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  • Kahmile Reid

Creating The Diderot Effect – Without the regret



If we are to accept the ‘market place of ideas’ concept, then communication is beneficial to the marketplace as a neutral tool to be used by all sides - allowing ideas to contend. The market place of ideas is why content is king and why serious creators control the narrative in their respective spaces in the market.


Before we get into this, lets be clear on the root of a buying or consumption decision, according to Psychology Today, a buying decision is the result of a “consumer learning pathway” where a consumer, after learning about a product or service, relate it back to their specific situation. The pictures consumers create in their head about how great their life will be with a product or service is the goal of all sales teams barring none. It is in their interest to harness the powers of content creation strategies that must come together to create that Diderot effect.


Companies must take note of the importance of content creation above and beyond bite-sized social media posts. They must create robust, meaningful and useful content in the formats they are being consumed by their audience.

In a previous article, I referenced the “Diderot effect”, the term was coined based on an essay written by 18th century philosopher Denis Diderot entitled Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown. A quick recap: after Diderot received his new gown, he discarded the old gown and found himself changing his surroundings to match the elegance of the new gown and much to his regret eventually found himself in elegant but uncomfortable surroundings. The Diderot effect speaks to consumers’ need for conformity to one purchase which leads to many others. For example, a new jacket will lead to the need for the purchase of a new shirt with which to wear it; the consumer then convinces themselves that the new jacket and shirt doesn’t look quite right with old pants and old shoes, so they purchase those as well. Before they realize it, they are refurbishing their living room to match their newly acquired wardrobe.


Have you been a victim of the Diderot effect? Most of us have been, even if we are not willing to admit it.

With the rise of online shopping, most of us do some research about a product before we buy, even if it’s just by looking at the reviews. Some of us may go deeper if the item is one we consider expensive. So engineering content to aid this process is key, no matter how ineffective one believes a piece of content may be, there is someone being influenced by it.


Create content - useful content

Content creation puts you in the conversation when decisions to purchase are being made. On a personal confessional note, I read a long time ago, during my research binges about exercising and staying fit, that having nice workout clothing will help with your motivation to work out. Guess who went out and bought a cute gym outfit?


That piece of content led me to spend on a nice gym outfit and suddenly my old gym stuff looked terribly old and I steadily purchased more and phased out the old, even though they were still perfectly wearable outfits – that’s the Diderot effect. I eventually got into working out, but it wasn’t the clothes, it was the sheer will and many shut-the-hell-up-and-go “conversations” I had with the voice in my head in the mornings before going to the gym.


External factor and purchasing decisions

The reasons why we make purchases have become more and more external. One recent reason which was created around the same time as Instagram is how something will look on that platform. On a similar note, one of my favorite home decorating shows, The Weekender, a show on the Lowe’s Home Improvement YouTube channel - it is dedicated to showing you how you can create “Pinterest-worthy spaces” over a weekend. Here we see another social media platform for which consumers are encouraged to purchase items that will “look” great on that platform. The Diderot effect is even more costly in the home decor context.


In the end, companies must not only surround consumers with advertising, but they should also be arming them with information they need to make decisions about their products or services and how it can improve their lives. Create the Diderot effect, but without the regret and discomfort.


Thanks for engaging! Watch this space for more insights on all things PR and Communication.

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