People Buy Identities, Not Products
By a mile, the most advantageous secret I have learned during my marketing and entrepreneurship experience is this profound statement by Anthony Robbins, “People don’t buy products; they buy identity.”
Explained further, consumers make buying decisions not based on the logical and rational reasons we were taught in high school economics class, but are actually driven by a series of subconscious beliefs about who they are. If buying from you moves me closer to who I believe I am or want to be, you will get the sale. Conversely, I will dismiss your product for one or many seemingly logical reasons if it goes against the grain of my core self image.
If this is the first time you are reading this theory, you may have a hard time coming to terms with it in your market or industry. But like a proverb, this idea can take a second to read but a lifetime to understand.
Every day, when making decisions about where to eat, who our accountant will be, which mode of transportation to use, or even which bottle of water to pick up at the convenience store, we are subconsciously building our own internal self image.
What Kind of Hotel Do You Look For?
Let’s look at hotels as an example. There are countless hotel brands and each does a fairly good job of positioning. The transaction of staying at a hotel is very standardized (A fixed fee for a night’s stay) but the experience varies dramatically from one brand to another.
If you are the type of person believes that a hotel is necessary expense, even making a statement such as “all hotel rooms look the same when you’re sleeping,” then you will look for a convenient location at a reasonable price. However, if you are the type of person that believes that life is too short to compromise on your surroundings, you are going to look for a brand that you trust will be finely decorated and impeccably staffed while having a wider tolerance for price level. You may fall somewhere in the middle, self-identifying as a moderately successful person who is just on the verge of “making it.” In this case, you’ll find a brand that you will defend as sensibly priced based on the conveniences you will enjoy while staying there.
I invite you to think about your hotel selection process and how it fits with with your values and the idea of who your are as a person. If you reject that this theory has any hold on your buying habits—because you make sound and well thought out decisions based on cost versus value—then I would argue that your belief about how you make decisions and who you are is driving your feelings; thus proving the theory correct in your case (mind… blown.).
Buying is a Mix of Logic and Emotion
Having said that, there is a reason the most successful businesses still make logical cases for their products and services.
The delicate dance is that we can still be talked out of a seemingly irrational decision, even if we viscerally “feel” drawn to a product, service or person. You cannot ignore or neglect the parameters that a company or person may put around a buying process just because you have positioned the product to fit your target market’s identity. Success comes when your product is positioned to match both your buyer’s surface level identity (rational needs) and their core self image (what your product says about them).
Stop believing that people make completely logical and rational decisions in purchases. Let your customer believe they are making a rational decision, but don’t overlook the real driver of sales—the emotions and feelings that make us buy.
I’d love to hear your experience with identity-based marketing in the comments.