Why we buy what we buy (aka Same Old Song)

Posted by on May 19, 2009 in Uncategorized | One Comment


Odd piece here in the NYT that seems to suggest that the reason why individuals buy what they buy is to transmit some message to those around them.

Of course, the piece seeks out focus groups and "brand name narcissism" [sic] for a good kicking (probably rightly, I reckon) but the argument seems to rest on some pretty poor evolutionary Psychology of the very simplest sort: peacock's tail and sexual prowess, etc etc. [For a rather better view of that discipline go here]

Now seems to me that this piece is just the wrong way round: we don't buy what we buy primarily to do something to those around us but rather we do so because of what others around us are doing & buying.

i.e. it's PULL NOT PUSH

Not all the time and not exclusively, but more than any of us is really happy to admit.

Funny how easy it is for a journo's populist interpretation of proper science can make the scientist themselves look silly, isn't it?

1 Comment

  1. erin
    May 19, 2009

    I think what John and his Tierney Lab miss, which would add much more credibility to his short-sighted hypothesis, is the current success of social media. Why is social media SO successful? Because we’re SOCIAL beings, looking for others like ourselves, to amass community, and feel validated by a group. Groups these days (meetups, likemind, Twitter) require that “strangers” step outside of the box and meet new people for the benefit of everyone involved. Tierney misses out entirely on the fact that we’re moving to a system of collaboration; that the individual as a success story will be less of one in comparison to the group of people who are changing the world.
    It’s ironic that science, which is supposed to analyze the past and to an extent predict the future, operates in a vacuum. How many studies do we see published by Dr X, Dr Y, Dr Z, and Doctors A, H, and J? Most are published/reported/scripted by one. This is a problem.
    I think what this article does, as you noted, is bring to light how ancient some scientific theories/techniques are.
    Interesting to think about science and advertising together though. Thanks!