The Goldilocks Principle: Having it ‘Just right’!

And how marketers use this principle to influence purchase decision of customers…

Ajita Chakladar
4 min readMar 7, 2021

Goldilocks was one of those kids who looks cute but has no sense of boundaries.


Let’s start at the beginning!

Once upon a time there lived three bears- Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby bear. They cooked porridge one day and left the porridge in their respective bowls to cool down. Mama Bear thought why not to leave their cottage and roam the forest a li’l while. So that’s what they did.
Meanwhile our pesky little girl, Goldilocks, was roaming around the forest and came across this cottage. She went inside and saw the porridge bowls.

Goldilocks principle in marketing
Image : BlogSpot

“It’s too hot!”, said she while tasting the first bowl of porridge.
“It’s too cold!” said she while tasting the second bowl.
“Ahh, this porridge is just right!” said she while eating it all up.

And when the bears returned, she jumped off the window.

Now, let’s back up a little. No, I am not going to tell you about the dangers of going into a strangers’ home uninvited. Or why it’s bad manners to eat someone else’s food without asking them first.

What I would rather want to tell you is about the Goldilocks Principle. This principle, because of its simplicity can be applied to various fields. Knowingly or unknowingly, we, as customers fall prey to this effect almost every time.

Goldilocks principle in marketing
Image : alyjuma

Let me give you a scenario.

You plan a trip with your family. After much deliberations, you select a place to travel and zeroed in on a hotel to stay in. Now, this hotel has three types of room to stay in as follows:

A) Bed & Breakfast @ Rs.999 per day
B) Staycation Suite @ Rs.2999 per day
C) Supreme Suite @ Rs.7999 per day

Which room will you choose?

Research has found that 67% of people will always choose the middle option. This is triggered by a neutral psychological impulse to avoid the extreme. Most people will see the 3rd option as too luxurious and the first option as too risky. This makes choosing the middle option easy as its not too expensive and not too doubtful about its quality.

Most brands use this principle to influence our decision. People might want to believe that the brand is pushing its most premium product whereas in reality, the brand is conditioning you to choose the middle option.

Apple’s Goldilocks Principle in action

Apple, with its iPhone, uses the same principle every year when they introduce new models. Let’s take the example of iPhone 12. They introduced 3 models as follows:

A) iPhone 12 Pro (Premium)
B) iPhone 12 (Mid-Range)
C) iPhone 12 Mini (Low- Range)

Image : Apple

The Pro version is too expensive with features like LiDAR Scanner which is generally not required by people except experienced photographers. The Mid-Range model appears as an affordable version with features which are almost similar to the Pro Version barring one. The Mini model has a smaller screen to present it as an inferior choice as compared to the Mid-Range Model. If you notice, the price of iPhone Mini is kept the same as iPhone 11 which had the screen size the same as iPhone 12’s. In doing so, Apple is attempting to make the Mid-Range Model as the new go-to model for customers thus, increasing its revenue.

Choose what’s best for you (or the brand?)

The Goldilocks principle is very effective in influencing customers’ minds and majority of customers will drift towards the middle option. To ensure that this principle takes the desired effect, most brands use UI and design to enhance the options. This is done subtly by highlighting the middle option a little differently. This can be done by making the middle option appear bigger or tagging it as the ‘Most Popular’ or simply by changing its color or font. Some examples are given below:

SurveyMonkey plan comparison
Image : SurveyMonkey
Image : Netflix
Image : Skype

How to have it ‘Just Right’?

Although this principle is easy to implement because of its simplicity and subtlety. Marketers must be careful while applying this to their brands since its easier to go overboard with providing choices to the customers. Arguably, providing too much choice might prove to be confusing to the customers. Things to keep in mind for marketers, strike a balance between your choices to make it ‘Just Right’ and don’t forget to highlight your most preferred option!

I would love to know more examples of Goldilocks Principle in action by other brands. Have any examples? Let me know!