Journey of My Own

Travel and Lifestyle Design Blog

The Decision Economy (Danger: This Post Contains Rebuplicans)

My Mom would hate me for saying this, but I love Republicans.

I can’t get enough of them. Newt Gingrich is one of my favorites!

However, this has absolutely nothing to do with politics.

You see, Republicans are absolute masters of a certain strategy that helps to create an extremely strong and dedicated following.

This particular strategy is that they force you to make a decision about them. There is no middle ground. Either you love them or you hate them.

Introducing the Decision Economy

People hate making decisions. They have too many to make in their life.

What’s for dinner? What should I watch on TV? Should I get Pepsi or Coke? Where should I go on vacation? What should I get my partner for Valentines Day? What should I get my brother for Christmas? Should I grab this parking space or try to find one a little closer?

The last thing people need is for you to ask them to make another decision.

For most people, making decisions gives them anxiety. They must weigh their options and deal with the pain of loss when one of those options disappears. (Dang, I wish I had ordered the pasta…)

Instead of actually making the decision, people will go to great lengths the keep their options open in the belief that they will decide to act in the future.

People think they want choice, but really they detest it.

If given too many choices, most people will choose none. This was what Columbia University’s Sheena Iyengar and Stanford University’s Mark Lepper found and reported in their study titled: When Choice Is Demotivating (PDF download)

People want you to make the decision for them.

Many marketers will try to be everything to everyone.

An example of this is a certain fat loss diet product that I once saw. This product was a collection of thousands of different diets. A user would fill out some basic information, which would narrow the countless diets down to maybe a few hundred. Then, the would-be-dieter then has the choice of selecting any one of those diets based on the foods that they are willing to cut out and those that they feel they cannot live without.

I’ve never used this product, or really tried to lose weight before (although I did the Tim Ferriss Diet in 2009 out of curiousity), but I can’t imagine many people actually find it useful.

This isn’t helpful because people have to decide things themselves.

On the other hand, my homie, Newt Gingrich absolutely does not suffer from this problem.

He will make extremely strong divisive statements that will force you to make a decision about him one way or the other.

You have no choice but to decide if you believe what he says or if you don’t.

An example:

At a town hall meeting in December in Iowa our little boy genius was approached by a gay man who asked him about gay marriage.

Newt responded by telling this man to vote for Obama.

Newt’s response was shocking!

He was actively telling someone to vote for the other guy.

How could telling someone to go vote for the other guy help you be a better marketer? Isn’t that how you end up with zero votes?

Not exactly.

A gay man is not the ideal voter for the Grand Old Party. If Newt had opened his arms and welcomed this man into his group of constituents, it would have severely weakened his standing with the people he actually does want to vote for him.

For better or worse, most GOP voters are against gay marriage.

By telling this dude to go vote Obama, he turned away a bunch of potential voters (including his own half-sister!) that would likely be hesitant, lukewarm, tire-kickers at best (most openly homosexual people tend to vote Democrat, for all you outside the US that don’t know).

However, he completely solidified his respect and admiration from the right wing people he wants to vote for him (namely, traditional Republican voters).

Be the Decider (To Continue with Our Republican Motif)

In 2006 then President George W. Bush referred to himself as “The Decider.” This may have been a slip of the tongue brought out by frustration with questions from the press, but this is exactly what people want you to do as a marketer.

People want you to be the decider.

As I mentioned earlier, people have too many decisions to make (“Should I wear black shoes or brown shoes today?”).

The last thing they want to is to be given another choice to make.

However, if you can make choices for them, they will gravitate to you. You make their lives simpler. That is incredibly valuable to others in the era of too much choice.

Your job is to make your visitors decide if they are on your side or not.

How do you do this? Make divisive statements. Say controversial things. Give them a decision matrix that they can use to choose without even thinking.

Excellent Examples (That I Have Decided on For You!)

Eat This Not That

I love this book! (And I have zero interest in losing weight or eating fast food!)

This book is for people who want to lose weight, but don’t care enough to make it a big enough priority to actually eat healthy food.

There you are at McDonald’s, standing in line during your lunch hour. You’re almost up to the register to order, when you feel how snug those pants are fitting these days.

Suddenly you suffer from pangs of guilt. Back on New Years Day you vowed that this was the year you were going to lose that weight.

Crap. What are you to do?

Why, of course you’d pull out your copy of Eat This Not That and flip to the McDonald’s section. Each page of this book is dedicated to a specific fast food restaurant. On one page it tells you the healthiest possible thing you can order. On the opposite page it tells you the worst thing you can order. Each is accompanied with a picture and large block letters that say “EAT THIS” or “NOT THAT” (they also include nutritional information too, probably just so the book could actually get published).

This book makes decisions for you.

(As a side note, as a former McDonald’s employee in high school, I’d steer clear of pretty much everything on the menu regardless of what the book says…)

Another example:

Ramit Sethi’s Blog – I Will Teach You to Be Rich

I love Ramit! He is a master of this. Even if you hate money, I strongly suggest that you read this blog to study the way he forces people to make decisions about him.

His blog posts are extremely long. He intentionally does this because he wants people who are actively engaged to read his stuff. It’s not for skimmers.

Ramit says that a lot of people complain about how long his blog posts are. He tells them to go away or to visit stupid websites instead that require minimal brain power.

He openly calls out certain people who write in to him complaining about things. Mocking some of his readers is not a bad move since he is mocking the kind of readers he really doesn’t want (he calls them “whiners”).

This is fine because he is turning off the wrong kind of people. He is polarizing himself in a way that repels the “whiners” and strengthens the dedication of the rest.

And rather than giving bland, common knowledge advice, he positions himself in stark contrast to it by ruthlessly dissecting it and casting it in the worst possible light.

This forces people to make the decision if they believe the tired old advice about how you need business cards and a blog account in order to get a job, or if you need a connected network of people.

Seriously, keep your eye on this dude! He is brilliant!

Standing Out in a Crowded Market

To stand out in a crowded market, you need to get people to make strong decisions about you, your product, or service.

This is also a key component in understanding the difference between a Food Cart and an Elephant business model (reference to the Benefiting from Bangkok Manifesto). Food Carts are bland and forgettable, just like run-of-the-mill advice. They can make money, but that is only because they are in the right place at the right time.

You remember the elephants you see walking down the street. You remember the things that stand out. These things force you to decide if you’re either for them or against them. Even if you’re against them, you often can’t avoid paying attention to them. They’re like a pebble in your shoe, reminding you of their presence with each step that you take.

That is the power of the Decision Economy. Decide more things for people and you will be noticed.

Next Actions:

1. Leave a comment sharing a person or thing that you like, follow, or look up to. Do these people or things help decide things for you or make your life easier?

2. If you liked this article, please do me a favor and Tweet it, “Like” it, or share it with others.

[PS: This blog post is NOT about politics, whether or not Newt Gingrich would make a good president, or whether or not gay marriage should be legalized in the US, so please don’t try to take the conversation in that direction. This is about marketing. Express your political opinions in the voting booth.]


  1. Great article Clayton.

    This reminds me of something I came across in the seduction community. With online dating and personal ads, most people will be very vague and general about the kind of person they are looking for. The tip they gave was to be as specific as possible in the listing. It always makes me smile whenever I see some guy using a marketing technique in order to get laid. I guess its all sales in the end.


  2. Have to admit the warning in the title “Danger: This Post Contains Rebuplicans” really made me laugh! Not sure if that was intentional or not – but I liked it! ;-)

    But there is some very solid advice here. Being a “decider” is something I certainly struggle with, and it is definitely something I need to work on in order to improve my conversion rates on various websites. I’m not sure who/what I look to for help in this matter either, but thanks for making me think more about it!

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