“Marketing is the mystical science of figuring out what makes people behave the way they do so you can make them behave the way you want.” Paul Richard “Dick” McCullough (“Exploiting Human Nature: How to Successfully Market High-Tech New Products“)
For a while now, I thought I was already immune to marketing strategies, because I’ve been on that side of the fence and I’ve seen how it operates. But after reading some posts on how marketers exploit human nature, I began to look around my house and I was dumbstruck when I realized that all of the products on my bathroom shelf are either colored blue, white or green.
I have problematic skin that easily breaks out in rashes and years ago, my derma prescribed medications to keep my skin at bay. Those cleansers and topical medicine came in nondescript white tubes and simple packaging, so I’ve always associated doctor-recommended and sensitive skin safe products with white and no-frills packaging. I also tend to gravitate towards blue and green products because of how clean and fresh they are (Aha! Another marketing construct right there!).
Earlier this year, my friend and I thought of putting up a small bakery/restaurant within my condominium compound and I was adamant that it should be “Instagram-worthy” to entice my mostly young neighbors to make it their hangout where they can do their selfies, in effect generating free advertising for our bakery.
Little did I know then that my “Instagram-worthy” bakeshop was actually what Starbucks peddled, an experience. People don’t want to merely eat or drink coffee, they want to spend time with their friends, people watch, enjoy the ambiance, take a break from studying or working. And Starbucks delivers all that, that’s why people line up for its overpriced coffee. Absolutely brilliant.
I asked my husband, a marketing graduate, if there was anything morally questionable about this practice, because it seemed quite deceptive on some level. But he answered that on the contrary, marketers were giving people what they really wanted: something that made them feel good about themselves.
Again, it’s never about the toothpaste, the coffee or the facial wash. It’s about the promise of what you can be with those products and how they make you feel.
As a personal finance geek, I think it’s bullcrap, but as an avid observer of human nature and behavior, I am fascinated.
However, now that I’ve uncovered my own bias and triggers, I’ll be more careful about what I put inside my shopping cart, as I might just be spending a bit more on something that is actually no different than the cheaper variety just because Juday (my secret BFF) endorses it.
Fitz Villafuerte’s fantastic article on Starbucks is a study of how brilliant marketers really are, and their uncanny understanding of human nature and frailty. Go read it now.