Math, or marketing?

September 1, 2009

Here’s a math problem that we all can relate to, courtesy of Seth Godin.

Let’s say you are the Gasoline Czar, and your goal is to reduce gasoline consumption.

And let’s say there are only two kinds of cars in the world. Half of them are Suburbans that get 10 miles per gallon and half are Priuses that get 50 miles per gallon.

If we assume that all cars drive the same number of miles, which would be a better investment:

Option 1: Put new tires on all the Suburbans so that their mileage improves to 13 miles per gallon.

Option 2: Rewire all the Priuses so they get 100 miles per gallon (doubling their average!)

Half the challenge is doing the math.

The second half (and more important part when looking to introduce change in society) is explaining the results in clear and simple language, so people understand why.

Answer: here’s a video on how to figure out the answer

So what, you ask? Why did I ask you to do this math problem?

I guarantee you that all the marketing in the world hasn’t convinced you of the importance of ensuring your tires are in good condition and fully inflated.  However, this simple brain teaser hammered the point home to you.  We now believe it because someone has shown us the same fact in a creative, eye-opening way.

Cost of brain teaser: $0.00
Cost of marketing the need to maintain tires: millions of dollars

We’re all experts in something.  What if we used our knowledge to explain macro problems in a creative way that people can relate with?