What I learned about too many choices from Quiznos.

I was very hungry.

And then I got very confused.

Take a look at the picture in this blog and you’ll see what I mean.

This was the wall of a Quiznos I was visiting.  I call it, the “Wall of Promotions,” or “What happens when a Marketing Director throws up.”

There’s a Chicken Bacon Dipper special, a Cheesesteak special, Chopped Salads (yeah, right?), Combo Deals, and more.  What’s a customer to do with all these choices?

Pick none of them.

That’s what I did, anyway.  I ordered my usual “classic Italian,” which was cheaper than all of the stuff they were puking pitching to me through posters.

It’s very easy to want to give a customer a lot of choices that you think are great and a lot of entrepreneurs make this mistake.  It’s actually one of my greatest flaws as a marketer, as I’m always wanting to add another product to my shelf.  (And in e-marketing, it’s usually a good idea, as described in The Long Tail.)

But to the consumer, a lot of choices can actually make them shut down and stop shopping.  Unfortunately, our minds are not as open as you think (Somewhat of a side note – ever wonder why a phone number only has 7 digits?  It’s because you can’t remember more – click here to see what I’m talking about).

Don’t believe me?

Lots of scientists have studied choices in the decision making process.  Here’s a link  to one set of results from a researcher who studied the number of jars of jam offered to customers at a grocery story.  On different days, she either put out 6 different flavors or 24 flavors.  Sure, a lot more people stopped by her table when the Baskin-Robbins like 24 flavors were out (60% of passerby  but only 3% of those actually bought jam.  When only 6 flavors were out, a smaller percentage actually stopped (40%), but a whopping 30% bought!  People were “6 times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they had encountered 6 than if they encountered 24.”

How can we apply this to the theater?

How many prices of tickets do you have in your house?  1?  3?  More than 3?  Warning light.

What about subscription options for you non-profit road houses.  Full season?  Partial Season?  Flex pass?  Bacon Cheesesteak Semi-Subscription with a upgrade?

How about merchandise?  Do you have too many t-shirt choices that people aren’t picking any?

Be careful about how many choices you offer your audience.  Focus on the few, and you’ll get more conversions.  Don’t, and, your audience may choose something else entirely.

And that will really make your Marketing Director throw up.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Chris says:

    I totally agree with you. All the different prices and options and programs are overwhelming. I think getting overwhelming options make it easier to just buy nothing.
    Furniture retailer Room & Board stands out to me. They have only one clearance sale per year and offer an honest everyday price the rest of the year. Of course their furniture is made to order, so they don’t have the same inventory challenges live theater has.

  • Jon Kakaley says:

    Great blog post.
    Will read that book you suggested.
    Makes me wonder how useful it is to use multiple social media sites. Perhaps it’s better to just focus on Facebook? Would be interesting to see numbers on that.
    Same thing with email signatures. Rather than list three or four links, just list the one you want people to focus on.

  • Gil says:

    That reminded me of this:

    “Microsoft Redesigns the IPod”.
    Actually made by some employees at Microsoft, if I remember correctly.

  • Ken,
    I’m seriously worried about your diet…

  • Doug Hicton says:

    I have trouble deciding between TWO elevators if they arrive at the same time.
    On the other hand, you know, if we made phone numbers eight digits instead of seven, we’d have ten times as many available phone numbers and wouldn’t have to split up area codes as often, nor would we have to dial 10 or 11 digits (no one in the big cities dials just seven anymore).

  • charlotte cohn says:

    Quiznos? Really? Ugh.

  • Quiznos look as bad as Johnny Rockett tastes !!!!

  • Cam says:

    My choice would be easy. Vegetarian. 😉
    For you? Start with what meat you want that day. Then say with everything. They’ll start picking up the topings and give you a look like this? this? this? It’s easier when you’re hungry.
    Oh, so sorry about the rest. I understand how you felt. 🙁

  • Cam says:

    I was thinking about what I said the other day about watching David Letterman. Why not display a video of parts of the performance so that people can see and hear it. It might help sell a ticket or two. Take for example Book of Mormon. Now I know how well it’s doing, but for me? I wonder why? Maybe if I watched a video clip I’d understand and like it enough to go see it. But by the name itself? not interested.

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