Using Your Sophistication and Great Taste Against You

The consumer products industry is very skilled at selling things to you. Sometimes they sell so well, they don't even have to try. They create an environment where, sometimes, you carry water for them. You do the work for them by convincing yourself to spend more.

They can even do this while making you think you're smart, enlightened and above average.

One easy way this can be done is by creating an entire domain of ersatz knowledge and expertise that consumers want to learn, so they can become more "sophisticated" and have a greatly deepened appreciation of a given product.

Let's consider a textbook example of such a product: cigars.

How can we get legions of otherwise intelligent consumers to spend lots of money on cigars? It's quite easy actually.

First, create an entire body of knowledge out of the domain and make it so the customer has to work to learn all the nuances and details of cigar making... where the really good cigars come from, how they're made (by hand, painstakingly, of course), which are the best and why, and so on. Have them learn various memorable narratives about certain cigars: "This one, a newly legal Cuban, was made at the factory owned by Fidel Castro's personal cigar-maker," let's say. Or: "This one, from a remote village in Nicaragua, is made from tobacco grown from transplanted seeds of the finest Cuban tobacco breeds."

Be sure to have your customers memorize a long list of jargon, terminology and idiosyncratic phrases. Have them learn what it means to "toast the foot." Have them learn how to "retrohale." They are becoming knowledgeable about a very high-end, very elite topic. Let them signal their intelligence and sophistication by holding forth knowledgeably about it!

Then, sell them accessories, high-end ones of course. After all, it's pathetic to use a match when you can use your double torch lighter ($42.99). Using your teeth seems so undignified, so neanderthal-like, when you can use your personalized silver cigar cutter with its own carrying case ($59.99). Another advantage: accessories serve as mini ersatz knowledge domains too, by which a consumer can easily signal still more of his or her sophistication and good taste.

Now, let me ask readers a few questions: Once this cigar-buying consumer has learned all these things, once he's attained a meaningful level of sophistication, will he spend less money on cigars, or will he spend more? Or will he spend much, much, much more?

Which leads to another obvious question. Is it really in the interests of the consumer to obtain this knowledge?

Is it even "knowledge" at all?

Notes/For Further Reading
1) The Diderot Effect

2) Constructed Preferences

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I do research and pursue knowledge about coffee. But I do it to pursue great tasting inexpensive coffee. I have a great advantage in that I live in Central America. Some of the least expensive coffees can be the best tasting.