This Famous Ad Exec Talks About a Big Brand Who's Existence Just Doesn't Make Sense

The irrational product that kicked off a $4 billion brand

Post by 
John Crenshaw
October 15, 2020

he interesting thing about consumer psychology is that it often doesn't make sense at all.

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy in the UK, explains why an $800 vacuum cleaner is one of the more irrational ideas that ever worked...

No one would have said there’s a market for an $800 vacuum cleaner. Let’s look at the vacuum cleaner market: it’s a distressed purchase, you only buy one begrudgingly when your existing one breaks or when you move out of rental accommodation or something. Anybody who can spend $800 on a vacuum cleaner probably already employs a cleaner anyway, so they don’t even do their own vacuuming half the time.

Rory's referring to Dyson, which did $4.4 billion in revenue in 2018 selling a high-end product that nobody wants to a customer that won’t even use it.

Rory’s point is that consumer psychology doesn’t always make sense, and if all you do is rely on strategies and tactics that appear to make rational sense, then you’d miss out on a lot of ideas that might work in spite of, or perhaps because of how crazy they are.

What to do...

While it’s true that people aren’t always rational, there is a lot we know about that irrationality.

Rory shares more detail on this topic in his new book, Alchemy. I judge a book by how much I mark it up, and I marked this one up A LOT.

Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, is also a fascinating dive into some of these topics.

After that consider where you might be clinging too hard to the idea that your customer will always behave rationally and start working some “predictably irrational” ideas into your experiments.

It’s a game of educated guessing, but if you know how to avoid the pitfalls of testing, you can find some hidden gems that generate big returns.

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