Monday, 3 March 2014

Billy’s Seventeenth Law: Axiom Three: Status Counts…Status is important

If you can’t be the bride at the wedding or the corpse at the funeral, why go?
Grandma Nelly
Last week, we talked about the belonging or associative need.  Early humanity formed groups in order to thrive and survive.  We instinctively need people.  There is, however, another side to humanity and that is the importance of the individual.  We are not only social animals, but we are unique … we are individuals.  It is this context that brings forth the notions of the final two emotional needs, status and control. 
Advertisers commonly use status as an emotional buying need.  Status reflects our position, or our desired position within our group or tribe.  The tribe may protect the tribe members from outside threats, but status is often a battle within the tribe.  We want to know our status and, often, improve our status.  We want more.  To quote Abraham Maslow, “Man is a perpetually wanting animal.” (Alternatively, to quote Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”)
We compete within the many tribes in which we live in modern society.   I have brothers (the Family Tribe) and brothers compete.  (I only have one sister, so I have no insight on how sisters compete.)  We have our work tribes, our school tribes, and our social tribes.  The notion of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ is just another manifestation of our desire to enhance our position within our various tribes. Tribes also compete with each other, often with a status method.  Here in my province of British Columbia, the government proudly proclaims it. "The best place on earth."
If the first aspect of status is our position within the tribe, the second is our desired position within the tribe.  This is our aspiration.  Aspiration is also a huge influencer over our behaviour, including our buying behaviour.  The target market for ‘Seventeen’ magazine is not the seventeen year old, but the fourteen and fifteen year old aspiring to be seventeen.  The seventeen year old is perceived to have more status, and thus is desirable to emulate…at least within that demographic tribe. 
Status manifests itself in many ways.  Sometimes, the selection of a brand is in itself tribal.  The Mac vs. PC commercials is classic examples of Mac presenting itself as the ‘cool’ group whereas PC is part of the ‘nerdy group’.  As my daughter would say, “We never really left high school.” 
Status is all about how we look to the outside world.  Status manifests itself differently to differently people.  My friends are real ‘car guys’.  One drives a Mercedes SUV and the other a Porsche.  I drive a Chevy Cruise.  I used to drive a Saturn.  For the most part, I want a sensible car that delivers good gas mileage and has a low cost per km.  On the other hand, I was an early adopter of both the e-book (I had the Sony and now use a Kobo Glow) and pre ordered my IPad.  I could tell you it is all about the technology, but status has a lot to do with these decisions.
Status is important in marketing.  Even Wal-Mart has a campaign called the ‘second look’.  The premise if the campaign is that Wal-Mart carries high-end brands such as Dyson and Samsung.  The message is Wal-Mart is not as down scale as you might think.  (I don’t know how effective this is, however they are certainly using a status based message rather than their usual low price message.)
Buying decisions are emotional.  Status helps your customers achieve their status aspirations within their pier groups.  General Motors designed brands to move their customers through these status stratums.  You could start with a Chevy, move to a Buick and then eventually get to the Cadillac. 
No matter your business, you should ask if it is appropriate to use a status message as a part of your overall promotional message.  Next week, the fourth and final need …the need for control.


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