If marketing is so damn sophisticated how come we fall for the same old shite?
May 20, 2009
Take it for a test drive!
I saved an article from the Chicago Tribune’s business section (Gregory Karp, May 3rd) about “weaknesses” in consumer behavior. In it, Karp reports studies being done by the University of Wisconsin and a few observations published in the Journal of Consumer Research. The findings are both obvious and startling, probably because they’re true. Check it out.
Even when consumers think they are utilizing sound thinking they’re not. For example, if consumers see a punch list of attributes next to a product they immediately assume it’s better. Therefore, advertisers need only attach a slew of benign facts to their wares to imply superiority and justify higher prices. We see this all the time. Go to Home Depot. The higher priced lawn mowers have the most specs. The same phenomenon occurs online.
Touch equals sales. Karp points out, “When consumers handle a product, they begin to feel ownership of it.” We all know what happens next. Impulse purchasing. Or we obsess about the product, imagining if only we’d bought it, until we do. Test-driving vehicles is probably the most famous example of touching equaling sales. Apple stores do a pretty good job of it as well.
This is my favorite learning: Research shows that people loathe breaking large bills. Conversely, we will happily fritter away quarters and one-dollar bills. The studies suggest that if you’re trying to save money carry large denominations. I know when I have a “hun” in my wallet it tends to stay there longer than its younger brothers. On the other hand, if I’d left the hundred in the bank it would have probably lasted even longer.
Finally, this old chestnut: people pay the most attention to the left digit in an item’s price. In case you hadn’t figured it out, this is what drives the ubiquitous 99 cents suffix. We’ll fork over $3.99 far more often than $4.00. Silly us.
Granted, some of this info feels vintage, circa sex-in-the-ice-cubes, but all of it is vital. These observations defeat the old notion, once and for all, that consumers make purchases based on facts and rational thinking. What’s funny is few of us are invulnerable. I know I’m not. And I should know better, right? How about you?