Take a chance

Why do consumers go out and buy a Lotto ticket or take part in brand-run promotions when they know that their chances of winning are so very small? According to Kelly Goldsmith in this article in the Time blogs, it’s not because of what they stand to win, it’s actually because of where consumers focus.

Most people it seems focus on the outlay – it’s just a dollar or two. And when they connect that outlay to the potential reward, then they basically believe they have nothing to lose. Involvement appeals directly to the universal love of curiosity, surprise and of course winning. But, ask people to think about the problem the other way round, in terms of their chances of winning, and interest wanes substantially. In other words, where something is portrayed as hopeless, we find it much harder to justify even a small amount of money.

We’re hugely inclined to chase a dream if the price to do so seems small enough, but that interest declines rapidly when we’re reminded that we’re unlikely to get anything back.

That’s also why people travel to Hollywood, or try and break into the music business, or look to publish a best-selling book, or attempt to become a big-time motivational speaker. That’s what ensures that talent agencies, publishing houses and speaking bureaux stay in business. That’s what gets thousands and thousands of people to queue to audition for Idol or Next Top Model or Project Runway. The industries are adept at getting people to bet time, money and talent by publicising the potential rewards – prizes for which the outlay seems relatively small.

Maybe it’s the thought of gaining next to everything for what seems like next to nothing. But the irony is delicious isn’t it? The very thing that makes the game work and seem exciting – participation – is also the very thing that prevents almost all those who take part from winning.

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