers says more highly targeted, smaller audiences always perform better than huge batch and blast audiences, but we still get this concept that volume and not letting anything go and losing any sort of PII or any sort of data or any sort of customer information is devastating to us because that's loss aversion. We're afraid to lose that. The fact of the matter is, like we talked about with the iOS update, this is not your data. You're borrowing this in hopes that you're benefiting your consumers.
Bobby Tichy: It's so interesting because just the loss of inaudible piece of it and people being afraid to remove people. I think the one thing that I find really interesting too, and this is as I've gotten older, but there's only a finite amount of time or a finite amount of... For me, I think about my personal inbox is I've gotten really good at unsubscribing from things that I don't find interesting anymore or I'm just not... I was going to purchase something from a particular company so I subscribed, or now I'm not part of that evaluation stage anymore or whatever it might be. And it'd be great to have marketers think about that the same way. Is the campaign or the message or the content that I'm sending, is this something that I would want to receive? Is it something that is actually going to provide value to the customer? And I think that goes back to the preference center example, which I know we keep using, but I think it's really relevant of like, do you really have 14 different... Outside of media where there's newsletters and different topics and that sort of thing. But for most brands, if you've got 10 to 14 different preferences on a preference center, you probably aren't providing all that great content. If you're trying to manage all of this and you're trying to get people to decide which of these 10 to 14 did they actually want.
Cole Fisher: Exactly. And I'm glad you bring that up because we've talked before, you and I Bobby, about how this falls inherently true for products and for consultancies and salespeople. And it's this notion, this same law of least effort notion of, I want a cookie cutter recipe that provides this and like, okay, here's the preference center, here's my subscription list, here's everything. We want an easy one, two, three steps to follow. But the more difficult thing to do is to apply more energy, more attention and more focus around what the consumer thinks and feels. And so when we put ourselves in that position, which is an unnatural thing, because we're used to being the marketer, when we put ourselves in that position of being a consumer, we're applying more energy, more attention. And that's when it's like, okay, instead of saying this law of least effort and the fact that we're lazy is inherently a bad thing. It's a natural thing. How do we make things easier for consumers then? And so that's when it comes to things like interactive email or even as marketers, we ourselves, we're allowed to be lazy. Let's use AI and machine learning and models. And we just build and test on those. But if we're applying these things properly, we're thinking in the very shoes of those consumers saying," Okay, I'm probably not going to go to a preference center or at least 95 plus percent of my consumers aren't going to see my preference center at any given time. What are other ways I can inaudible? What are other things that they're looking for and what are the cues and behavioral instances that they're showing me that tell me that there's something else out there that I'm missing the mark on. And a lot of the times, we just don't naturally listen to that because it's not part of that rinse and repeat cycle that we as marketers or we as human beings or any business want to believe is actually what works.
Bobby Tichy: And I think too, for a lot of marketers, they feel like you talked about what we can do or what marketers can do to better target or better provide preferences, essentially on behalf of their subscribers or customers or whatever that might be. And AI and machine learning and all of those things play a part in it. And I think what a lot of marketers will tell you is that there's a human side to it, right? It's not all AI or machine learning, or if we're talking about Salesforce specifically, Einstein. However, a lot of that information can be used in a human way, right. It doesn't have to be one or the other. So as a marketer, if you're really focused on providing the right content and you really understand the brand that you're representing and you want to make sure you're sharing that brand with your subscribers or customers in a particular way, that's awesome. And that's admirable. But then how do you combine that with certain AI or machine learning functionalities to make your job more efficient, going back to the whole laziness piece of it, but also providing your consumers or your subscribers with an overall better experience?
Cole Fisher: Yeah. And that's the thing, there's a lot of things marketers can do. And even in Salesforce, within Marketing Cloud, there's send time optimization and engagement, frequency, and scoring. Things like that, that at least just get us started and that we can kind of take advantage of that lazy nature of ours. The thing we have to fight is we have to go back and revisit all those models and we have to update those. And even though we preach this until we're blue in the face as marketers, but you're always optimizing and testing and iterating on things. But the fact of the matter is, and this is why new hires and things like that come in and kind of turn things upside down a lot of times, because they'll just look at it. On paper, they'll say we've had the same welcome series for four years. Nothing really changed with our company or experience.
Bobby Tichy: It's so funny you say that. I was just talking with a company this week. One of the largest 25 companies in the world. And we were talking about reporting analytics on the marketing side and they're like," Yeah, we have these benchmarks." Like," Oh, great. How often do you update these benchmarks?"" Oh, we set it up two years ago. We haven't touched them since."
Cole Fisher: Exactly, but that's what's so easy, is the law of least effort says we're not going to update those. We're just going to sit back and if it's done once, it's done. And that's why I'm all for AI and machine learning and these things like that. But if you don't revisit, you don't constantly tinker with these things and grow and learn and test, then they just become random assortments of benchmarks for the sake of benchmark.
Bobby Tichy: What's your favorite cliff hanger? So if you're listening to the radio, you've got those great DJs and things like that. And what's your favorite like," And next, after the break, we'll tell you how Cole became a millionaire by doing nothing."?
Cole Fisher: I don't know that I have a favorite one because I always view them in the eyes of a marketer. So like," Oh, click through this, you'll laugh at number 31." I'm not clicking through 31 of these things to find out whatever you're talking about, which is just an arbitrary clickbait. So I think for me, I don't think I have a favorite one because every one I look at with just a grain of salt, I'm like," No, I'm not buying it. I know this is the teaser to get me going." But I know you have one.
Bobby Tichy: Well, no, I was thinking about the other topics that we're going to touch on as part of In the Cognitive Clouds. And I was thinking, in your best radio DJ voice, how could you preview some of the other topics that we're going to touch on?
Cole Fisher: Yeah. So we've got a few things. So we talked about dynamic inconsistency a little bit, and that's the concept that a consumer or any human being that states what they're looking for at one time, we as marketers, we'll just kind of attach to that, glom on. And the only time they fill out a preference center, for example, and we'll attach to that and say," Okay, that is this consumer." Whereas, time is just one of the many factors that changes. They may have already made a purchase, and it may have... A lot of things can change. And so what they're looking for may entirely change. Dynamic inconsistency is a really neat one that I feel like marketers miss the boat on a lot. Another one is paradox of choice. I covered that one as well in the, or touched on it at least at a high level in the Ultraviolet talk that we had. But that one is a super interesting and extremely counterintuitive thought that I feel wakes up a lot of marketers from our natural instinct. So we'll have a few of these types of concepts, but a lot of them, you'll hear things like loss aversion and things like that, woven through these that makes a lot of sense as they develop.
Bobby Tichy: If you want to learn how to become the best marketer alive and not having to do anything, stay tuned.
Cole Fisher: You sound like the 1960s Batman.
Bobby Tichy: Oh, gosh. Who was that? Who was the actor that played Batman? And that costume is inaudible horrible.
Cole Fisher: I think it's awesome. As well though, we also want to extend, if there are certain topics or questions, we're always open to feedback and understanding what you guys want to hear about. And so if there are certain marketing psychology or behavioral economics concepts that you'd like to dig into a little more, we're all ears. I'd love to make sure that what we're talking about most conforms to what people are interested in. Adam West, that's who Batman was.
Bobby Tichy: Adam West, there you go.
Cole Fisher: Biff! Boom! Pow!
Bobby Tichy: Maybe we should have him on the podcast.
Cole Fisher: His voice was awesome too.
Bobby Tichy: So thinking of law of least effort, moving on to completely unrelated and how we all found out from Cole, that we're all just a bunch of lazy shiftless losers. What's your most embarrassing laziness trait?
Cole Fisher: So I probably shouldn't admit this, but constantly looking through a marketer's eyes and everything like that. I am the consumer that no one likes. I don't unsubscribe from stuff because I'm like," Meh, maybe I'll leave that later." Loss aversion. I don't want to totally unsubscribe from it. So I might use that later. You should see-
Bobby Tichy: Well, you have a huge fear of missing out in general.
Cole Fisher: Oh, I have total FOMO. But yeah, my personal Gmail inbox is just littered with garbage that I've just never unsubscribed from and unread messages. It's the worst. If you ever want to get ahold of me, do not email my personal inbox. I have two of them because one of them got so much spam I had to leave it and just get a whole new address.
Bobby Tichy: So you're still getting like college admissions marketing material? I may go to Ball State. I'm not sure yet.
Cole Fisher: Yeah. I don't know. The jury is out. Yeah. What if I do want to update my geo city site? I don't know.
Bobby Tichy: I mean, I may want to switch careers to be an engineer at some point. So I should probably keep getting messages from the Engineering Institute of America.
Cole Fisher: I'm not trying to close any doors here. I'm trying to just make sure the opportunities are open. All right. What about you, Bobby? What is your most embarrassing lazy trait?
Bobby Tichy: It's got to be stuff around the house. My wife is by far the handy person in the relationship. And so right now, she's framing out walls upstairs and going to be putting in feed board and trim and painting this weekend. And we actually had to have a conversation a couple of years ago because I want to learn how to do these things, but I'm so bad at them that it just takes 10 times longer for me to do them. And so a couple years ago, we were in the middle of this project and she was just like," I just need you to be my assistant. I need you to just hand me the tools, give me the stuff that I need because this is the stuff I like to do. You like the stuff with your job. You're good at that. Let me just have this." And so I feel like I've really come into my own in that, when I know this is going to be a working weekend, I can get excited about it now, because I know I'm just going to be like Vanna White, essentially. Like," Here you go sweetheart." And try to help there. But even little things like if I'm watching TV and I can't find the remote and it could just be that I'm sitting on it, but I don't want to actually have to stand up to get it to change the channel.
Cole Fisher: The way you describe how your wife, you became her special little helper. I imagine her being like," Hey, you know what'd be..." You're like," Hi, how can I help you?" She goes," You know what'd be really helpful, if you counted all the nail, the finishing nails in this box here." And you're like," Well, it says 250 nails."" Yeah. That's false advertising. I don't trust them. Why don't you count it?" You're like,"It's a good thing that I'm here. I'll help." Who's my special helper?
Bobby Tichy: You know what, I bet in her head, that's how she talks to me. She might be like," Hey, can you grab me the hammer?" But inside, she's thinking," Hey, buddy, could you go get the hammer, please?" Oh, man. Well, thanks for walking us through this. I'm excited for the upcoming topics. And like Cole had mentioned, please reach out to us at intheclouds@ levdigital. com if there are specific topics you want us to cover on or specific elements within marketing psychology that are of interest. But thanks for listening and we'll talk to you soon.