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Is Your User Experience “Killing the Dog”?

minute read

Here's a surprising psychological lesson from the classic comedy Anchorman (and how a test screening changed everything).

You see, the plot of Anchorman was originally very different.

✅ When the original cut of the film was shown to test audiences, they couldn't stop laughing.

❌ But when it came time to give the movie a score, the test audience failed it. ⁠

Director Adam McKay was confused. Why would the audience laugh so hard and then fail the movie? Then a marketing manager gave him the secret. She said, “You idiots killed the dog. You never kill the dog.”⁠

You see, in the original cut of Anchorman, Ron Burgundy’s dog Baxter didn’t make it. He was killed off for a joke in the very last scene. ⁠McKay was a little unconvinced but gave it a try. They recut the movie with a new ending. This time, Ron Burgundy was reunited with his beloved dog. ⁠

Guess what happened?⁠

That’s right - test audiences loved the new version of Anchorman and it passed the screening with flying colors. Why?⁠

It’s down to a psychological principle called the Peak-end Rule.

It says that we judge an experience based on two points - the emotional peak and the ending. ⁠And if an experience flubs the ending, it doesn’t matter how much fun you had - it will ruin the whole experience. But when Choice Hacking clients ask me to apply the Peak-end Rule, there's one thing we need to keep in mind:

Customer experiences aren't like movies.

It's not always obvious where the ending is, and there can be different endings for different types of customers. So we have to carefully observe customer journeys before perfecting the CX peaks and endings.

For example, for different customer journeys, the IKEA customer experience could end:

  • When you leave the store
  • When you finish a meal in the cafe
  • When you go home and assemble your furniture

Here's a hint - to find those peaks and ends, create a customer journey map.


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About the author

Jen Clinehens, MS/MBA

Hi 👋 I'm Jen Clinehens (MS, MBA) the founder and Managing Director of Choice Hacking.

I started Choice Hacking in 2021 to help marketers and entrepreneurs figure out what makes buyers tick, and elevate their work using behavioral science, marketing psychology, and AI.

If you want to learn more, check out links to my newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel and other free resources below 👇


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