Saturday, May 5, 2012

I need what I want.

          I was recently browsing in a psychology book, and the author asked this question: "Did you every buy an advertised product you really didn't need because of the persuasive appeal of the ad?"

          All of us could probably answer yes, because there are very few things we need. Marketing people say a need is a felt deprivation. We don't need clothes; we're not cold. We don't need food, and if we're hungry, we know exactly where to go for more calories. We most likely have shelter, even though we may not get along with our roommate.

         So first off, let's put aside needs and talk about wants. That reframes the question: "Did you ever buy an advertised product you really didn't want because of the persuasive appeal of the ad?"

         I doubt that any of us in advertising are that powerful. Maybe we can convince you that something is useful, and you then decide you want it. But we can't go from product to want directly --- we're not hypnotists.

         It's funny. That's the one thing advertising is accused of most often, and we're never that good. We have to tell you a story, or hire a celebrity to talk to you, or draw a cartoon, or dig up a testimonial or some arresting facts and figures. And then you still wouldn't buy it unless you wanted it. We have to charm you, tickle you, entrance you, promise you, scare you, warn you,  guarantee you, write a song for you, and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. And still the odds are against us.

         I'll give you a strange fact. Researchers have learned never to ask someone if they've been persuaded  by advertising to buy a certain product. People always say no, they're not pushovers.

         But ask them if other people are persuaded by advertising, and they invariably say yes, they are.

         Maybe we should all get a little deeper into a book on motivation.


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