Asked, “Which would you rather have: $5 million or five daughters?”
Without hesitation, the man replied, “Five daughters.”
What?! Who in their right mind would choose such a thing?
A man who currently has eight daughters.
Okay, that was a humorous story but it makes an interesting point. The value we assign to most things is relative.
Diamonds and gold would likely have no value if you were stranded on a deserted island. In a deep flood, even a simple canoe will be more valuable than the most expensive luxury car.
Where am I going with this?
Once again, the answer isn’t entirely clear to me.
I heard the story about the five daughters and, aside from the humorous value, it triggered a cascade of semi-formed thoughts and ideas. This post is a partial exploration of those.
As a copywriter and a marketing consultant, understanding motivation is a crucial thing.
At its root, all motivation is based on value assessments. Given a choice between two things, people will generally choose the one which they believe will give them the most value.
However understanding the value that others place on objects and activities is a slippery slope. For instance, given a choice between watching TV or reading a book, most people will choose TV.
Why? I think just about everyone would agree that reading a book is intrinsically more valuable than watching TV. But that value comes at a price in terms of time and effort expended.
Suppose I offer to sell you an apple for $1 or a candy bar for $1. Those who place a very high value on health would be more likely to choose the apple while those who value pleasure would likely choose the chocolate.
Now suppose the apple were only ten cents but the candy bar was still $1.
If everyone presented with that deal had $1 and were willing to spend it all, the percentage of who chooses which option probably wouldn’t change much. A few who might otherwise have chosen the chocolate might now choose the apple if they value still having money left over, or if they were very hungry and could buy several apples rather than just one candy bar.
What if you had at least ten cents but far less than $1? You could buy the apple now or put in a hour’s work to earn enough to buy the chocolate. How many more would value the speed and convenience of the apple they can afford over the time and effort spent to get the chocolate they can’t?
This may seem a ridiculous example when we’re talking about small inexpensive items like apples and candy bars but what about the difference between two rather expensive and purely discretionary luxury items? Let’s say a jet ski or a motorcycle.
Assuming both were equally appealing, what would be the result of applying the exercises above?
More importantly to a marketer, how can I make my product seem more valuable than the alternative?
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