Worth Every Penny: A Luxury Experience

Have you ever gotten home and then wondered why you bought something? I am sure everyone in North America has experienced a little bit of buyer’s guilt at some time. Maybe you thought you needed the item, but then realized you didn’t, or maybe you thought the product would help you in some way, but it didn’t fit into your lifestyle, or maybe you really did need and use the item, but the high cost made you regret it a little bit. Marketing is the process of convincing people that a product will enhance their life in some way. Each industry approaches this in different ways.
Most industries are happy to maintain a portion of the market share, as long as they are not losing ground. In fast food, it’s so competitive that if they have even one quarter without market share growth, they consider that a loss. Honestly, though, everyone has to eat. Fast food marketing is just a matter of convincing customers to fill their need at a specific chain. It’s not like convincing them to buy something they don’t need… like deodorant.
Yes, believe it or not, deodorant was once considered a luxury. It took marketers a long time to convince people that body odour was bad and that deodorant was the answer. We may wear deodorant and consider is essential now but there are still non-essential items being sold to us today. The marketing behind luxury items fascinates me.
When you don’t need the product, you’re buying the experience. Before you even get to the store you may be anticipating specific parts of the experience based on the marketing and what you have heard about the store. Anticipation is like smelling dinner cooking: it doesn’t fill any need but is enjoyable nonetheless.
As you work your way down a perfume line sampling scents, you’re rewarding your senses. There is a moment of anticipation and maybe even apprehension as you discover how the product smells. Going through a full range of emotions, even “negative ones”, is healthy. Fully using and challenging our senses is equally important. (see more on stimulating the brain and body here)
When you find a great scent, you get rewarded. Your brain sends out a signal that makes you think you did a good job and sends reward chemicals to the brain. So just shopping for a new fragrance is no longer about finding something to make you smell nice, it’s a journey with real mental rewards and health benefits.
Retailers intentionally craft everything from the layout of the store to the staff interactions. One retailer for beauty products designed their store to give a spa-like-experience. But how could the woman enjoy the experience if they were anxious about poor hubby waiting in the car? So, this smart retailer designed a lounge area with easy chairs and things to keep the men occupied. This strategy allows the woman to relax and enjoy the time.
Enjoying my time and having personal attention is vastly different from my grocery store.  The cashier rarely looks at me as they speak. They quickly ask me about Airmiles, not even using a full sentence. Then ask about the payment method.  But at a luxury store, associates lavish attention on the customer, thanking them for their time and purchase, inquire about payment, explaining how any follow up will work and giving tips for best product use. It feels good to have people care about you and that’s part of the experience.
The experience continues as they wrap up your product, set it is a special case and then place it in an exclusive bag. Care is shown at each step. Maybe the tissue paper is specifically designed and branded. The bag is almost always special, branded carefully and often just the perfect size for the item. The item is wrapped up so neatly, it’s like getting a gift. You may have paid for it, but it’s still a pleasure just to look at and you feel extra reward and value. Have you ever noticed how a box of chocolates is different from any other box?
A box of chocolates often has a fancy sleeve or seal on it. Not only does this help with colours and branding, but the added step creates anticipation as you work to open the box. What you work, for becomes more valuable. Once you get the sleeve off, the box lid flips open to reveal the full top of the chocolates. The grand reveal! Most other boxes open from the side and you only see a small sliver or must slide the item out. With luxury items, it’s all about the reveal, the feel, the experience.
Colour also impacts how we feel about items. Each colour has a feel. We associate black with strength and stability, blue with authority and orange with youth. Studies have even shown that colours can affect us physically in other ways. A blue room may make people feel physically cold. By changing the colour, but not the temperature, the room can feel warmer. There are even studies that show how people sleeper more deeply on pastel coloured sheets. This makes no sense to me as we can’t even see the linens when we’re in bed.
The makers of luxury items, such as chocolate, perfume and designer clothes, need to harness the power of colours. Designer clothes have unique features to make them stand out, such as red soles. And perfumers may choose logos that help give an air of elegance. 
Marketing is a vast topic; one I find very interesting. It’s amazing to learn how colours can affect people.  It’s fun to see how retailers work to design an experience instead of selling a product. The whole idea for this article came after seeing custom shopping bags and a bottle of perfume lying neatly in a tissue lined box. I realized this is far from how we buy groceries. And I wondered why. I realized that when we need an item, like food, we’ll buy it. But if we don’t need an item, we are buying something else: the experience, a reward or even status.
What if buying groceries was designed to feel like getting a gift for yourself? What if all retailers showed the same attention to customers as a perfumer might? What if the items we need to buy also gave us an enjoyable experience?


  1. Hmm interesting thoughts, Duncan. Definitely a lot of really good points. Makes you think. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Tori! I'm glad it made you think. It's what I try to do. ;) What specifically stood out to you?

    2. It just amazes me how adept we've become at alluring people to buy more and more and more stuff.
      Also, just to be extremely careful not to buy just to buy. To be sure it's something we really need. Of course, it's not wrong to buy something we want...just not out of control.

    3. You're right, it's amazing how much research goes into marketing.
      We do need to be careful not to over-consume. Some non-essentials can still enrich and add value to our lives though. One example would be how shopping for a nice scent may increase our connection with the world around us through our senses and also may make us more considerate people after being shown such kindness and attention.


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