My late Auntie Rita never took any business courses.
In fact, an immigrant from the "Old Country," she never even learned to read English. This is why, when she went to restaurants, she always ordered the exact same thing:
"I'll have what he/she is having."
I thought of Auntie Rita over the weekend while enjoying the camaraderie and bargains at a community sidewalk sale. Killing some time while waiting for my family to join me, I paraded by the many stalls selling everything from McFarlane Sports action figures and kitchen knick-knacks to high-end fashion and designer eyewear. Watching the consumer behavior, I realized that despite her lack of formal education (never mind her illiteracy!), Auntie Rita at least understood one of the key, double-fisted secrets of marketing:
1) People want what they can't have
2) People want what others got
This is no great revelation. Scarcity and envy have been a devilish duo in marketing for years. But still, sometimes lessons need to be re-learned. And re-lived. Live. Such was my Sunday.
For blocks, I watched it happen over and over. Items ignored for a spell until touched by someone else, then becoming instantly desirable to many. It was fun to watch, but after a while I decided--perhaps a little nastily--play with people's heads and wallets a bit myself.
I would head over to a table of goods, pick something up, look at it, handle it...and watched stealthly as others watched me. Then, as soon as I put it down--WHAM!--somebody else picked it up. They didn't always buy, but the cause-and-effect was VERY effective.
This isn't just brick-and-mortar. I see this work on-line all the time, most recently with a company called "Beyond The Rack." They sell "Luxury Brands at Exclusive Prices" in three-or-four day sales periods. Of course, the items that seem to be most desired are the ones labeled "Sold Out" or "Reserved (read: touched) by Others."
So...what does this mean?
As marketers, we always want to sell more. Maybe the answer is to make less.
Or at least, invest in a new breed of secret weapon: The Product Toucher.