Peak End Rule
As Maya Angelou once said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This idea is more than a nice sentiment – it’s actually a powerful phenomenon in behavioral science. Discovered by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner and the author of Thinking Fast and Slow, the Peak-End Rule is a psychological heuristic that explains why the memory of an experience is more important than the experience itself.
Not all memory is equal. Some moments carry more weight than others. And those moments are typically the peak and the end of any given experience, which our brain uses as a shortcut to dictate how we remember the experience.
The implications of the Peak-End Rule are often surprising. In a 1993 experiment, Kahneman asked participants to partake in two different versions of an unpleasant experience. In the first round, people had to submerge their hands in 14-degree water for 60 seconds and in the second round, the same participants had to do the same thing with their other hand, but this time for an extra 30 seconds in 15-degree water for a total of 90 seconds. For the third round, participants had to choose which of these two experiences to repeat. And against all logic, 80% of participants chose the option to submerge their hand for the longer duration.
It turns out that one small degree of improvement near the end completely shifted the memory of the experience.
Once you know this rule, you’ll start seeing it appear everywhere in the real world. One notable example is Eleven Madison Park – one of the highest-regarded restaurants in New York City. There are thousands of restaurants in NYC, so what exactly does Eleven Madison Park do to leave people so satisfied after spending roughly $1000 for two people?
Eleven Madison Park cleverly leverages the Peak-End Rule.
The experience begins with craft cocktails and a kitchen tour, continues with a parade of perfect plates, and ends, purposefully, with complementary bottomless apple brandy and signature chocolate pretzels. So as long as you loved at least a couple of the delectable dishes – your peak – served throughout the evening, and you enjoyed the signature pretzels and bottomless brandy – your end – then you’re likely to enjoy Eleven Madison Park. And Eleven Madison Park even doubles down on the end, giving you a jar of granola to bring home and have for breakfast the next morning as you leave. So when you wake up the next morning and eat your free granola, all you can remember is how incredible your night was.
So how can B2B marketers harvest the magic of the Peak-End Rule?
1. Buyer Experience: Make sure your buyer journey has at least one peak, and that each interaction ends on a high note.
What is your brand’s free granola that leaves your customers with a positive impression? Take a look at your customer’s journey to see where you can heighten the peaks (like throwing in added-value), where you can mitigate the lows (like streamlining the painful procurement process) and how you can end on a high note (celebratory client dinner at Eleven Madison Park anyone?). The next time you’re looking to improve your CSAT or NPS results, realize that your customers are evaluating their experience based on their memories and not their actual experiences, so focus on these peak and end experiences to maximize the impact of your improvements.
2. Advertising Recall: Develop creative that has peak emotional moments, and make sure to brand heavily both at those peak moments and at the end.
When it comes to your creative, your brand is twice as likely to be recalled if your advertisement includes at least one emotional peak. A study conducted by Affectiva and Unruly showed that ads with one emotional peak (typical for a traditional 30 second ad) and branding at that peak moment were twice as likely to be recalled correctly. If you have the luxury of a 1 or 2 minute ad and can create multiple emotional peaks, your brand is then 3x as likely to be recalled.
The brand that’s remembered is the brand that’s bought. Use the Peak-End Rule to make sure your brand is remembered fondly by current and future buyers alike.