I recently had a couple of things happen that made me think of the famous Jam Study in consumer marketing. One, I got asked to be part of a 1000 presenter summit. No, I’m not kidding. 1000 presenters. (I declined.) And then I clicked on another summit on a health topic I am interested in and Day One had over 25 presenters and topics. And that was just Day One! Yikes! I really really wanted this information, but just looking at the options made me exhausted. I deleted the email.
As more and more entrepreneurs and organizations jump on the fill-in-the-blank-summit bandwagon, I think they’d do well to consider the Jam Study. If you’re not familiar with the Jam Study, it basically is a strong argument that less is definitely more–at least when it comes to sales. The study, conducted at a Bay-area supermarket in 2000 by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, found that consumers were 10 times more likely to purchase jam on display when the number of jams available was reduced from 24 to 6. Turns out we get overwhelmed by choosing between kiwi-mango and berry-apricot and persimmon-apple etc., no matter how well they may have tested in market research. People just walked away.
There are a few key factors that influence this:
1) If we don’t know what we are comparing. If I have to choose between twenty-five unknown speakers talking on a subject I know little about, it’s like trying to choose between twenty-five new jam flavors. I am honestly stymied. If I know all 25 AND know the subject, it will be easier to make a choice. I’ve tasted the jam.
2) If I want to make an easy, quick choice. Even if I’m familiar with the jam (or speakers, in this case), twenty-five is a lot to sort through (much less 1000!) when I have half an hour to watch a presentation. I kind of want to grab and go and will probably tune out because it’s too darn much work to decide.
3) When I don’t know what I really want. In terms of the health summit, I don’t know enough about the issue to discern if I want the folks that are treating it with neuro-feedback or the ones researching more effective diagnostic testing. Maybe this is on me to educate myself more, but it does point to a barrier for new folks coming into the conversation in any topic area.
4) Guilt. Ok, no big deal if I buy a jar of jam that I end up not eating (and just a reminder, with too many choices, people didn’t). But if I buy a summit with 100-200-1000 speakers and I just don’t get around to watching more than a couple, what a waste. For many people, that’s a stressful and unpleasant feeling. (Some of us actually even feel that way about jam.)
So here’s my advice. If you want to do a summit, more power to you. But curate it. Getting 1000 people to present and market and share with you all their mailing lists may seem like a great way make a lot of money, but is it really the highest quality, does it really serve the consumer, and ultimately, do you sell the most jam? I have also had the absolute privilege of being involved with a number of carefully crafted, well-thought-out, limited summits where the participants aren’t overwhelmed with every choice in the book. Call those the six-jam summits. They are clear, compelling and digestible, and tend to have ongoing growth year over year and loyal, lasting supporters.
If you’d like to know more about the Jam Study itself, you can check out this recent article: https://digitalwellbeing.org/the-jam-study-strikes-back-when-less-choice-does-mean-more-sales/.