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September 21, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell’s First Moment of Truth

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Posted by Dominic Basulto

Gladwell Blink.jpg

If this doesn’t sound like a page ripped from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, I’m not sure what would: Wednesday's print edition of the Wall Street Journal has a front-page story on Procter & Gamble’s efforts to win over the consumer at the FMOT (“first moment of truth”):

“Despite spending billions on traditional advertising, the consumer products giant thinks this instant [the FMOT] is one of its most important marketing opportunities. It created a position 18 months ago, Director of First Moment of Truth, or Director of FMOT, to produce sharper, flashier in-store displays.”

Within P&G, FMOT is referred to casually as EFF-mot. Moreover, the Director of FMOT commands a 15-person team to develop the type of store displays that can win over customers in the first three to seven seconds of the shopping experience. It’s an all-out war to win the battle for shelf space and convince shoppers to buy ever more Tide, Crest and Pampers. Alas, the article goes on to explain the business of in-store marketing (which has grown to become an $18.6 billion a year industry) without referencing Malcolm Gladwell at all. Instead, the article goes on to explain the importance of Wal-Mart’s in-store TV network.

Anyway, Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” was all about the importance of the first few seconds in making decisions and the value of rapid cognition. Most people claim that the book was nothing more than an apology for ‘snap judgments’ and ‘intuition.’ But the book went beyond that – it showed that too much information may actually hamper the decision-making process. Snap judgments are only useful if they contain an analysis of the two or three most important facts needed to reach a decision. For example, if doctors are given two or three highly relevant details in an emergency room operating environment, they can make much more effective decisions than if they were flooded with lots of minutiae.

It sounds like P&G’s head of FMOT is actually following some of these ideas. According to the director of FMOT, in-store packaging should “interrupt” the shopping experience and answer very succinctly three basic questions: Who am I? What am I? Why am I right for you? This is Gladwellian thinking, eh? If the consumer has to think too much, he or she will move on to the next aisle or decide that maybe it’s not worth the effort to buy toothpaste today.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Advertising


1. Nick Douglas on September 21, 2005 10:31 PM writes...

Gladwell would gladly sacrifice credit for all reference to split-second decisions in exchange for the rise of the term "Gladwellian thinking."

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2. James Tenser on February 14, 2006 11:18 AM writes...

Dominic, I like Gladwell's work very much, but I think that equating P&G's FMOT initiative with Blink is a a bit of simplification.

CPG firms like P&G work hard to surround customers with a message "fog" that touches them in many moments of their daily lives - advertising, promotions, in-store displays, etc. The FMOT effort recognizes that all the messaging investment comes to naught unless the customer selects the P&G product at the moment of choice. That is, in front of the store shelf, in the face of many good quality alternative products.

In fact, this decision is not made in a blink. But the decision process - initiated perhaps days or even years earlier with brand experiences, advertising exposure and influence from friends, etc. - is closed at the moment of choice.

Calling this the first moment of truth may be a misnomer. For firms like P&G, it is the first evidence that the messaging programs are working, and the beginning of a consumption relationship with the company's product.

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