Friday, May 15, 2015

Why are new things hard?

I asked my class of Consumer Behavior students at Sierra Nevada College to use a new tool as part of one of their presentations. A few had used Prezi before, most hadn't. Some kids panicked. All objected.

None of that was required.

As someone who has done a lot of silly things for clients and bosses over the years, I considered this to be both a lesson in presenting, as well as a free *BONUS* lesson in sucking it up. My gift to their future selves!

These are good kids who were bright and lively, engaged in school and their chosen topic. They were clearly well-loved before they got to me and had good prospects afterward. But they were remarkably whiny about this assignment. When I framed it as "you will frequently be called upon to learn to use a new tool quickly, or be flexible in a new situation" I narrowly avoided a revolution.

This prompted the question about why are new things hard? Why do we resist new ideas? We would welcome a change of fortunes if we won the lottery, right? Change sounds like a good thing.

I think it is because of
the unknown. They all knew how to use Powerpoint and not how to use this, they want to look good and save time, stick with what you know. That seems logical.

But there is an insidiousness to sticking with what you know. The list is endless from the road you drive on daily being closed and you are surprised to have to spend time finding an alternate route. Or staying in a marriage that lost it's zing and years and love are wasted.

David and I would go to the same restaurant at about the same time after work every Friday for probably 2 years. We joked how we liked our "rut". We'd order the same food and catch up with our long-term waiter. We stayed in our rut because it was pleasurable.

But it was also protecting us from risk. There were other places to go but we only had that one special Friday evening release from work. If we tried new places, they might not be as good. We would have *WASTED* an opportunity to have our special chimachangas. This was unthinkable.

I would have had to come up with assurances that a new place would be better, and it would have to be A LOT better to justify that risk. The perceived cost is so much more higher than the actual cost of a wasted dinner, but we're not reasonable. We became not just loyalists, or product evangelists, but no-change-niks.

Our customers walk around all day long with lists of things they like, habits they have, risks they're not willing to take. We need to acknowledge not just the specific, concrete reasons for resistance like "it will cost me money to change banks" or "I already have a houseful of mini-USB chargers, I'm not switching to an Apple phone."

We as marketers and copywriters and product developers have to consider the emotional toll taking that risk to try our product will have on our poor, sweet customer. "What if buying your thing is worse than the old thing I used?' "What if it burns down my house?" "What if my wife leaves me because I switched phone companies??" They're not reasonable but they are real.

I am a big fan of demonstrations and getting your product in the hands and mouths of your future loyalists. Costco is brilliant here. Test drives. No obligation trials. Free quotes.

Look at your product for ways to help your consumer overcome their sense of risk and just try it. It will be a good skill for them to learn.

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