BACD = Pay Attention To Me

I recently purchased some bar stools from Wayfair. As many of you know, much of the furniture sold on Wayfair requires assembly, and these bar stools were no exception. As a proficient assembler of IKEA furniture, I figured I could handle it.

I started out by taking everything out of the box, and reading the assembly instructions. There were 4 legs, two marked A and two marked B (all 4 legs looked to be identical). There were four side supports, two marked C and two marked D. The seat was marked E.

I assumed that the first step in the instructions would involve the legs marked A, but I was wrong. The first step said to mount the legs marked B into the base E. Why start with the legs marked B? Was this just a bad translation of foreign language instructions?

I’ll give the designers more credit than that. In fact, they may have been leveraging a type of cognitive bias. Face it, when things go as you expect them to go, you pay less attention. However, when the instructions start with Leg B instead of Leg A, you read the instructions more closely.

This bias is also useful in name development. Entrepreneurs love descriptive names. A food processor that does a fast job of chopping up food gets named “Fast Chop.” Entrepreneurs think this makes life easier because they do not have to spend money to advertise the benefits of their product…the name says it all!

In reality, “Fast Chop” gets lost in a sea of competitive products with similar names (“Quick Chop” or “Turbo Chop”). To stand out you need a name that is different and causes the consumer to stop and notice. In other words, you often need to put the assembly instructions in BACD order!

Here is a visual way to demonstrate the issue. In the three groups of circles shown below, the circle in the center is always the same size. However, as you can see, the center circle looks smaller or larger based upon the size of the other circles surrounding it. The group of circles on the right has six similarly sized circles, and you can see how it is impossible to distinguish one from another. If you want to stand out, it is far better to be the outlier, such as the center circle in the first two groups of circles.

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