As this is written, the primary election season is off andrunning and Americans are making choices that will determine whichcandidates battle to become POTUS in the November election. Since pollsand actual voting outcomes are not always the same, there is agreat deal of speculation about people's actions. Will people voterationally — for the candidate they believe to be the bestqualified? Or for the candidate who seems likeable or might shakeup a system that dissatisfies many?

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Similarly, choices employees make drive the success or failureof our business. Historically, the voluntary market could rely on havingthe opportunity to meet with employees in person. But digitaldisruption has affected the business in recent years as increasingnumbers of employers have moved toward online enrollment methods.This has changed our ability to influence employee choices.

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As a result, words like “behavioral economics” and “choicearchitecture” have entered our everyday business discussions. Wehave moved toward figuring out how to positively influence employeeenrollment choices. We are creating job titles like “Director ofEngagement Solutions.” We are reading books like “PredictablyIrrational” and “Misbehaving” and “Nudge.”

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We are finding ways to influence behavior remotely, throughdigital commerce connections; designing tools that can helpemployees make good decisions. The biases that are behind manyconsumer decisions start with choice bias. If you give potentialbuyers too many choices, they will tend not to purchase. Keepingoptions simple or offering pre-selected packages can help overcomethis.

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People are more afraid of big unlikely risks than daily risksthat are actually more imminent. Framing effects explain whatcauses people to eat less if their meals are served on smallerplates. Social norming is important in today's market, and isfamously used by Amazon.com: What are other people like me buying?Other influencing forces behind decisions include loss aversion,default bias, anchoring, and present-day bias.

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Voluntary marketers must keep these elements n mind as we thinkabout our future marketing messages. The fact that 1 out of 3,000American children suffers from cystic fibrosis will not cause manyto donate to the quest for a cure. But an evening news reportshowing concerned parents and a young child with CF who needsthousands of dollars for a lifesaving operation will probablyresult in many pitching in. One in 3,000 is a statistic; the childis a specific. This concept easily carries over into the way wetraditionally focus on probabilities versus personal stories. Onlythe stories matter enough to affect choices.

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