This week I was interviewed by NPR’s Marketplace program on the reason men would buy a fancy new Gillette razor for $15 or so when they could easily get a damned good shave for less than a buck.
Although the question appears to be sound, it is–to my thinking–rather naïve. In the vast majority of cases, we pay more than we need to for virtually everything precisely because we rarely need any of the stuff we buy.
It all boils down to what makes people tick. As a businessperson, a marketer, it’s the most important question we must grapple with. And as far as I’m concerned, the the most powerful force that makes people tick comes in the form of dreams.
Which brings us to the $15 razor, the $9,000 Gucci purse and the $500 “age defying” skin cream/youth serum. Widely disparate items all, they are however fused together by the fact, the epiphany, that led to their creation: people buy goods and services that they believe will perform magic for them. Provide them with youth, success, attractiveness, sexuality, stature, status and the like.
No one buys a $15 razor: the marketers create an image that serves as a Rorschach test of sorts: people see in it what they want to see. The razor, the subconscious thinking goes, leads to a shave that is much smoother, that will make women swoon, confidence soars, handsome turns irresistible.
The idea that we can read a self-help book, gain entry into a prestigious college, win an executive office, drive a car that adds immeasurably to our personalities and our stature–these are the dreams behind the purchases that propel the economy. And that give validation to the business of marketing.
Is it manipulative? Who has the right to answer? And who should deny others the pleasure of their dreams?
Because it is those dreams that make people tick.