“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.”
– William J. H. Boetcker
When I was in middle school AXE Body Spray was at the peak of it’s popularity. My friends and I all bought it as did did every other guy in our age range. It smelled horrible and the cans looked gaudy, but dudes kept purchasing more and more.
Because AXE’s entire marketing scheme revolved around the idea that anyone who used their product would get laid. It didn’t matter that their targeted demographic was dopey thirteen year old boys, AXE users were going to be drowning in sex. One spray and women would come flocking to you.
While the marketing campaign was stupid and illogical it worked. Tons of other brands have used similar ploys over the years. Beer ads, car commercials, and advertisements for clothes have all used the “buy are product and you’ll have sex” technique. Even, to a lesser and more politically correct extent, jewelry stores use this gimmick.
This sales pitch is effective because it promises the customer that there is a product that will give them something they don’t already have.
Does misery promote spending?
When I had a retail job I used to have to stock clothes. The place I worked at had a display for some children’s camping pajamas. The display was surrounded with images of smiling families seated around campfires and having a good time. On the rare occasions that I saw a family purchasing these pajamas they usually weren’t smiling or singing songs. The parents would be on the phone and the kids would be running around shrieking. Mom and dad got sold the idea that they’d buy the kids an outfit, take them camping, and have all their problems magically solved.
A family who was really close wouldn’t have been swayed by the advertisement. They’d be doing activities together regardless of whether or not they owned matching pajamas.
Likewise a guy who has sex isn’t going to be duped into believing that an aerosol can of perfume or case of beer is going to attract women. He already has the experience that the company is trying to sell.
Content individuals are an advertisers worst nightmare. Someone who is happy doesn’t need to spend a lot of money. They aren’t competing against someone else and they don’t need to spend money to try and cover their insecurities.
My own experience
When I decided not to go back to school I was miserable. I was working my dead end job for 10 hours a day, going to the gym for an hour, and then heading home to work on my business until the early morning. While all my friends were partying and having fun I was getting three to four hours of sleep and spending all my time working.
Whenever I had time off I would buy excessive stuff. Deep down I was jealous and spending money was my way of getting back. Shopping was my way of trying to make myself feel better, “I have a job I hate and a side hustle that isn’t going anywhere but that doesn’t matter because I bought a bunch of new clothes. Don’t you wish you could be me.”
Now I don’t really care about impressing other people. My competitive urges have all moved inwards. I no longer want to outdo someone else, I want to beat my own benchmarks. Once I adopted my new philosophy everything started to click. My business did better, I started seeing better gains at the gym, and I became all around happier.
While buying things isn’t bad per se, if your purchases make you happy then go for it, be certain that you’re spending money for the right reasons. Buying things out of compensation or competition isn’t going to bring value to your life.