Are you a big risk taker? Likely not.

Posted: 27th May 2016

Do you remember Teletext? (or when it was called Oracle? Or the BBC equivalent, Ceefax?) You do, yeah? Does seeing these pictures make you smile?


For those of you born after the mid 1990s this is how we used to waste time before the internet and smart phones. Collectively known as teletext services, these were analogue text-based information services transmitted along with television signals. We accessed them by pressing the ‘text’ button on our TV remote controls. They were a kind of retro, digital-looking magazine with bright-coloured pixely text and images. In fact, it’s amazing just what could be achieved artistically with such limited number of blocks and colour.

There wasn’t much you couldn’t get on teletext. You could get the latest news, the weather (with a pixely little map of the UK – see below), sports results, including live football scores. There was the TV guide, kids pages, jobs and recipes.



Yes, Manchester City were in Nationwide Division Two back in 1999, and you tried the crossword puzzle for a moment too didn't you.

I show these pictures to a lot of audiences when I speak on this subject and it always gets such a reaction. There’s something beautifully nostalgic about Teletext. Someone always says “bring back Teletext”, which is instantly followed by collective sighs and nods from the people sitting near whoever said it.

Did you ever play the quiz game Bamboozle? I’m sure Bamboozle was the forerunner to “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, a 4-way multiple choice quiz game using the four colour buttons on your TV’s remote control to choose your answers, but you got bumped out of the game at the first wrong answer you gave. You could start over again but you had to wait ages for the pages to refresh. It turns out there was an easy way to hack Bamboozle by quickly selecting each colour in turn and noticing which page they were going to take you to next. As three of the four answers would take you back to the beginning, the odd one out was the right answer. You’re welcome! :)


But when I said teletext is nostalgic, I meant precisely that. ‘Nostalgia’ is a Greek word which literally means ‘reliving the pain of an old wound’. If we brought teletext back, no one would use it because it was so slow and painful to use, and we now have far better and faster means of getting the information we want.

Do you remember teletext holidays? A whole section of teletext dedicated to offering us cheap holiday deals to just about every destination imaginable. Did you remember browsing those deals? There were so many of them, each page had up to 30+ different sub-pages in it, which polled round every 20 seconds or so. If you saw a holiday deal you liked, you had to quickly grab your remote control and press the “hold” button before it moved on. If you were too slow you could have a 15-minute wait again while it completed another whole rotation of all those pages.

Teletext holidays

Do you remember the holidays that were 'AOA'? That stood for 'allocate on arrival'. These were the super super cheap holiday deals you could get as long as you didn’t mind not knowing in advance where you were going to be staying. They usually involved flying at unsociable hours too. You would rock up at a foreign airport at stupid o’clock in the night, find the holiday rep and say “Hi I’m here, where are you going to put me?” It was totally pot luck whether you got a lovely hotel in the centre of town, or a nasty cockroach-infested apartment a mile’s walk from anywhere with an uninviting freezing cold swimming pool with complete with dead flies floating on the surface. But AOA holidays were still popular.

Would you buy one now though? In fact, would you book a holiday now at all where you hadn’t taken the time first to look online for photographs of where you were staying, and most importantly read some reviews from fellow holiday-makers of what their experiences had been like? Unlikely. We have quick and easy access to all this kind of information now and holidays are important to us, so it makes sense to spend a little time checking these things out.

The truth is, when it comes to life’s big decisions (and choosing a holiday counts) we aren’t big risk takers. We want to know that if we are going to put a certain amount of money or effort into a decision that we’re definitely going to get what we want for it. Especially if it means foregoing an alternative that we also like. We don’t like to take a chance.

Staying with holidays, why do people spend extra money going to places like Disneyworld over other destinations? Why will people spend more on a flight with Virgin Atlantic over a similar flight with another airline? Why do people head to hot destinations while it is still winter in Britain? We do it because we are pretty confident that we’ll get what we want; a great holiday, quality service and good weather. You could have bought holidays through teletext which weren’t allocate on arrival, they just cost more showing we put a premium on certainty.

Do you read weather reports? Do you have a horoscope app on your phone? Ladies, you can get a “hormone horoscope” app which will tell you how you can be expecting to feel on any given day based on rising and falling levels of hormones – it’s actually quite good. All ways, albeit small ones, in which we try to eliminate uncertainty. Northern Rail have a Leaf Fall Risk system, a colour coded system they brought out last Autumn to warn passengers via social media of the potential for delays each day based on the amount of leaves that had fallen on the tracks overnight.

We have a preference for certainty and security and instinctively look to reduce the uncertainty we face in our futures. Take a closer look at your product or service. What is the experience of it and how you market it? Is there any way you can add certainty, even in a small way? Is there anything you can do that will help your clients and customers know with just a little bit more certainty what they are going to get from you and what they can expect to experience?



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