Claimstorming (2)

The Danger of Over-selling

Got a hot new product hitting the market? Are you looking for great positioning and claims to convince your consumers that it’s the perfect solution to their unmet needs? Then you’ll want to pay attention, because it turns out that how much you say about your new product might matter just as much as what you say about it.

When marketers have a hot new product on their hands, it’s incredibly hard to resist telling consumers all the wonderful things about it. For a great example of this, take a look at a product I recently read about on the Forbes blog:

This amazing pillow, the Pillo1, is designed to give users a better night’s sleep. It not only relieves neck pain, improves circulation, and reduces snoring, it helps people fall asleep 19% faster and increases REM sleep by 21% (as validated by independent testing). It also stays cool at night—all while being eco-friendly, sound-dampening and made in the USA. 

But wait, there’s more! A quick probe of their website revealed that the pillow is dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic, as well as mold- and mildew-proof! Not to mention, it was designed by a sleep specialist to maintain ideal spine alignment. Plus, Oprah.com says it's perfect for back sleepers and side sleepers, all in one comfy package.

Egads! Do you feel like you’re being buried under all the claims? Or did you just zone out halfway through? If so, you’re not alone.

Studies show that when people know they are being sold to, they begin “coping” by disengaging, ignoring the message or simply discounting it altogether. That is why the “miracle” pillow above seems so suspicious.  Consumers start to wonder: “If the pillow is so good in the first place, why are they trying so hard to convince me?”

Your product may actually be that good, but it doesn’t matter. Rather than intriguing them, telling consumers too many reasons why your product is the best thing since sliced bread can undermine your message, and might actually prevent them from taking out their wallets!

So how do you convey the value of your product? How much can you say? As it turns out, the answer is simple: in order to be believed, say three positive things—and stop there.

In a fascinating article published in January 2014 in the Journal of Marketing (pdf), researchers tested how many positive claims should be made about a product in a series of experiments. They found that when a person hears up to three positive traits about a product, they viewed that product more favorably. However, as soon as a fourth positive trait was mentioned, the person started feeling “sold to” and started to view the product more negatively. This result remained consistent across all four trials.

So, when you’re positioning your new product on the market, remember to show restraint when telling consumers about all the great things it can do for them. Three claims is plenty to get your message across, and will actually be more powerful.


This post was originally written by Katie Konrath.

©2014 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ideas To Go

Ideas To Go is an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.