Marketing Mass Consumption

A client recently passed along an article from The Atlantic where Derek Thompson broke down all the ways we get duped every time we go to buy just about anything. After reading it, I got to thinking about how this relates to our clients and whether these tactics would be effective in our plans.

Thompson breaks down a study published in the Journal of Marketing about how marketers have taped into the psychology of shopping to take advantage of our shopping weaknesses. More than likely, you’ve fallen prey to one of the 11 tactics more than once. Some of the examples include:

  • Middle of the Road Buying: Consumer don’t want to feel cheap but also don’t want to act all Scrooge McDuck whenever they make a purchase, so when given the Good, Better, Best price options, we pick the Better option. Doesn’t matter how you frame it, more than likely you’ll pick the, in Thompson’s words, “Goldilocks” option.
  • We Follow the Rules: Have you been to a restaurant, looked down at the menu and seen something bolded, boxed or highlighted with a photo? There’s a reason for that. They want you to order it. And when you do, because you most likely will, you’ll have ordered the option with the highest-price margin.
  • Add a .99: Consumers have been trained to think that if it ends in .99 it’s cheap, it’s a bargain and we need it. You won’t see this on the end of high-end bags, designer shoes and fancy, white table cloth, restaurant menus but when you’re trolling the mall, it’s EVERYWHERE. Literally everywhere. It’s an automatic sign that this product is worth buying. So Get. It. Now.

The tactic I’ve been thinking about the most is what Thompson calls our “love [affair] with stories.” If you just see a $199 coffee maker alone, you’re going to think it’s pretty expensive. But walk down the aisle and see it next to a $399 version and you’ll think that coffee maker is the bargain of the century. We feel better because we’ve gotten a deal and since we have no real idea of what it should cost, we’re happy campers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these techniques when it comes to marketing my own clients. Do we capitalize on the discount craze? Do we give consumers the “free stuff” they’re clamoring for? Should price be adjusted (throw a .99 on it) to make consumers feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck?

I think it comes down to the product and your market. Using these tactics correctly can translate to huge profits. Use them incorrectly and you run the risk of offending and turning off your core audience. Doing your due diligence to know your clients’ audience must be at the core of any marketing plan. Without it, any attempts to drive business may fall flat with your intended consumer.

Read Derek Thompson’s Full Article from The Atlantic: “The 11 Ways That Consumers Are Hopeless at Math