Goal dilution

In 2007, Ying Zhang and Ayelet Fishbach published ‘The Dilution Model: How Additional Goals Undermine the Perceived Instrumentality of a Shared Path’.

The paper outlined the ‘goal dilution’ concept. From the paper:

“The authors found that an increase in the number of simultaneous, salient goals that can be satisfied via a single means weakens the associative strength between that means and each individual goal, and as a result, individuals perceive the means as less effective for the attainment of each goal. Consequently, means that are connected to multiple (vs. single) goals are less likely to be chosen and pursued when only one of these goals is activated.”

Pretty wordy right? Luckily Phil Barden describes the concept in plain language, and in a marketing context, in his excellent book ‘Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy’.

“According to psychologists Zhang, Fishbach and Kruglanski, the strength of an association between a brand and a goal depends on the goal being unique. In other words, if a brand is linked to several goals, each of these connections would be weakened. Google stands for search, while Yahoo is linked with being a portal plus a search engine. People consider Google to be the better search engine because the search goal is diluted due to the additional goals Yahoo tries to serve. We should therefore focus on a single-minded goal value proposition because that’s the only chance we have to be seen as being the best in this respect. When we manage only one product, this is hard enough to adhere to because because we always fear that we might lose something if we do not include a whole list of benefits in our proposition.”

It seems obvious, people would prefer to spend their money on a specialist product than a generalist product.

The more goals a brand tries to achieve the less effective consumer’s will perceive them to be as a means to achieve each one.

Similarly, the more benefits a product has the less consumers will believe in its capacity to achieve each of them.

In the consumer’s mind, brands can do one thing well or many things poorly.

Doing many things well is simply not an option.

Perhaps another reason why FMCG brands tend to unbundle multiple benefit products into separate SKUs.

Hey. I’m Alex Murrell. I'm a Planner at Epoch Design in Bristol where I help deliver highly creative, innovative and effective pack, instore and online communications for some of the world’s biggest FMCG brands. Want to know more? You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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