The why of the buy

I have a theory: Marketing is what happens to you, but the sale is an inside job. 

Marketing is savvy positioning to generate awareness and desire. However, while designed to be foreplay to the sale, it is not the sale.

I think the tipping point of making a non-commodity sale comes out of our ego — our image of ourselves and what we deem important to uphold that. I am especially interested in what motivates human beings and how our “personalities” choose our mates, the cars we drive, the jobs we choose and even how we shop and pack.

I had a shopping experience last week that had me take a good look at myself and the purchase process. While passing by a relatively upscale “non-brand” boutique, I saw a great shirt in the window. I went inside, picked the shirt up from the table, examined it, said “Hmmph” and put it down. Thirty seconds later, a woman came up to the same table, picked up the same shirt, said “Hmmph” and put it over her arm. When she took the last shirt on the table, something akin to shopping fireworks went off in my brain. Great marketers know how to manipulate a sale with this — the “what if” alarm. What if the shirt was cuter than I thought? What if it’s the last one? What if I am missing out on something? Marketers love the scarcity tactic. “Let them think there are only two airline tickets left at this price,” or, “Hurry, this offer expires soon,” or, “We’ll throw in xyz if you move now.”

Where we shop and how we buy varies widely. Outside of price, some of you may shop guided by the following:

Necessity: No more underwear

Location: Pivotal in terms of time, sustainability, weather, emergency, transportation, etc.

Environment: When you just “feel” better shopping in a certain venue — varies for everyone. One man’s Whole Foods is another man’s Costco.

Value: Not real. Value is interpretation.

Fun: For some there is joy in shopping for anything. For others, the joy is item-specific. While my husband’s eyes roll back in his head at the sight of a clothing store, those same eyes hunt through Home Depot like the survival of the tribe back home depended on it.

If the image we hold of ourselves and fantasy of what this product will “do” for us is a match, we buy.

Back at the store I told the salesperson I was “desperate” for that shirt. The salesperson went in the back and came back with, “Wow. You’re lucky. This is the last one, and it’s in your size.” I looked at it, thanked him and left the store without it. What happened? The product was great, but it “wasn’t me.”

I thought of one friend who told me she bought a pair of shoes that she thought would look great on her while yachting around Greece. I asked when she was going. She had no plans to visit Greece. It didn’t matter. We all want life to turn out the way we want, and that fantasy is intrinsic in making the buy. 

I see myself a certain way. We all do. Even Buddhists envision the perfect color saffron robe. Marketing may get us to the door, but better check in with the ego before taking out that credit card.