WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUL. 30, 2014
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Eccentric Tastes Fuel the Economy

A longing to be different benefits society. We all aspire to stand out from the crowd, and savvy merchandising experts prey upon this desire. From personalized offers to pricey memberships and costly upgrades, advertisers entice us with the allure of exclusivity. This effective marketing strategy generates revenue and stimulates the economy. The following episode perfectly illustrates this point.

His Beloved GTI. Illustration by Richard Dagg on Flickr.

Bill, a casual acquaintance, recently purchased a 2014 hatchback with electric powertrain. As the only one on the block, this new sedan garnered loads of attention. While Bill relished in the spotlight, he lectured others on fuel efficiency, alternative energy sources and motor vehicle emissions.

"In the conventional roadster I traveled 1,000 miles each month and spent about $300 a month on gas," Bill gloated over his $30,000 investment. "With this beauty I can drive the same distance for roughly $30 a month. Do the math—that’s a $270 saving!"

Bill’s cutting-edge decision was unique; it immediately distinguished him from the neighbors. He bragged about his new ride around town, while the rest of us gas guzzlers marveled at the innovation. For a while, it appeared as though Bill would maintain this distinct honor.

However, weeks later a nearby resident cruised into her driveway with an upgraded all-electric conveyance. Stacey’s mint green model included tinted windows and a sunroof, features lacking in Bill’s version.

Laughing Bug. Image provided by Daniel Novta on Flickr.

Bill felt upstaged by the competition and expressed his angst. “Stacey never consulted me before purchasing the car,” he fretted, insulted by the slight. “Aren’t I the one with the facts? After all, I initiated this trend, raised the bar for the rest of the neighborhood.”

Eventually he decided to reinvest. Determined to remain the local EV expert, Bill opted to trade in his economic edition for the conversion route. He purchased a light-duty pickup then converted it to an ultramodern electrical truck—an expensive operation which solidified his standing in the community.

My pal’s reaction is common. Consumers often pay more to obtain extraordinary results. Why do we crave the spotlight and yearn to be different? Perhaps this attribute is linked to a lack of self-awareness. Perhaps our need for attention is a subtle cry for help or recognition.

Money-Greed. Illustration by Hiking Artist on Flickr.

Despite the motives behind our actions, the prevalent message here is that we should analyze our spending habits like professional marketing execs. Industry gurus earn over $150,000 annually because they know how to produce revenue. Big corporations spend more hours training their sales associates on how to pitch to potential buyers than on examining product benefits.

Studies which investigate the reasons people buy reveal that emotions impact our purchasing choices. Marketing strategies that appeal to our visceral senses are highly successful. That is why most advertising campaigns play to these five emotional levels in order to boost sales: fear or dread—“don’t leave home without it”; obligation—“help end their torment with less than a dollar a day”; competitiveness—“make everyone jealous”; trendsetting—“be the first to sign up before the rest of your family and friends”; and trust—“depend on us, because we’ve been in business for the past 25 years”.

Many advertisers will utilize more than one emotive hook. The shrewd consumer will peel back the layers of promotional hype; honestly review the product then decide to buy based on necessity and accessible funds.

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