Tools for Changing the World

Social psychology for social good

But wait! There’s more!

December 13th, 2010

So, you’re out shopping and you decide you’d like a snack. Among the booths offering snack foods, you see one offering a cupcake and two cookies for 75 cents. Looks like a good deal. Another is offering cupcakes for 75 cents – but then you see that with every cupcake purchase, you get two free cookies. Which are you more likely to buy?

"That's not all, Folks!"The two choices are identical, of course, and if you saw them side by side you’d no doubt choose based on cupcake quality or number of people in line or whether the staff are snarling at each other. What’s interesting is that if you were just offered one of these choices, you’d be much more likely to buy the second one.

This exact experiment was done in 1986 by Jerry Burger and the difference in responses was dramatic. Forty percent of potential customers bought the cupcake-and-cookies package, but 73% – nearly twice as many – chose to buy when the cookies were added to the offer after the customer learned the cupcake price.

This has been called the “that’s not all” technique and it doesn’t just involve freebies. Any offer or negotiation can be offered in incremental pieces by lowering the price in stages or adding extras to the offer or spelling out, one at a time, all the actions that will be taken. At every step, the customer is not given time to respond before the next bonus or discount is added (which is why this technique is so effective on television).

It appears to work because every addition to the original offer feels like a concession – and due to the reciprocity principle I discussed a few weeks ago, we feel obligated to return the favour when people offer us concessions. It works best when the customer doesn’t have much time to think about the process. However, it won’t work if you’re just listing benefits or bonuses that are already implicit in the offer; every addition should feel like a surprise.

Like the reciprocity principle, this technique may feel too manipulative for you. But I reiterate: since it’s already being used every day by marketers, why not put it to good use for a change? For example,

“If you join our organization, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re part of a large group determined to make a difference. You’ll know that your membership fee is helping to move that difference forward.

“But that’s not all – this month, a local business is donating $50 to the cause for every new member who signs up, so your contribution will be multiplied!

“And not just that… if you sign up now, you’ll get a free T-shirt to show your involvement in the cause – a shirt that normally sells for $15 to members.

“And there’s more! For this month only, you can join our sister organization for half the usual membership fee – and get all the associated benefits, such as…”

You get the picture. (And if you act now, you’ll get an accompanying caption! Somebody stop me…)

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