One of Seth Godin’s prevalent themes is that people don’t really buy a product, they buy the story that they have associated with that product. For example, his theory states that I don’t drive a 2001 Audi S4 because I inherently like fast, sporty European-built vehicles, but rather because I enjoy the self-image it gives me – the story it tells me about myself.
I have to confess that even though I am a big fan of Seth’s, this concept seemed a little esoteric up until now. I thought that surely people were sufficiently self-aware that they could separate their subconscious personal brand-building from their cognitive purchase decisions. But, looking at a photo from our Disney trip just now, I realize he’s right.
The thing is, in the last 9 months or so, I have lost about 30 pounds. And I really notice it. I feel thinner and less “flabby.” I feel like I appear thinner, too. I even look at this photo to the right and think I look noticeably leaner than a year ago. But then I glanced at this old photo down below, taken last May at an awards gala. (That’s Shawn Graham, the premier of New Brunswick with me. Because I take most of the pictures in our family, I’m not in many of them. This is the only electronic one I could find that was about a year old.)
And I realized that I look exactly the same as I did a year ago. But to Seth’s point, it doesn’t matter! I still feel like I look thinner and better, despite the evidence to the contrary. I like the story I’m telling myself more than the raw fact that I weigh less than I used to.
So what does this tell us as marketers? That the product is important, but ultimately the interaction of the customer and the product is what makes a successful relationship. And defining that interaction is what marketing can and should be doing.