Last week, I started to go into some detail about the emotions involved in a prospective customer’s decision to buy a product or service. Fear and Greed top the list (particularly Fear), but there are other emotions to consider as well.
Vanity is a powerful motivator. It is why the beauty product industry, athletic clubs, the diet market and cosmetic surgeons all continue to thrive even in today’s current economic downturn. Everyone wants to feel better about themselves and like the person they see in the mirror (as well as be attractive to potential romantic interests) and they’re usually willing to pay good money toward that end. However, this does not mean that playing on vanity is limited to the sale of self-improvement products.
It’s something that auto makers have known since the 1920s, when automobiles transitioned from a rich man’s toy into an everyday tool of the masses. I recall an ad for a certain German sportscar that aired sometime in the mid-to-late 1970s. It began with a shot of a very handsome and well-dressed gentleman getting out of the vehicle and a voice-over narration that said (in a very deep, masculine and authoritative voice): “This man earns fifty thousand dollars a year…” (this was a time when $50K a year was considered quite a hefty income, of course).
All-in-all, it was a powerful image and presentation. It is not difficult to imagine how any man might have wanted to put himself in that guy’s shoes (need I mention that later in the ad, the driver winds up with a gorgeous young woman on his arm, which whom he later drives off with into the sunset?)
Designer clothing is another product that often relies on vanity in order to appeal to consumers. It is of course impossible to ignore the fact that the people (of both genders) who model such clothing are invariably beautiful and often placed into glamorous settings?
It’s not just designer clothing, of course. In fact, the clothing industry appeals to vanity in ways that are often subtle. Consider work boots and western wear, with ads depicting rugged, hard-working, tough-looking guys. Men who are part of this target market generally like to think of themselves this way; if wearing such clothing helps to reinforce this self image, they’re likely to buy it. Another example: certain clothing manufacturers who promote the fact that their products are made in the U.S.A. by workers making a family-wage working with environmentally-friendly, fair-trade materials. Surely, supporting such a business is morally the right thing to do – but again, vanity can come into the equation here as well. After all, won’t others think better of you if you are supporting domestic industries and helping the planet?
Of course, nobody wants to be thought of as “vain” – but let’s be honest – all of us (myself included) have our vanties, whether it is about our looks, our posessions, our creations or something else. Deftly handled, vanity can be a powerful sales tool.