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?


4 Responses to “If marketing is so damn sophisticated how come we fall for the same old shite?”

  1. Marc Gobe really emphasizes touch points as a vital part of the brand experience, especially with Cidade Limpa in 2006. I find it surprising that retailers don’t take more advantage of that fact.

    That said, this article also reminded me of a study I read that revealed “audiences enjoy comedy.”

    Really? I wouldn’t have guessed.

  2. If you’re a seller, the cute days of “99” pricing may be gasping for air, as in the $499,000 price point for that nice urban condo.

    Look at the search engines that help sort by price–they’re done in even plateau increments. Someone looking for a $500,000 (and up) dwelling won’t ever see your stupid $499,000 listing.

  3. adchick said

    Perhaps it’s because we’re advertising to the masses. Perhaps the majority of Americans are not as sophisticated, educated, alert, savvy and aware as agencies might like to believe. The horrible furniture commercials that I have posted, for example…these guys are doing incredibly well. (Sad, but true) They know their audience. And that’s rule #1, isn’t it?

  4. golublog said

    The large bill thing is completely true. I never even want to break a twenty.

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