Is marketing wasting your money? The saga of buying aluminum foil roll.

May 13, 2010 - 3 minutes read

Couple of days ago, I went to a large store to buy some groceries and other home stuff with my mom. We had a shopping list and I was hoping to finish the retail saga in about 15 minutes, but then, we stopped to buy aluminum foil for food storing. The shelf with aluminum foils had about 20 different products, about 5 different brands:  they were all the same, except that they had different length of foil roll and different price. It’s easy to find the cheapest, but hey, guess what, the cheapest is the shortest roll.  “This one is too short, it will go out in a week”, said my mom. Ok, take the longer one-right? There are 5 different brands of longer one, with significant difference in price. “This one?”, I took the cheapest 20m roll. “No, look, for a few bucks more, we can get 30 m roll”, my mom said. I took that one and put it in a cart. Just when I thought we’ve completed the mission of buying such a trivial thing, I saw cheaper 30m roll. I switched it and pushed the cart on, but hey, imagine that, for just a few bucks more, there was 40m foil. We lost patience, and we just took the last foil on the shelf. It was the longest and I think the most expensive one.  Product placement tip: just put your foil at the end of the shelf and your sales will rise just for the sake of shortage in human patience.

Later that day, I just thought of all the effort and money that companies like Fino put in positioning and promoting their brands.  Is it a waste? Do any of the marketing experts and psychologists ever go to a store and try to buy the product they are accounted for?  Are focus groups pointing out to the right conclusions?

What drives us to buy certain brands? Is it the price? Or brand loyalty? Promised quality? Lifestyle and self observing? Do we buy expensive clothes because they are better looking or more durable or more comfortable? Or are we feeling just a little bit more important than the others who don’t have those brands? Why people buy cigarettes even though they know how bad they are for their health and why do we mix energy drinks with alcohol when it is strictly said on the package that it could kick off our heart?

Go on, read the books about consumer behavior and purchase habits, how we choose and why we buy. I did it and according to those books, I would have bought the optimal aluminum foil roll: the one with the middle length and the middle price, but hey, guess what, have I got news for you… human brain does not work that way!

Stay tuned and some observations, explanations and theories might come a bit cleared. Welcome to the world of marketing 2, the one that tries to reach what really happens in human brain. I won’t use the word just yet, but I guess some of you already know what this blog will be about.