Normally I hesitate to share what I’ve been reading, but, in case you’re interested in the underlying psychological reasons for why we buy things, you might find American author Geoffrey Miller’s book ‘Must Have’ thought-provoking.
Miller, an evolutionary psychologist, sets out to explore the theory behind some of the key reasons we buy things, and the choices we make during the process of selection, purchase and beyond.
The book is primarily an exposure of the unspoken mechanisms of consumerism and how marketers sometimes adroitly exploit them, and sometimes show surprising ignorance of them.
The ‘Costly Signalling Behaviour’ in my title is the central thrust of the book and describes how many of the purchases we make are designed to signal aspects of our personality to others – especially as mating preludes.
The section that made me smile (as an artist) considers how commissioning a piece of art or jewellery from a local artisan displays many positive qualities about us that others should find attractive.
Miller writes: ‘A custom item, designed or specified by oneself, and handmade by a local artisan whom one met face-to-face, is a much more distinctive possession or gift. It displays one’s resourcefulness, creativity, taste, and social skills in collaborating with the artist.’
Elsewhere Miller writes: ‘If you truly think that driving a Ferrari F430 will impress a particular person on a particular date, just spend the $1750 to rent it for a day from Gotham Dream Cars…rather than the $259,000 to buy it outright. You’d need to drive it on 150 dates before it would make more sense to buy it than rent it.’
He goes on to calculate what else one could do with the money saved, even if it takes 20 dates with the rented Ferrari to ‘close the deal’!
So if you really want to impress someone special, buy or commission for them a work of art, or a handmade piece of jewellery and walk arm in arm straight past the Ferrari dealership!
Let me know what you think!
Happy commissioning – Mike