Marketing has come to a point where the essential factor in selling a product is first, knowing your customers, starting with deep understanding and simple psychology. David Ogilvy, one of the world’s best known ad men, spoke the truth when he said “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife”. And consequently more and more successful marketers influence public opinion by giving their consumers exactly what they want to see, hear, read, taste, and buy.
From the middle of November, stores try to convince us that Christmas is much closer than we think. Everything starts with gradually putting small decorations such as candles and cinnamon cookies on the shelves. A week later the stores turn on the first Christmas lights, and by the first of December there’s barely any stuff in the shops that doesn’t call the warm spirit of Christmas to mind.
“Good, I have everything I need in order to give myself and my loved ones the best Christmas ever” you said to yourself at the beginning of December. Yep, you have everything you need … That’s when you sit in front of the big TV that you were convinced to buy years ago in order to have the best screen resolution ever and, while watching a new commercial, you realize there’s no Christmas without putting marshmallows on a stick and dipping them into a bowl of chocolate as they do in the US. So you pull your brand new shopping list out of your pocket and carefully write down at least two bullet points: marshmallows and chocolate.
Majority phenomenon can easily be observed at the end of November when people get a day off work and stores offer some really crazy sales. It’s called Black Friday, and people massively wait in lines to rush into stores when they open. Retailers secretly raise prices a week or two before the big date, then lower them back down again right on Black Friday, and people go crazy. More than 307,000,000 consumers shopped in stores or online on Black Friday in 2013! Total spending on Black Friday was $57,400,000,000 with an average expenditure of $407,23 per customer. It seems that the easiest way to trick people in the massive Black Friday shopping event is still the percentage sign, combined with the ‘off’ word. Just give people 50% off and they will buy twice as much as they planned to.
Black Friday proves that we are herd animals who make decisions based on what those around us are doing. We often justify our choices this way, validating our actions on the basis that others are doing the same thing. That is also why suddenly football is connected with beer and Santa with Coca-Cola. All of society drinks hectolitres of beer during the world championship, and if you can’t cheer with 50,000 other fans in a football stadium you can cheer with a beer in a pub full of people. Of course there is a rivalry between beer brands (which of them will be a match sponsor) but you’ll also choose and buy those you see other people drinking. In Germany, the government released consumption numbers during the World Cup in Brazil and reported that beer sales saw a 14% rise over the previous month with 213 million gallons sold in one thirty-day period. Considering they averaged 20 pints per person for June, the numbers were even crazier by the end of August.
Humans are visual creatures, and if we can’t be convinced by three repetitions of a single sentence, a clear image with happy people on it will do the trick. Even people who think they are not influenced by consumerism and by the marketing campaigns some of the most influential companies adopt are affected over the long run. They are influenced by discounted prices and a promise that the “united as one concept” product, as featured in the advertisements, will make them feel different.
Pure psychology is on the march, and everything starts with peer pressure in the first grades of school, where the opinions of schoolmates count the most. There is always one trendsetter in the class who has the best school supplies or the newest fluorescent Nike shoes, and sooner or later everyone follows. Not only kids, but their parents. With simple deals from smart marketers, most parents aren’t able to resist buying their kid the newest product there is, influenced by their kid’s wishes and internalized thinking that new is always better than old.
But what is even worse than that? Eighty-seven percent of people believe everything if there is a percentage sign after it.
According to a 2013 study by Nielsen, “Trust in advertising”, “Word of mouth” or recommendations from friends and relatives had the highest rating among the respondents. Eighty-four percent of respondents in 58 countries specified this source of information as the most reliable. In second place was advertising on corporate websites (the confidence level increased from 60% in 2007 to 69% in 2013). Advertising on television, in newspapers and magazines continues to be among the most reliable forms of paid advertising. However, according to the experts from Nielsen, today’s consumers are not limited to obtaining information from the traditional media channels, they are also looking for information on the Internet. And now, consumers can defend their favourite brands, a fact which shouldn’t remain unnoticed by brand managers.