We love this new concept of the O Continuum brought to us by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen from their forthcoming book Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information that brands will do well to heed.

The Influence Mix

Their theory is that customer purchase decisions are affected by a combination of 3 things: “prior preferences, beliefs, and experiences (which they refer to as P), information from marketers (M), and input from other people and from information services (O).”   They term this combination the Influence Mix.

Itamar and Simonson say it’s a “zero-sum” game in that the greater the reliance on one source, the lesser the need for the others.  “So as the impact of O (other people) on a purchase decision goes up – the influence of M (marketing) or P (prior experience) goes down.”

This quite simply means that in categories where consumer opinion takes on increasing weight (and, let’s be honest how many categories are exempt these days!?) – the importance of traditional marketing efforts goes down.

(For example, Yelp reviews frequently drive customers to independent restaurants over heavily advertised chains and franchises.)

As posited in this article: are banner ads for companies such as Nikon and Canon really going to carry much weight when customer ratings and user reviews are purchasers’ more trusted sources of information?  The authors suggest that instead “companies such as Nikon and Canon should focus on generating user interest in particular products and promoting an ongoing flow of authentic (and positive content) from “O” on internet retail sites.

The authors state “we don’t believe that consumers who’ve grown used to the richness of online reviews will ever return to relying [like they use to] on traditional M”.   Of course there are categories where online reviews are less relevant (like candy and paper towels) – but let’s face it, the O factor across most categories is clearly gaining dominance.

Ensure a positive customer experience

Simonson and Rosen’s POV would indicate that now more than ever, a brand’s DNA must be optimized to ensure a positive customer experience – consistently, without fail, every time.  Because people, in exponentially increasing numbers, will continue to tell other people what they think and feel about a product or brand based on their own personal experiences.

And sadly, what brands say or do via traditional marketing efforts seems to matter less every day.

Click here to read the Harvard Business Review article.  Click here to read more about BRAIN FRIENDLY BRANDING®.


Megan Kent founded the Megan Kent Branding Group in 2013. Having held leadership positions at many of the most highly respected advertising agencies in the industry (Chiat/Day, Riney, Fallon, TBWA Chiat/Day, JWT), she’s developed game changing strategic platforms and go-to-market plans for brands such as BMW, Coca-Cola, Nikon, The New York Times, Sotheby’s, Clinique and Microsoft.

Megan’s greatest passion is creating desire for brands – she’s developed a proprietary branding approach dedicated to doing just that.  Her BRAIN FRIENDLY BRANDING® System is designed to give clients the ultimate competitive advantage by using the latest findings in behavioral and brain science to help companies create the most powerful emotional connection possible with their customers.

Follow Megan on Twitter @megkentbranding