This past Sunday, the Boston Globe reported on new research that shows that giving preferential treatment to a few can generate demand from everyone. The research was part of doctoral dissertation by Allison K.C. Lo.
As part of the research she did some amazing experiments. Some which were somewhat predictable – like the fact that by giving away swimsuits to the Olympic swimmers Speedo increased its sales of swimwear, or that by hosting free tastings exclusively for bartenders, Belvedere Vodka became one of the most successful Vodka launches. It is a known fact in marketing that people want to be associated with the “experts.”
Other experiments were less evident, such as the one that showed that you do not even need an expert endorsement to convey that expert comparison. In one of those experiments, people were offered a camcorder with a $30 gift certificate to either Wal-Mart of for a for a Seagate external hard drive, which a tech-savvy buyer might use to store digital photos or video. What they found is that people preferred the Wal-Mart gift certificate over the Seagate because it gave them more flexibility. When they repeated the experiment with comparable camcorders that each came with just one offer, the researchers found that whichever camcorder came with the Seagate coupon won. The reason was because the hard drive promotion was perceived as something that high end camcorder buyers would buy. And people wanted to be associated with the high end guys.
So leveraging envy as part of your marketing works…probably just like leveraging people’s ego, avarice and ambition…