The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Contrast'?

Humans are wired to notice Contrast, not to compare what we perceive with things that aren't there (the root of Absence Blindness). We believe something is cheap when we compare it to something more expensive, but not necessarily if it stands on its own.

Contrast is often used to influence buying decisions. In businesses, it's often used as pricing camouflage.

Take advantage of Contrast when presenting your offer and you'll improve the way your customers view your offer.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Contrast'

If you walk into a department store to buy a business suit, you're likely to notice a few options that appear to be abnormally expensive.

The store will very rarely sell these suits-that's not their purpose.

Compared to a $3,000 suit, a $400 suit doesn't sound like a lot of money-even if the same suit could be purchased at another store for $200. The same principle applies to the order in which products are presented by the salesperson.

After choosing a suit, you'll be directed to shirts, shoes, and accessories.

Compared to a $400 suit, what's another $100 on shoes? $80 for a belt? $60 for a few shirts? $50 for a few ties? $40 for a set of cufflinks? The contrast with the initial purchase makes these items appear inexpensive, so why not? Here's what Jordan Smart, one of my clients, reported after a recent shopping trip: I went shopping last year on Black Friday, looking to get some slightly more formal clothes...

I went out with the intent of buying a set of shirts and two blazers.

I thought for a while on buying ties to go with it, and decided that the one or two I had in my closet already would suffice. I went shopping at two stores.

In the first, I picked out a set of shirts, and as I was leaving, the salesman asked if I needed ties to go with them. I politely told him no, and privately congratulated myself on sticking to my resolution.

At the second store, I tried on a few blazers and decided to purchase them. Again, the salesman asked if I needed ties to go with my blazers.

At that point, I very clearly remember thinking about the price of the blazers and thinking to myself, "Well, I'm spending this much money anyway," and proceeded to buy a set of ties.

I didn't think anything of it until I learned about Contrast.

Looking back at the receipt, I realized I'd spent more on the ties than I had spent on the blazers.

Our perceptions are influenced by information gathered from the surrounding environment.

Is $10,000 a lot of money? It depends on your circumstances. If you have $10 in your bank account, $10,000 is an enormous sum. If you have $100,000,000 available, it's rounding error.

Our perceptual faculties are optimized to notice Contrast, not to compare what we perceive with things that aren't there, which is the root of Absence Blindness.

Everything we notice and every decision we make is based on information gathered from the surrounding Environment. That's why camouflage works-it reduces the contrast between an object and its surrounding environment, which makes it harder to notice.

Contrast is often used to influence buying decisions. In the business world, contrast is often used as pricing camouflage.

In the case of the $60 shirt, it may be possible to buy the exact same shirt at another retailer for $40, but the other shirt isn't present in the store where the comparison is taking place, resulting in Absence Blindness.

What is present is the $400 suit, which makes the $60 shirt look like a bargain.

Compared to a $2,000 computer, a $300 extended warranty appears inexpensive, even though it increases the total purchase price by 15%.

Compared to a $30,000 vehicle, spending $1,000 for leather seats feels like a bargain.

Compared to buying a $400,000 house, spending $20,000 to remodel the kitchen feels like no big deal.

Framing is a way to control the perception of Contrast. For example, I often use the phrase "$149,000 less than a top-tier business program" when marketing my 12-Week Business Crash Course.

Compared to buying a book, my course looks expensive; compared to the cost of an MBA program, it's a bargain.

Take advantage of Contrast when presenting your offer, and you'll increase the odds that your potential customers will view your offer favorably.

Questions About 'Contrast'


"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes."

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/contrast/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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