Why Do Some People Spend $1,200 on Handbags?

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

One of my first marketing lessons came when I was 18 years ago.
I was working at a gas station and one of my co-workers came in with a brand new handbag.
Everyone was making a big deal out of it because it was a “Louis Vuitton” bag that cost $1,200.
I had no idea what Louis Vuitton was at the time. (Trust me, you’ll know what LV is after dating a few Asian girls).
But I did the math and it didn’t add up.
She made around $9 an hour.
I couldn’t understand why she would spend an entire MONTH’s savings on a handbag.
Am I missing something here? A $100 handbag from Marshall’s can hold her stuff as well as a $1,200 one.
So I asked her why she bought it.
She told me about how she appreciates the leather…the craftsmanship…the history behind the brand.
Blah, blah, blah.
I felt that was how she rationalized the purchase, but it wasn’t why she bought it.
It wasn’t until several years later that I understood the psychology and the marketing lessons behind it.
If you’re going to be a successful marketer, then you have to understand the different reasons why people buy.

The REAL Business of Business

Businesses never really sell products.
They sell outcomes and emotions.
I love this image from Digital marketer.
product market fit1
There’s who your customer is now aka the before state.
Your goal is to sell them a promise to help them get into an after state.
We all have an identity that we’re striving for.
We want to feel a certain way about ourselves.
We want people to view us in a certain way.
She wanted to feel rich. She wanted people to view her as being wealthy too.
In her mind…a rich woman would carry a luxury handbag.
If she had that bag, then her status would increase. Maybe people would view and treat her differently.
There are so many examples of this playing out besides handbags.
I remember walking around NYC and seeing a ton of guys waiting in line at the “Supreme” store.

And Supreme sells shirts that look like this
Uhhh…I don’t get “Supreme,” but I’m sure there’s an identity that Supreme’s selling. This is a big marketing lesson – those t-shirts are nothing special, but people are lining up in bulk to buy ’em.
Let’s see what other examples.
Big 4 lawyers ride Harley Davidsons on the weekend because they want the bad boy look and to be part of something fringe.
Before = boring suit and tie
After = bad boy
It’s hard to “be” a bad boy. It’s a shortcut to buy a Harley so people might view you as one.
Michael Jordan built an empire from selling shoes.

Will spending $300+ on basketball shoes help you play like Michael Jordan?
Probably not. But it gives you the feeling at least that you’re wearing the same shoes he did.
What are some other examples you can think of?

How to Implement This In Your Campaigns

There are a ton of ways to do this.
If you’re promoting weight loss stuff, it’s gonna be obvious.
Before = shunned by society, single, feel guilty, insecure
After = heads turning to check you out, fun dating life, confident, better opportunities
You can really sell the story in your landing page copy.
People don’t really care how it works. People care about the feelings the product can give.
But you can do this for EVERY product/service you sell online.

First – Think about the feelings before and after for your target audience

Here are a few examples of before/after for ecommerce products.
Tactical gear
Before = vulnerable, insecure, worried for your family
After = tough, prepared for anything, a “real man”
Interesting home and garden pieces
Before = boring, bland, ugly
After = stylish, cultured, intelligent
New electronics
Before = luddite, outsider, clueless
After = early adopter, smart, efficient
You can create branding and a theme that fuels the identity.
Would you promote a survivalist store with a pink and flowery theme? Nah. You can create a rugged, and masculine design.
Next, think of the shortcut your product gives them
A lot of this comes down to the angle.
There’s an app called Blinkist.
Their angle is “Hey, wanna get smart but hate reading long books? We summarize them to be 10 minutes to read”.
That’s a great shortcut. It means you can say you’ve read the book, and you get the main points, without having to spend the 5-6 hours reading it.
Use their app and you get most of the benefits, without the pain.
The shortcuts for the products above?
Tactical gear = you don’t have to spend 10 years getting a black belt if you have a flashlight that can blind an intruder.
Home and garden = you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on expensive designer pieces when our stuff is 1/20th of the price and your snobby friends will never know the difference.
New electronics = you look smart and like a bit of a geek without actually knowing anything about how they are built or programmed.

Brainstorm Before Your Do Anythingproduct market fit3

Before you write any ads, sales copy, headlines etc. make up a table like the one above.
How do people feel in before and after having your product?
Next, think about how you are going to shortcut them there.
Do this before you launch a campaign and you’ll give yourself a much higher chance of success.

What’s the Feeling They’re Buying?

Remember that people buy for different reasons.
You buy food because it satisfies your need for survival.
But why do people go to $300 restaurants?
Go to YouTube and search for cologne commercials.
Notice NONE of them talk about what the cologne smells like. The entire commercials are about cultivating an image.
Whenever you’re selling an item, think about what people are ultimately trying to achieve.

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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