Why do you Buy?


Why do you Buy?

A CEO is sitting in his living room watching the NBA finals. He is a Miami fan and his team is one game up. The last thing he is thinking about is his business. Pat Riley sends Eric Spolestra a note and wants Lebron on the bench. A timeout is called. A commercial from ATT comes on.

A CEO is walking through an airport and calls his own company. He is put on hold. ATT has a solution for that problem.

Our hero remembers that the same thing happened to him a month ago. He makes a note to have Charlie down in Communications call ATT and find out what their new product is all about. He goes back to the game just as Spolestra overrules Riley and leaves Lebron in the game. Final score Dallas 86, Miami 83. Whoops!

The ATT ad did exactly what it was supposed to do. It reminded the CEO that he had a problem he already knew about. A busy CEO can’t track all the company’s problems. He or she can usually keep about five up front in their consciousness with the rest floating around with the date of their anniversary and the kids shoe sizes. However, ATT reminded him of what he needed and may get a big payoff for their ad on the ABC.

The same thing happened at the trade show in Pittsburgh. Very few people who walked up the aisles actually said “wow, there’s something I need but never thought of it before.” What they did was have a list of a few things they wanted particularly to see and other things lurking in the back of their minds.

What this means is that vendors can’t “sell” a person something unless they actually already need it and have thought about it. The concept of “creating a need” is baloney. That fancy car on Hawaii 50 reminds me of how badly my Belchfire 12 is running and how much the tune up will cost. The catalogue for lawn furniture catches my attention usually because the stuff in the back yard is pretty scuzzy after leaving it out past the first snow.

It’s the same in business. You know that you pay too much for electricity, but there are more pressing issues like the manager who quit this morning. You have been thinking about replacing gates, but who can worry about that when the fourth floor tenant slipped and almost broke his leg.

You know the gates are flakey, that the lighting is costly, and that there may be a better way to get oil off the floor. So when you walk through the exhibition, the items that catch your eye are the lights, and the gates, and maybe that powder that soaks up oil. You will have little interest in items that solve problems you don’t have, or don’t know you have.

It’s the job of the exhibitor or the advertiser to remind you of your problems and give you a way out. It’s how it work. Now you know.

Think about it – the next time you buy something. Did you buy it because Ronald told you to, or because you were hungry when you saw those golden arches?

OK, back to the game.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

4 Responses

  1. You forgot about ‘want’ as a motivation to buy.
    You also neglect to pay the proper respect to marketing, which is how needs are created when they don’t already exist. Creating a need is real. It comes in different forms, such as creating awareness of a lack you didn’t identify with an accompanying solution you were not aware of.
    I turned on my tv and saw a commercial for a solar-powered inverter that is perfect for power outages or camping. Didn’t know I needed it until I saw it existed. They created a need and a way to satisfy it. I bought one. Badda bing.

  2. Actually, the entire piece was about marketing, not selling. Needs cannot be created unless they already exist. For instance — In your example, you are a camper, you know and have probably experienced power outages, you had a problem, but didn’t have a solution — suddenly you see an ad and you thought ‘wow, that would solve my existing problem.’ I don’t camp — I don’t have the problem. All the need creating on the planet wouldn’t cause me to buy a solar powered inverter…JVH

  3. The number one rule of marketing; “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”
    It’s not a complicated concept, the complicated part is making your “sizzle” stand out from that of your competitors.

  4. Yes — sell what is different. People already assume you do the same as everyone else. And if you can’t fix it, feature it. JVH

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