Friday's Don't-Miss Post

During ten days or so around the holidays, I mostly stayed Internet-free, dedicating my time to family, sleep, satellite radio and a grad school paper I had to start (and, uh, finish).

At any rate, I missed an awesome post by Seth, which fortunately was pointed out to me by someone else:

Imagine a hotel buffet. Dozens and dozens of items (this is an Amercian buffet, where excess is the key). You can have whatever you want, as much as you want.

The cost of making a mistake at the buffet is precisely zero. There is no time cost, no opportunity cost, no social cost. Put some on your plate, if you like it, you can have more.

So, it turns out at this buffet, the two best items (where best is obviously a loaded word, and in this case best to me means best tasting and simultaneously healthiest) were the brown rice and the squid soup. The brown rice was soft, just a little bit chewy. It was like very good white rice, but with flavor and texture that went beyond white rice. It was nutty and had both texture and flavor. And the squid soup had depth. The squid (yes, the name attracted me to the soup) was as soft as an egg noodle and the broth had tomatoes but didn’t taste like Campbell’s.


You’ve already guessed the punchline. Of the hundreds of people at the buffet, very few even tried either one.

Why?

Inertia.

There is a cost of trying the rice and the soup. The cost is the effort necessary to consider switching. Beyond that, there’s the (tiny) fear of tasting something you won’t like or the effort involved in realigning your worldview if you do like it. ...

I read a survey three years ago (beware surveys like this one) that said only a third of all Americans had ever tasted a bagel. Now, the bagels that are available in most places are horrible and not bagel-like at all, but the point is that in most areas, most endeavors, most markets, most people, when given the choice, try nothing.

The problem with the bell curve is that most people, in most situations, will ignore your idea.

I'm always dismayed when I talk to people new to advertising, who run one magazine advertisement and can't understand why the phone doesn't ring off the hook. I'm reminded of Seth's other philosophy: Maybe 5% of the population are great prospects for you, but only 5% of that group are paying attention to your message and perhaps 5% of that number will be willing to overcome inertia.

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