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John Wayne Marketing: Part 2

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In part one, we talked about some characteristics of the successful self-made person. What does all of this information reveal about the affluent self-made customer? For one, they are pretty much the same, regardless of age or gender. All are strong personality types, who have struggled and worked hard for everything they have achieved. Extreme independence sums up their psychological profile. They do not believe in luck, and the words “cannot” and “no” are not in their vocabulary. Whereas when a seller of luxury goods or services says “yes” to them, regarding a request, they keep coming back, because they like and approve of the seller’s “can do” attitude. It reminds them of themselves.

The affluent self-made like doing business with people who have common sense, specialized knowledge, self-confidence, creativity, leadership ability, and who are self-reliant and get things done. And because they are self-made, they look for value. This means they will negotiate over price, and like to think they’re getting a good deal.

The psychological factor to remember when marketing to the self-made affluent customer is this: they need to “feel right” about a luxury purchase. If they feel right about it, they will part with their hard-earned money. Feeling right about a luxury purchase involves a concept called “sensation transference.” Defined by a man named Louis Cheskin, sensation transference is when a customer unconsciously transfers his perception of the way a product is packaged over to the actual product. To put it another way, most customers do not distinguish the package from the product. To most customers, the two concepts – the packaging and the product – are one and the same. Which explains the old adage, “Packaging is everything.”

Sensation transference is the same idea as “dressing to impress,” which is where the way one dresses does make a powerful and irreversible first impression on the people one meets. An applicant for a position at a Wall Street brokerage firm needs to make a strong first impression. No matter how smart he is, no matter which prestigious business school he graduated from, if he shows up wearing an Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt, shorts, and skater shoes, the interviewer identifies the applicant with his clothing. The interviewer does not distinguish between the packaging and the product. If the packaging is inappropriate, so is the applicant. Subconsciously, the interviewer will reject the applicant as a viable candidate for the job.

Cheskin’s sensation transference concept is the reason Imperial margarine is yellow and comes wrapped in foil. Due to those two simple changes, color and packaging, margarine now outsells butter. The same was true about brandy. By merely changing the shape of the bottle, Cheskin could get one brand to outsell another brand. Other examples include how much yellow is on a can of 7-Up, the face of the chef on Chef Boyardee ravioli, peaches in a jar instead of a can, the sprig of parsley on the Hormel can, and round ice cream cartons instead of rectangular. In each case, because of one minor change to the packaging, people believed the product tasted better and were willing to pay more for it.

A prime instance of sensation transference occurred in the world of perfume and fragrance in 1982. Serge Lutens designed a perfume for Shiseido of Japan. Called Nombre Noir, the fragrance combined the floral scent of osmanthus and a rosy-woody-prune scent. The combination produced a wonderful sachet. What really made Nombre Noir desirable, though, was its packaging, which was magnificent. One description of the packaging called it “the most unremittingly, sleekly, maniacally luxurious packaging you can imagine: a black octagonal glass Chinese bottle nestled in exquisitely folded black origami of the most sensuous standard.” The one-ounce bottle sold for $1000. Shiseido no longer produces the scent. Yet because of its packaging, Nombre Noir is, even today, considered one of the five great perfumes of the world. Perfume bottle collectors prize its phial more than the perfume itself. Which demonstrates the power of packaging on affluent customers.

As far as marketing to the affluent self-made customer is concerned, the point is this: even though self-made rich people are independent, and think for themselves, if they “feel right” about a luxury product they will purchase it. The way to get them to feel right about a product is wrapped up in the packaging. Package the luxury item correctly, which means in an appealing way, and they will buy it.

This means anyone who is selling luxury goods and services to affluent self-made customers needs to take another look at the product’s packaging. How can it be enhanced or improved? What small change in appearance will make the product “feel right?”

It goes without saying this concept of sensation transference is applicable to any potential buyer of luxury goods.

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