Why You Have 3 Can Openers

By Breuk Iverson

Psychological Researchers and particularly, Madison Avenue advertisers have been looking into the human mind for well over 75 years.  What they sought to understand was HOW to get customers to say “YES” to buying products and services.  They not only found the answer to this question but, subsequently found even more interesting an enlightening conditions intrinsic to the human being.  This work has shown measurable results and with spectacular success, particularly in the US.  It has worked for over half a century.

This is one of the reasons you will find American companies in nearly every corner of the globe.  And globes don’t even have corners.

A well-oiled and tested ad market science should remove all doubt as to the effectiveness of advanced messaging used en masse.  The US is one of the leading founders and mastered 20th Century Branding and taking the corporate ID into a very visceral experience.

Neuro-messaging and the science shows that 90% of our ‘conscious decision making’ is done through affecting the subconscious first.  Not only that but, over 90% of our ‘conscious decision making’ is also emotional.

So, 75 years and billions of dollars later, American advertising agencies had their fingers on the pulse of the culture.  In fact, one may even argue that they have already successfully ‘designed and segmented’ the US market culture in creating its buyers, here and internationally.

“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business owner do.”  — Daniel Pink

The 3 Can Opener Theory

I thought to test this theory out over the last few months. I’ve asked over one hundred people: “How many can openers do you have in your house?”  Can you guess what their answer was?  A little over 90% said they had “3”.  This was just as I suspected.

I speculated further and offered this:  “Let me guess, one is nostalgic, one is functional, and one is because it either looks cool or is there as a ‘back up’.  I usually got a smile as though I performed a magic trick.  Presto!

There are a few marketing and psychological systems which determine how this little magic trick is performed.  We live in a consumer culture that has been conditioned to not only buy 3 can openers but, a certain number of other items as well.  The scope of this is massive but, let’s just stick to the kitchen drawer for openers (pun intended).

The history of this dates back to the 1950s when American corporations and manufacturers wondered what would happen if every American had one of each thing.  They asked themselves the question: “What happens when we sell one of everything and people don’t need to buy any more stuff?”

If you ever worked at a good mid-large NYC ad agency, you already know that Ad Agencies manufacture consent from the public and not the other way around.  I worked for the boutique ad agency that brought you Snapple, Kenneth Cole, Hennessy, Kate Spade and more recently the Victoria Secret’s, ‘Angels’.  BMW is their most recent account (expect to see sales BMW sales ZOOM in 2014-15).

Another client KBSP.com has helped was BP during their oil spill.  Have you ever wondered what ever happened to that incident?  BP hired the same ad agency to get them out of the spotlight and the agency did this through Blogs, Twitter and Facebook and presenting other leading story lines to the mass media thus presenting a ‘red herring’.  Within two weeks, the public had nearly forgotten the details of the incident.  KBSP.com used the “red herring” and a hypnotic technique called “misdirection”.


A “Word-of-Mouth” campaign is quite an expensive endeavor costing hundreds of thousands to millions.  It can happen on a smaller scale with smaller companies but, it means developing something called ‘memes’ and sending out ‘plants’ into prominent social circles.  If this is not your market, try connecting to cultural hubs and commenting on mainstream media’s Social Media, prominent blogs or Facebook and Twitter for optimal penetration.

Small to mid-sized business owners generally don’t have a budget for a proper Word-of-Mouth campaign, however, when one couples newer sciences such as Game and Network Theory, they can.  The market systems used by the Big Boys is then leveraged and can be scaled down.  Naturally, tapping into what is culturally available, pulls your company’s service or product right into the mix.  More times than not, you can focus this on your smaller market sacking 70+% of your current client base for conversion.  The philosophy is: “It is easier to sell something to a current or previous customer then it is to get a brand new one.”      

Game Theory, in short, is a science based on people’s moral standings, risk factors and what the will and will not do.  It is a predictable science and it works mathematically.

Network Theory allows uses to locate hubs and hot spots to maximize penetration into specific market circles.  This new science is based off of the Kevin Bacon game “Six Degrees of Separation”.  Here’s a very interesting video.

When a client needs new or to convert previous clients, they can use these newer sciences to locate them, re-engage them and provide an offer that works on their target market.  What you want to determine is:

1. When or if you should do a money-saving sale?

2. What type of experience are you offering?

3. What type of services or products can be freshly packaged or grouped together?

4. How do you propose to fulfill and meet their needs?

The process to answer these questions is a matter of research and planning.  Tapping into existential, current memes and clichés is how this ‘word of mouth’ happens.  Ad Agencies go through exhaustive research to come up with those ‘crazy’ ads you’ll watch on Superbowl Sunday.  If you describe an ad to a friend, this is creating Word-of-Mouth.  A even more advanced approach is something now called: “Word-of-Mind”.  The thoughts get in there and you have virtually no way of stopping them. This, however, is another article for another day.

There is much, much more that is going on in the process of human decision making that what meets the eye.  Keep your focus on your customer and what you can do for them.  When you give them what they already want, you can then dominate your market.  You already know that they probably have 3 can openers in their kitchen drawer.  What is it that you do that they already want?  The answer might be buried under all the other items in the drawer, in the back, to the left.


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