Professor Tomlinson’s field is cultural sociology, and his book is not written for a marketing audience. Nonetheless, in less than two hundred words, he succeeds in putting a stake through pretty much all of our most dearly-held assumptions and beliefs.
Certainly consumer buying data supports the argument. People’s willingness to shop from a repertoire of brands, the absence of ‘loyalty beyond reason’, and the low incidence of 100% loyalty (as well as the largely undifferentiated nature of brands) suggests that people’s relationship with brands is far less deep than we often like to believe.
And recent research suggests that shoppers actually get more pleasure from wanting products than from actually owning them. Not entirely surprising given what we know about the workings of dopamine.
It is of course deeply uncomfortable reading for anyone in marketing. Yet in the spirit of resisting merely seeking out evidence that confirms our own baises, it’s an argument worth serious contemplation.
If for no other reason than the admission that marketing cannot satisfy the deepest desires of people might actually be a vote in favour of what really makes us human.
Ehrenberg, Scriven, Sharp, et al
Marsha L. Richins. ‘When Wanting Is Better Than Having: Materialism, Transformation Expectations, and Product-Evoked Emotions in the Purchase Process’, Journal of Consumer Research: June 2013