“Desirable Difficulty” And Why We Should Care

First, what does the phrase, “desirable difficulty” even mean?

The phrase comes from the education and psychology world. It suggests that if we make encoding, that is, interpreting information from one form into another, a little harder for the learner, then the learner will force themselves to start processes in their brains that will encourage long-term retention and learning.

It makes sense. We as humans tend to remember concepts that we really worked hard on; items and information we struggled to retain or learn but finally ‘getting it’.

Sure, this is important for teachers and psychologists to know, but why do we as marketing professionals bring this up?

It’s simple- it deals with consumer behavior.

When businesses and brands prepare something new for consumers, the common thought is to make it as simple and easy as possible. The easier the consumer can understand and use the product, the better product adoption is going to be.

And in a sense, that’s true. But we argue, though adoption for a simple and easy product is good, we believe that adding a little bit of difficulty to ‘product mastery’ could possibly increase the brand’s chances of creating loyal customers.

How so?

An easy and simple product doesn’t provide any real reason for the consumer to continue to use the product. Yes, it lowers the switching costs and risks for the consumer, but it doesn’t instill any real ownership or work for the consumer to consider the easy and simple product as valuable.

But, imagine if the product or brand made it just a little difficult for the consumer to use the product, getting the consumer to think about how to get the full use of it. Not too hard for the consumer to opt for the Path of Least Resistance route, but hard enough to create the ‘Ikea Effect’ Dan Ariely and other behavioral economists have discussed in detail.

Some examples for adding Desirable Difficulty-

-Making the consumer put the product together
-Having the consumer go through a series of steps to activate the product
-Forcing the consumer to give the product a name, label or number
-Having the consumer pass a test or tutorial before using (short, 3-5 question quiz)
-Intentionally making the UX a little hard to navigate

Should all brands and products do this? By no means. Commodities cannot survive with this strategy, but some products, especially in the digital and mobile realm, could reap significant results with this strategy.

Just something to think about.

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“Going Mobile” White Paper Review

One thing that is clear about AdLand is that we will never run out of whitepapers to read. As content and inbound marketing continues to sharpen, and as marketing professionals continue the never-ending push to be hailed as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), the whitepaper will get even more popular.

At least with infographics, short video and advents like Periscope, we see more differentiation in how thought leadership looks like. The variety now makes the occasional whitepaper less burdensome.

Don’t get us wrong- we love reading what people are thinking. So please, if you have a whitepaper, feel free to email it us so we can get a conversation going.

“Going Mobile- Web-Based Firms Make Move to Mobile-First”

This free whitepaper is a preview of the conversations that are scheduled to happen during the Open Mobile Summit London 2016. It highlights some interviews and thoughts from marketing executives from OpenTable, Vimeo, Evernote and more. Not a bad start to building some credibility.

The Gist
The paper highlights those companies that were “Web 1.0”, meaning that these companies were web-based organizations. The paper highlights how these companies thought about making the change from being solely desktop/laptop focused, to mobile-first focused.

The Highlights

The OpenTable case study pointed out is pretty interesting. The product manager interviewed mentioned how it was their original intention to keep consumers from using their phones, meaning calling for reservations and things like that. But OpenTable quickly saw the benefit of having a robust mobile interface and app for consumers to use to enhance the dining experience.

Vimeo raised some important points to consider when thinking about a mobile-first philosophy. First, realize the cost. Second, understand that your ENTIRE audience is not going to make the move from computer to mobile.

“Mobile-first”, then, as we would agree, is a little bit of a misnomer.

Overall Impression

The emphasis of mobile marketing strategies and product development is a fascinating one. Thankfully, more companies are jumping into the arena and we get a front row seat to see which brands will win at mobile, and which ones struggle. We liked the snippets from this Open Mobile Summit whitepaper, and we hope that the conference is an rewarding experience for everyone who attends.