Importance of ‘blah blah’ when selling something complicated

A migration of a large webshop is planned. You have the first meeting tomorrow, in which you set out the lines with the project team. In addition, you still have to decide how often you will subsequently meet about this.

What happens? Tomorrow it will be 10 minutes about the migration and everything that is technically involved. For the rest of the meeting you discuss how often you will meet about this. So, almost an entire meeting is spent on something trivial, while the technically challenging remains untouched.

Bike against wall via Pixabay.

Bikeshedding (aka: the law of triviality)

The effect is called Bikeshedding. The term was coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a historian who Parkinson’s Law coined the law of triviality. Parkinson argued that if you schedule an hour to talk about something that could be done in 30 minutes, the task will automatically acquire the psychological complexity that would require an hour.

In other words: many people invest a lot of time and effort in trivial matters, while the really challenging things are easily ignored. In his classic example, he had subjects discuss:

  • A proposal for a $10 million nuclear facility.
  • A proposal for a $350 bike shed.
  • A proposal for a $21 coffee budget.

It turned out that the first topic was so completed. It took much longer to make a decision about the bicycle parking and the coffee budget turned out to cause even more controversy.

Easier to talk

How did that happen? It has to do with how easy it is to talk to about something. The migration of a large webshop is technically complex. Not everyone in the meeting can easily say something about that. Even if you bring specialists together, they mainly have knowledge of a part of the total process.

That is very different when it comes to how often you agree to meet together. Everyone has an opinion on that, so everyone can easily join in the conversation. As a result, it takes much longer than what is technically challenging and worthy of time.

People in a meeting, via Pixabay.

Use it in your communication

Conversely, this tendency of people comes in very handy if you want to sell something difficult. So do you need to explain how Bikeshedding works psychologically? To really understand the effect and apply it you would actually have to do a lot deeper have to dive in.

At the same time, it reads much better when it comes to examples, how to apply it and other trivial matters such as how easy it is to participate in a meeting. If we were to digress in this article to socializing and fun things, it would be much easier to read. And that’s exactly how you use this effect as a marketer or copywriter.

Add a trivial fact

If you want to sell something difficult, adding a trivial fact works. This can be done, for example, in the following ways:

  • Did you know?
    Use a “did you know” in the copy you write.
    For example, did you know that lists up to 78% more clicks leiden?

You probably have your own opinion about enumerations, or experience with them. So talking about this will help you keep reading this article. So that I can continue with my story about Bikeshedding in a moment.

  • An anecdote
    The brain loves stories, especially personal stories. An anecdote in your copy or other communication is therefore fantastic.

I was once in that meeting for the migration of a large webshop that we keep talking about. And then, indeed, it quickly turned to something trivial. I suggested scheduling meetings twice a week. Some thought that was too little, while others preferred to meet once a week at most. Without me having to argue why twice a week seemed appropriate to me, we talked endlessly about all the experiences, ideas and how often we would meet.

  • As everyday as the weather
    Include in your copy a reference to the weather, to sports (football or Formula 1) or to news that gets a lot of attention if you respond to current events. Include the link to make sure that the target audience in that section understands what you’re talking about.

Dunes via Pixabay.

Be careful with the involvement you ask for

Bikeshedding offers a solution to keep the target group fascinated with a story in which you have to sell something difficult. Keep in mind that you will lose others if it gets too tricky. So process triviality and even spend a relatively large amount of time on it.

That is at the expense of the space you have to really go into depth. But it is exactly in line with the way the brain likes to deal with it. You warm up the contact with your target group, as it were, by not making it too complicated.

Let the target group just bikeshed, so invest a relatively large amount of time in what is actually not important. If your target group can talk about it, it is much more valuable than if you try to explain it with all the technical details. That will come later. Or rather not at all, if you make sure that someone without knowing all the details can still work with it.

Source: Frankwatching by

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