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The MondayMorningMemo© of Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads®
The MondayMorningMemo for December 4, 2006

Why We Buy

Happiness rarely triggers commerce. Unhappiness often does.

Purchases are triggered by dissatisfaction with the way things are. We purchase when we have a need, a desire, an itch to scratch. We want to change our condition, our surroundings, our state of mind. We buy because we are dissatisfied.

And this dissatisfaction is often created by the advertising that offers to remedy it.

In his 1957 essay, American Advertising, Marshall McLuhan describes a letter written by an American army officer stationed in Italy after World War II. The officer "noted with misgiving that Italians could tell you the names of cabinet ministers but not the names of commodities preferred by Italian celebrities. Furthermore, the wall space of Italian cities was given over to political rather than commercial slogans. Finally, he predicted that there was small hope that Italians would ever achieve any sort of domestic prosperity or calm until they began to worry about the rival claims of cornflakes or cigarettes rather than the capacities of public men. In fact, he went so far as to say that democratic freedom very largely consists in ignoring politics and worrying about the means of defeating underarm odor, scaly scalp, hairy legs, dull complexion, unruly hair, borderline anemia, athlete's foot, and sluggish bowels."

This crass, commercial outlook described by McLuhan escalated to its zenith in the early 80's, then began to slowly subside.

Today's purchases remain an expression of self, but they aren't always selfish. Our favorite brands are usually an extension of our values, a physical expression of our beliefs. This is why millions of us pay slightly higher prices for Fair Trade coffee. It tastes exactly like the coffee sold by heartless corporations, but Fair Trade coffee makes us feel differently.

Those who have heard my presentation on Society's Pendulum will remember that 2006 was the 4th year of a new Civic cycle in which we're drawn toward others who believe as we do.

"Every brand must have an identity and the most effective identities are those that take on the trappings of social justice: The Body Shop owns compassion, Nike spirituality, Pepsi and MTV youthful rebellion." – Thomas Frank, (1997)

"The great brands have succeeded in conveying their vision by questioning certain conventions, whether it's Apple's humanist vision, which reverses the relationship between people and machines; Benetton's libertarian vision, which overthrows communication conventions; Microsoft's progressive vision, which topples bureaucratic barriers; or Virgin's anti-conformist vision, which rebels against the powers that be." – Jean-Marie Dru

You buy what you buy because you want to scratch an itch. You are dissatisfied in some unspoken way.

To increase your sales volume, you must identify the dissatisfaction that lurks in the heart of your customer.

And then you must shine your flashlight of words into that darkness.

How bright is your language-beacon?

Roy H. Williams

AUSTIN ALERT – Beginning tonight, The Journey of the Wise Men will happen every 20 minutes from 6pm to 9pm on the campus of Wizard Academy. If you're willing to take a guide-led walk through the woods after dark, we promise you a very happy ending. Be sure to check in at the welcome center. There's no charge. Here are detailed directions and the phone number of the campus Welcome Center.

Merry Christmas.

And here is another gift.

The MondayMorningMemo© of Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads®
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