You have probably succumbed to the late night infomercials and bought something you really didn’t need. When my son was small and we were making homemade baby food, we often thought of buying the Magic Bullet blender, but we resisted. However, my vanity won out when I paid a little less than $10 for a Ped Egg that was supposed to remove dry skin from your feet and is “so gentle it won’t break a balloon.” I don’t know what material that balloon was made of, but that Ped Egg hurt! And it didn’t help my feet.
Chances are I wouldn’t have even thought to buy the Ped Egg if I hadn’t seen the commercials endlessly.
It Is Not Just Consumer Products
It is not just consumer products that seem more valuable the more they are marketed to us.
Peter recently posted about an experiment violin virtuoso Joshua Bell participated in where he played for 45 minutes in a Washington D.C. subway. Nearly 1,100 people walked by, and only 7 stopped to watch for at least a minute. He received $32 in donations. Keep in mind people pay $100 a ticket to watch him play in concert halls.
Peter’s takeaway was that people are too busy living their lives, focusing on the future, to stop and enjoy the here and now. I agree with him completely, but I also saw it differently.
Many people are probably not music aficionados. They likely may not know who Joshua Bell is. But what if there had been advertising—“See world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell perform for free at the Washington D.C. subway”. My guess is that many music lovers would show up, as would many others who know nothing about music simply because someone “famous” was going to be there. (Saying it is free might also help draw in the crowds.)
Often, if people are told that they should care and that something is important, they believe it. The Washington Post, who orchestrated the experiment (excuse the pun), made no mention of who was performing. To many, Joshua Bell was just another street performer, and as such, no one gave him much attention. Had they known who he was and why he is significant, the reaction might have been different.
Evaluate Status Symbols Carefully
Rolex watches are hundreds to even thousands of dollars to purchase. Does that mean they work hundreds of times better than other watches? I doubt it. Actually, who needs a watch now when everyone has cell phones and smart phones? Yet, many people want a Rolex to show that they have arrived.
BMWs are nice vehicles, but are they worth $20,000 to $50,000 more than other affordable cars? I doubt it. Sure they might be a step up from your typical sedan, but not worth as much as buying another entire vehicle for the price difference. People want a BMW because they have been marketed to and are convinced a BMW is a sign of the wealth and a way to show that they have arrived.
Think of the many things we purchase and consume every day because we are “taught” that we need them or that they are important to everyday life thanks to marketers. Think of Joshua Bell, a man who is used to audiences watching his performance and listening with rapt attention performing for 1,100 people, of whom only 7 gave him any of their attention.
No marketer convinced the commuters that Joshua Bell was important, so almost no one stopped.
What are you missing because no one told you it was important? What are you spending money on needlessly just because someone told you that you had to have it?
Money Beagle says
My wife got a PedEgg at the drugstore, so maybe you got yours earlier. I love it. I have permantly cracked feet that get worse in the summer. It did hurt a lot the first time I used it but after that, my feet realized that this was helping, and now it has practically reduced the cracks I have and keeps them much smoother.
I’ve always wondered about the other half of this experiment that wasn’t done.
Take a street performer from one city, say LA. Bring them to NY and have them do a show. The thing is you don’t just have them do a street show. You advertise them for months ahead of time in the same channels you would normally advertise a “world famous” performer. You pretend they are one and give them all the credit as such. You charge $100 a ticket for people to come see the performance.
I have a feeling it would reveal many people buying the tickets and appreciating how great the performance is. It would also prove that marketing is the big thing. I don’t believe it was a lack of perceived value/talent/whatever that prevented people from “properly” reacting to the performance. (I have read the original Post article but it’s been awhile.) I believe it was because people weren’t properly marketed to. I think it is an underlying problem with just how consumer driven we have become as a society.
Peter Anderson says
I’ve never bought something from an infomercial, but I think I’ve bought into the marketing hype for products more than once. Usually it’s for a tech gadget of one kind or another.
You’ll continually see companies that do well with marketing (like Apple), also doing well in the bottom line. They’re good at managing image and people’s idea of what the product can do for them, and as such they end up making a lot of people buy not just the product – but the idea behind the product (I’ll be hip, productive, etc). Then there are other companies that have great products, but their marketing isn’t that great. Often they end up failing as companies.
The older I get the more aware of the marketing hype I get I think, so I’m much more careful in making spending decisions these days.
Deborah @ImpulseSave says
That’s a great way of remembering what is really important. I like to try to remind myself, “Do I like this product because I like the idea or lifestyle that marketers are trying to sell me, or because I actually like and maybe even need the product?”
It’s important to look for clues as to what they are trying to tell you is important: family, money, gluttony, selfishness, or something else?
Josh @ Live Well Simply says
The fancier the marketing, the more wary I am of the product. If there’s a Superbowl Commercial for it, chances are, I won’t be buying that product.