Branson’s conditioning

English: Sir Richard Branson at the eTalk Fest...

Good work, Richard. Image via Wikipedia

I recently received a two pieces of communication from Virgin media, who does my internet, phone, and cable TV. The first one celebrated the fact that I will be receiving up to 100 Mb/s in internet speed 18 months from now.

This celebratory letter spoke of the massive investment Virgin was making in me, and painted a clear picture of how wonderful life will be with all this speed. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin, was prominently featured…it was as if he reached into his own pocket and decided to help me out. What a guy!

Two days later I received a second letter telling me that there would be a price increase in my service bundle. No mention of Mr. Branson to be found. But I thought ol’ Richard was my benevolent, rich friend?!

This, ladies and gentleman, is called conditioning. In this particular case, Branson and staff played on how our minds are wired as it relates to gifts. We receive a gift (free extra internet speed), and are then hit with a price increase. Since we just received the gift (even one we didn’t ask for), we connect this to the price increase and the increase isn’t so bad. Fair is fair. And Virgin gets to win market share while having us pay for it.

The worst part is, it works. And there is nothing unethical or problematic about it.

The reality is that we’re just not as complex as we think we are.

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