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1000 Grams, 1 Kilogram or 20 pieces of Chocolate - Which One Sells Best?

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    People understand values better when presented in a discrete way. Moreover, the more numerous a number looks when presented, the larger its value is considered by customers.
  • Application:
    To sell a product or service with quantitative information, make sure to describe the information in the most numerically large and discrete way for the customer.
  • A box of chocolates weighs 500 grams. The hotel is only a 400 meter walk away from the center. The mansion is over 6,000-square-foot big. From weight to size or distance; customers are constantly exposed to quantitative information in their decision making.

    However, as it turns out, our brain is awful at processing this quantitative information. We prefer information to be more discrete and sparking the imagination, say a box of 10 chocolates, a hotel that’s only a 5-minute walk away from the center, or a mansion of 10 bedrooms…

    This finding applies to other quantitative information as well and has intriguing implications for nudging consumer behavior both for marketeers as well as public policy makers.

    How To Make Numbers Look Larger?

    Our brain tries to understand quantitative information in two distinct ways; by evaluating it symbolically and perceptually. Both of these pathways have been extensively researched with promising marketing applications.

    Symbolic Numerosity

    The larger the number our brain perceives, the more likely it is to consider the amount as larger as well. Let’s take, for example, the decision between either 1 kilogram or a 1000 grams box of chocolate? The brain naturally considers the 1000 grams box to be more, despite both products being of the exact same mass.

    Perceptual Numerosity         

    The brain looks at the number of units, rather than its total value. Would you like five chocolates or ten chocolates of half that size? We prefer to opt for the ten smaller chocolates over the five bigger ones, as our brain naturally perceives them as more, whilst in reality both contain the exact same amount of chocolate in total.


    How To Make Numbers More Attractive?

    Our brain prefers information to be presented more discretely, so that it can form a more understandable representation.

    The so-called ‘General Evaluability Theory’ specifies three conditions that may improve the discreteness of quantitative information for consumers:

    1. Innate and Stable Reference System – Consumers have a natural understanding for the quantitative information of the product or service. To say the beach is a 5-minute walk away from the hotel is much easier for our brain to understand than it being at a 400 meter or ¼ mile distance.
    2. Joint Evaluability – Consumers can use information of one product or service as reference for another product or service. A soda with 150 kilocalories in comparison to one with 300 kilocalories may seem like a healthier option than when considered separately.
    3. Customer Knowledgeability – Consumers have already familiarized themselves with the values related to the quantitative information. Imagine a student tutoring service that promotes itself for improving student performance. This service would benefit from presenting these improvements in terms of GPA changes of other customers, as target customers are very familiar with the value of this data.

    How To Sell Your Numbers?

    If you believe certain quantitative values are beneficial to your product or service, make sure to present them as understandable as possible; instead of expressing a box of strawberries in grams, it could be expressed as the number of strawberries in the box. Additionally, if beneficial values are high values, ensure to make them seem as numerous as possible; so, say 1000 grams instead of 1kg, and not a bar of chocolate but 8 pieces of it. 

    Contrarily, if you believe a specific value may hurt your product or service sales, you could opt to present it less numerous, and less understandable instead. Let’s take the example of a soda of 300,000 calories. Not only would it benefit from presenting the caloric value as 300 kilocalories instead to make it seem smaller, but also it could present it as 50 kilocalories per number of milliliters to make the information harder to grasp for customers. 

    Policy makers could also employ this effect as well. Take for instance ecological purposes, where fuel-efficient vehicle use is promoted; instead of stating the vehicle’s fuel efficiency on an unfamiliar scale, this quantitative information could be made more discrete by stating how many liters or 1-liter jerrycans will be saved per 100 kilometers traveled.

    Boundary Conditions

    Making quantitative information more discrete only works as long as it remains easily understood by the brain. So, when discrete numbers take on excessively large quantities, they lose their understandability for customers and the effect disappears. In other words; make sure to keep the numerical information you present to your customers as simple and understandable as possible!

    Take Home Points

    • Present beneficial quantitative information as numerically large as possible to increase sales.
    • Present beneficial quantitative information as discretely as possible to increase its sales.
  • 1000 Grams, 1 Kilogram or 20 pieces of Chocolate - Which One Sells Best?
  • Reference:

    Lembregts, C., & Van Den Bergh, B. (2018). Making Each Unit Count: The Role of Discretizing Units in Quantity Expressions. Journal of Consumer Research, 45(5), 1051-1067.


    Further Reading

    • IKEA effect: Why We Appreciate Self-Build Furniture

      IKEA effect: Why We Appreciate Self-Build Furniture

      By letting customers build their own products, IKEA is able to sell their furniture for low prices since construction is one of the most costly aspects of furniture. Additionally, their customers have a higher liking for the IKEA products, because they have to build it themselves. This sounds contra-intuitive: We like it when others cook for us or clean for us, so why would we prefer to construct a table ourselves?

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