Magazine

Why Do People Buy Stuff?

John Van Horn

We have been led to believe that “Madison Avenue” creates markets and forces or entices consumers to buy stuff.  McDonalds, Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, Nike, Ford, Delta Air Lines, Apple,  and thousands more all spend billions to get the great unwashed to buy their products.

But there is something we need to remember:

Unless people are hungry, thirsty, dirty, barefoot, in need of transportation, communication, and the like, they aren’t going to buy these products. There has to be a “need,” and the person must already have, at a minimum, thought about it for the advertising these companies produce to work at all.

Sure, I guess you could get someone who wasn’t looking for lunch to buy a Big Mac, or someone who had no interest in style or sport to pick up the latest Nike, or someone who lived in New York City and walked and took the subway to buy a Ford, but it would be really, really difficult.

The need must be there, and frankly considered, before a sale can

be made.

The problem is we can actively think about only a small number of issues at one time. If you are making a payroll, dealing with a recalcitrant employee, and taking a call from home about a broken pipe, it’s difficult to consider a new revenue control system or this parking guidance system or that new bit of software you know you need.

Consider the CEO of a small company watching the Super Bowl. He has his beer and popcorn, and is fully engrossed in the point spread. At half-time, a commercial for AT&T comes on. It shows an executive calling his own company and getting put on hold. Then it notes that AT&T can solve that problem.

Our hero stirs a bit, thinks, “Wow, that has happened to me,” and makes a note on the pad next to his chair to talk to someone in communications. He then goes back to the game.

The next day, the CEO calls Charlie in communications and says, “You know, we may have a problem with incoming phone calls. AT&T seems to have a solution. Give ’em a call.”

AT&T spent a million dollars a minute to make that happen. The problem already existed for our CEO, but AT&T got it from his subconscious to consciousness just long enough for him to take action.

I looked through the ads in the May 2014 PT, and of the nearly 60 ads there, only a few actually attempted to get the reader’s subconscious moving, piquing an interest so they would take action. That includes ads we at PT put in promoting us.

It’s wordy, it has no call to action, it doesn’t point out a need that the reader may have (lack of current news about their industry), nor perhaps how they could use that news to their advantage. It was created by the folks who created the website and, frankly, speaks to them (read that, to me and my staff) and not to the consumers.

How about a graphic of a perplexed parking manager talking to his boss? The boss says, “Sure, but who else has done it?” The tagline: “Be prepared with current parking info – www.parknews.biz.”

That’s it.  Clean, direct. And a reminder of that conversation you had when you were asked for information that you didn’t have. The inferred call to action? Log on to parknews.biz and get the info you need. See the ads below.

When we create media, we tend to talk to ourselves. We list features, engineering successes, timelines, use pretty graphics, clever phrases. But do we hit the reader where he lives, show him his “pain” and then the solution to it?

When Ford sells a van, they show a happy family safely going somewhere fun. The potential buyer would love to have his family safe and the kids quiet in the back seat. The Escape might not do it, but he may go look at one because of the ad.

Showing that the vehicle will carry a houseful of furniture might not be on his mind, but quiet during the trip certainly is. (Ford will have a different ad for the same vehicle, focusing on carrying a houseful of furniture, for those with that “need.”)

Think about it.

John Van Horn is publisher and editor of Parking Today. Contact him at jvh@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from August, 2014




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