The Web helps us make better decisions based on us doing often very detailed research. But certain decisions don't require any research at all.
Say you're feeling a little hungry. Will you have a piece of chocolate or an apple? When faced with such a decision in the past, did you ever decide to Google "chocolate" and "apples" so as to compare their various benefits? Probably not.
Let's say you've decided on chocolate but there's none in the house. Before you head down to the shop are you likely to look for a list of chocolate bars on Google and spend 15 minutes comparing their nutritional and taste attributes? Probably not.
"The Blissful Ignorance Effect", is a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research (vol. 35, 2008), where participants were given varying degrees of information about chocolate before being allowed to sample it. The study found that "individuals have a tendency to expect more favorable outcomes with vague information after taking an action than prior to taking the action."
Basically, the less people knew about the chocolate before tasting it the more likely they were to say nice things about it after tasting it. The more people were told about the chocolate before tasting it, the less likely they were to say nice things about it after tasting it.
Or to quote the study authors: "Participants who had received vague information perceived the chocolate to be more favorable on its positive attributes and less unfavorable on its negative attributes in the post-action phase compared to the pre-action phase."
That makes sense. There's lots of stuff out there that I have absolutely no interest in finding out more about. Life is too short to read that my favorite Oatfield Emerald chocolate caramels are made from: glucose syrup, sugar, skimmed sweetened condensed milk, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, chocolate crumb, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, desiccated coconut, butter, natural and artificial flavors, emulsifiers, ammonium phosphatides, and glyceryl monostearate.
And while I have your rapt attention, did you know that, according to the UK Food Guide, ammonium phosphatides are "manufactured either synthetically or from a mixture of Glycerol (E422) and partially hardened rape seed oil. Used mainly as an emulsifier, to lower the surface tension of water so allowing the better combining of oils, fats and water, and as a stabiliser, to prevent separation. Similar in use to Lecithin (E322). Limited use as an antioxidant."
Doesn't that just make you want to rush down to the shop to buy those yummy Oatfield caramels!
Much of what we understand as marketing and advertising has been about selling products like chocolate caramels. It's about emotion, association, and a happy, wonderful, smiling feel-good factor. Marketers and advertisers know that for many products and services people prefer to remain 'blissfully ignorant.'
The Web is a very different world; a very different form of marketing and communication. Those who wish to remain blissfully ignorant do not go to the Web. You do not search for a subject on Google if you wish to remain blissfully ignorant. You go to the Web to know.
Customers don't arrive at your website to know less. They want to know more.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.