A Feeling of Specialness

Christopher Zoukis

Way back in 1948, Elmer Wheeler authored a book called Tested Salesmanship. Wheeler recognized that people shopped more for psychological reasons than logical reasons. As a result, Wheeler advised sellers to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” This advice was based on Wheeler’s five psychological stimulators, which were the five most important reasons shoppers bought goods and services. Number one on the list of identified stimulators was “importance.” Wheeler believed the number one reason any person made a purchase was to feel special. 

Feeling special is not logical or rational. It is a feeling. More than that, it is a chemically induced feeling. The New York Times reported that the pleasure shoppers experience when they buy something is real. When a shopper buys something, the activity makes him feel special. It is an actual, physical feeling that takes place by causing the body to release dopamine, which is a brain chemical that produces a good feeling, a feeling of specialness. In other words, people shop and buy things because it makes them feel special.  Image courtesy thenextweb.com

Unity Marketing (UM) did a survey of affluent customers for American Express Platinum Card in 2010. The survey demonstrated that affluent customers encountered the strongest feeling of “specialness” when purchasing an experiential luxury. UM concluded that today’s luxury buyer has gone experiential. Because they are wealthy, these customers have the ability to buy almost any luxury item. Which means luxury items are easy to obtain. Therefore, UM concluded it was not surprising that affluent customers received their strongest feeling of specialness from luxury experiences.

UM performed a nationwide omnibus survey of affluent customers. Those individuals surveyed were asked to rank three types of luxury purchases: personal luxury, home luxury, and experiential luxury. The survey participants were asked which of the three types of luxury purchases made them feel the most special? Over 80% responded that the purchase of a luxury experience provided them with the feeling of being special.

UM drew three conclusions from the survey:

     ~All affluent customers, regardless of income levels, desired to purchase the best quality possible. They wanted to feel special.

     ~All affluent customers wanted the luxury goods they purchased to look good and function as advertised. They wanted to be treated with respect by sellers. They wanted a special feeling about the luxury purchase.

     ~The primary motivation of affluent customers is this: they want to feel special.

The emotion of feeling special is of vital importance to any business marketing and selling luxury goods and service to the wealthy.

For example, Megan Zborowski of Fashionable Brain, reports that there are millions of affluent women customers who spend their free time shopping for the perfect articles of apparel. Zborowski calls it an “obsession.”

What are these affluent customers obsessed with? Answer: feeling special.

Fashion or “looking good” fuels the feeling of specialness. Clothing affects the self-image of affluent women customers. Their self-image plays a large role in how they feel about themselves. When they buy clothing that appeals to their self-image, they feel secure. This feeling of security leads to feeling special.

By means of clothing or fashion, affluent women can sustain their self-image or they can change it. Shopping for new clothing is a gratifying experience, because it leads to physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-esteem is increased, which leads to increased self-confidence, which leads to feeling special. Why? Because clothing or fashion is the way these affluent women present themselves to the world. This presentation reflects their self-image and the projection of that image.

Self-image is private, while the projection of that image is public. Affluent women want to be recognized for who and what they are, which is their self-image. But they also want to feel special, which means they have to stand out, too. The pursuit of these two goals means they do a lot of shopping for luxury clothing.