Sell the Sizzle

Product manufacturers and retailers engage in a very serious game for which there are clear winners and losers. Despite contemporary PC-happy-talk, where everyone is a winner, the evidence for this game’s outcome is produced daily, maybe hourly, and can be readily found at the cash register.

Some things sell better than others. Period. This isn’t a matter of what one likes, it’s a matter of fact. It exists despite the observer and rarely because of the observer.

To gain a competitive edge, at both manufacturing and retail posts, various product claims are offered. More often than not the competition is implied, other times it is explicitly called out.

Superiority in one form or another, ease-of-use or adoption, cost, eco-friendliness, conferred status that moves like a halo from product to purchaser. These and many other – often emotional – appeals seek to position the product favorably and uniquely. As well as relative to all others in its class; in other words, automobiles don’t compete with drain cleaning products for purchase decisions.

Recently, while prowling through an antiques mall filled with nearly 500 lighted display cases, a new-to-me product appeal manifested itself. An antiques mall, like a grocery or department store, offers a range of goods for sale. Perhaps the only thing binding the products together is their age. Which is defined by negation: Not new.

There, in one dealer’s showcase, filled with glittering and “brilliant” (referring to reflective properties and not smartness) glassware was the prominent sign: “From A Pet- and Smoke-Free Home.”

We all know the virtues of each. Who in their right mind would speak ill of kittens and puppies, except to note their propensity to pee precisely in places where you don’t want them too. As for smoking, well, that demon and its adopters have been publicly shamed for the past half century in a stunningly successful persuasive campaign that reduced adult smoking from nearly 50 percent of the population to its current level below 20 percent.

But claiming the antiques merchandise was from a pet- and smoke-free home? Really? Every minute since the glassware’s entry into our world? Is the dealer claiming to have owned the inventory since the day it left the factory? The inventory at an antiques mall is (see above), after all, old.

And we’re being (anonymously) assured that this merchandise never once saw fur or fumes?

As well, let’s reflect on what’s being sold. It was not carpeting. Or upholstered furniture. Objects that could, in fact, be susceptible to absorbing the piddle or the puffs.

The dealer is selling glass. An impermeable medium. One neither susceptible to absorption nor the clinging of coat fragments.

What’s the dealer selling, then? Moral superiority? And what have they got against puppies?

Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.

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