The Best Ideas Are the Ones That Make the Least Sense
May 16, 2019 1:02 PM   Subscribe

 
It was when I got to this line: "An airline changes the way flights are presented and sells $10 million more of premium seating per year." that I realized why this article made me feel icky. I have bought a few flights lately and the process is an study in asshole design. With Air Canada, you now have to pay extra if you want access to customer service when they mess up. So yeah, I bought the premium service, because AC almost always messes up and I'm going to need them to fix it when they do.

This "alchemy" is not about providing what the customer wants or needs, but just about playing mind tricks and making life more complicated in order to part us with more money. I know, I know, advanced capitalism. Maybe I'm just grumpy at Air Canada.

As a side note, this reminded me a lot of the CBC radio show (and podcast) Under the Influence. If you like stories about creativity and marketing, that show's a goldmine.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:22 PM on May 16 [40 favorites]


“We need to produce a drink that tastes nicer than Coke, that costs less than Coke, and comes in a really big bottle so people get great value for money.”

*Horshack noises* Arizona Iced Tea!

Not where they were going with that.

posted by Iris Gambol at 1:31 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


Adapted from Rory Sutherland’s forthcoming book

knowing_look_tapping_temple.gif
posted by salt grass at 1:35 PM on May 16 [15 favorites]


If you think that’s impossible, look at the paper money in your wallet; the value is exclusively psychological.

No it isn't. Money isn't valuable simply because I think it is. It is valuable in functional ways, not psychological ways. I can, for example, use it to pay taxes, and accordingly secure my legal freedom to exchange labour and goods. The law is not exclusively psychological; it is what the government can force you to do because it has prisons and guns and the power to use them on you.

Seeing the whole world as nothing but marketing is really something only a marketer can do. The rest of us have to make do with reality.
posted by howfar at 1:40 PM on May 16 [64 favorites]


Funny thing - the hard sell at the end was a psychological trick that made me not want to buy the book. And this part just sounds mean:
I employed this effect when asked to help promote a fabric detergent designed for the developing world -- it required clothes to be rinsed once, rather than three times, to save water. Our idea was to create a more complex bucket to replace the three buckets previously needed, which would add a degree of gratuitous complication.
Do people washing clothes in the developing world really need gratuitous complication added to their lives, even if it does help your product sell better?

Anyway... it was an interesting article, if a breathless about counter-intuitive ideas. I'm sure than many disgusting drinks have failed, even if one did succeed.
posted by clawsoon at 1:40 PM on May 16 [19 favorites]


Do people washing clothes in the developing world really need gratuitous complication added to their lives, even if it does help your product sell better?

Yeah, I read that part a few times, thinking I mustn't be understanding it right. Make it more complicated and less effective because it will sell better? Just screw the people in developing areas who this product is intended to help? Really?
posted by arcticwoman at 1:44 PM on May 16 [14 favorites]


Well, it would still help in the "only one bucket of water wasted in rinsing" way. It would just feel like you were doing something "harder" than "regular" rinsing by using the special bucket.
posted by Scattercat at 1:45 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


Hey, Arizona Iced Tea is not nearly as dishwatery as "Gold Puke"
posted by jkaczor at 1:51 PM on May 16


He's basically ascribing magical power to the concept of cognitive dissonance. Which, to be fair, often isn't far off the mark.
posted by sensate at 1:56 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


Our idea was to create a more complex bucket to replace the three buckets previously needed, which would add a degree of gratuitous complication.

This is the point where I realized "oh, I get it, you're scum." As to his main point about illogical ideas, I say: survivorship bias.
posted by echo target at 1:58 PM on May 16 [53 favorites]


I think this is the first time I ever felt like punching an article in the face.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 2:03 PM on May 16 [17 favorites]


My contention is that nearly all really successful businesses -- like Dyson, Apple, Starbucks, and Red Bull -- owe most of their success to having stumbled onto a psychological magic trick, even if unwittingly.

Asinine. He has named not just unusually successful businesses, but businesses that were successful in a unusual way. For every (or many) Apple using this "magic trick," there's an IBM and a thousand NeXTs lying dead in the dirt; for every Starbucks there's a Maxwell House. He is fundamentally talking about disruption, and if there's one fucking business concept that nobody needs another book about right now, it's fucking disruption.
posted by penduluum at 2:05 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


>How effective is marketing when no one can afford anything? Hasn’t the advertising industry basically been hollowed out by facegoogle? So much of the marketing industry is convincing seat warmers in suits that you have a special scientific process to make people buy your product which is why you deserve a 25 million dollar account - it’s a nice grift if you can get it but actually studying if marketing is effective is notoriously difficult and there’s so much back correcting of successful campaigns to justify what they did. It’s all as huxster as a traveling elixir show.

It’s not too dissimilar from political “consultants” who Hoover up huge fees, loose repeatedly, and still insist they have the special science you need to win. At least political science can study previous campaigns for metrics and problems, marketing doesn’t.
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


Glad I'm not the only person made physically uncomfortable by this essay.
While the modern world often turns its back on this kind of illogic, it is uniquely powerful. Alongside the inarguably valuable products of science and logic, there are also hundreds of seemingly irrational solutions to human problems just waiting to be discovered, if only we dare to abandon conventional logic in the search for answers.

It makes me so uncomfortable that the dipshits in charge of our lives think people with a reasonable desire to solve their own problems and get through their lives are ILLOGICAL simply because their motivations aren't directly known because nobody cared enough to ask. It's not that hard to understand that maybe Red Bull was successful because it solved a problem - not feeling so tired all the time. The problem just wasn't taste, cost, or value, the only problems that marketers were thinking about at the time I guess.
posted by bleep at 2:23 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


It's frightening to think you're being judged as crazy and unknowable by the person who's in charge of solving your problems because that person doesn't understand the idea of asking or caring about what your problems really are.
posted by bleep at 2:24 PM on May 16 [23 favorites]


The group that was only offered the chance to call had a response rate of about 2.9 percent; a second group that could only reply by mailing back a form came in at 5 percent. But the third group, who had the choice of phone or mail, had a response rate of 7.8 percent, nearly the total of the other two combined. The lesson: It is harder to like something when you haven’t chosen it. People want to have a sense of control.

7.8% is literally just adding up the two ways people preferred to respond.
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:32 PM on May 16 [57 favorites]


I see someone put up a new hoop.
posted by howfar at 2:38 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


A lot of these also sound like things that would be very hard to prove the cause/effect correlation this dude is positing. I mean, I've never felt guilty when something proved to be easier than I expected. Did leaving out the dried egg lower the price? Did they also change their marketing message? Did a new celebrity endorse the product at the same time? Did another company go out of business coincidentally? I mean, it's probably a combo of a number of different things, including a novel product becoming a normal thing you see in the marketplace.

Ark B, people, Ark B.
posted by maxwelton at 2:44 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Never tried Red Bull; never want to.

Frankly, the article sucked, and I wouldn't read the book if you paid me $30.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:54 PM on May 16


maxwelton: A lot of these also sound like things that would be very hard to prove the cause/effect correlation this dude is positing.

The quote attributed to Wanamaker is always apropos: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."
posted by clawsoon at 2:57 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


I'm dubious about his accuracy, given that he unquestioningly cites this story:
Back in the 1950s, General Mills launched a line of cake mixes under the Betty Crocker brand. All you needed to do was add water; what could go wrong? However, this miracle product did not sell well. General Mills brought in a team of psychologists to find out why, and they pointed to guilt: The product was so damned easy to make, people felt they were cheating. The “cook” felt awkward about getting more credit than he or she had earned. In response, General Mills revised the mix to require both water and an egg. When they relaunched with the slogan “Just add an egg,” sales shot up.
although this is known not to be true:
The truth is, though, that the cake companies already knew about the egg problem. In fact, as early as 1933 Duff had introduced a mix that had bakers add eggs themselves. “The housewife and the purchasing public in general seem to prefer fresh eggs and hence the use of dried or powdered eggs is somewhat of a handicap from a psychological standpoint,” reads the patent application (read more on Duff's cake patents in this lovely Bon Appetit story about cake mix). And actually, the mixes worked better that way. “The fact was one of the reasons cake mixes didn't taste good was they tasted like dried eggs,” says Shapiro. The companies performed surveys and asked women which version they would buy – the results were contradictory – and in the end, they just did as they pleased. General Mills went over to fresh eggs. Pillsbury eventually followed.
posted by Lexica at 3:10 PM on May 16 [32 favorites]


All other considerations aside, this guy has no idea about physics, or history.
Alchemy: It was the Middle Ages’ version of chemistry. Scientists of the day believed that matter could be transformed -- and most notably, that worthless metals could be turned into gold. When this proved impossible, they gave up. Later, Newton would fill our heads with thermodynamics and the conservation of energy.
Newton was a fucking alchemist. (Here’s Newton’s own translation of Hermes Trismegistus’s Emerald Tablet.)

Also: thermodynamics only really started to develop as a field a century after Newton’s death.
Science was confirming that you can’t create something out of nothing -- you can’t create a valuable metal out of a cheap one, and you can’t create energy in one place or form without destroying it somewhere else. Other disciplines would find their own version of this fact. Economists, for example, told us “there is no free lunch.”
You can’t create or destroy energy at all, you moron, just convert it from one form to another. That’s what conservation of energy means!

Plus I’m enjoying the inadvertent dig at economics, there. “... And while physics rigorously developed the four laws of thermodynamics, economics came up with an inane platitude on a vaguely related subject.”
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:14 PM on May 16 [25 favorites]


Having got my dunk in, I have perhaps a better example from user experience studies: some user tests showed that when presented with a tool that was supposed to find the best flight prices, or insurance rates, or some other kind of broad comparison, people didn't trust the results if they came back right away. The actual search ran very fast, but without a bit of time spent looking at a progress bar, users didn't think it was really checking all those outside sources.

You can make a case that this is people acting illogically, but you can make a stronger case that those people are acting logically to solve a problem other than the one the designers expected. Designers were solving for convenience, users were solving for 'not feeling like I'm getting ripped off'.

Sorry, no cite on this story at the moment, but it might have come from Jakob Nielsen.
posted by echo target at 3:15 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC.

You fucking capitalist prick.
posted by axiom at 3:17 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]


Anyway, advertising industry professional prone to exaggeration and not necessarily wedded to truth and accuracy, news at 11
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:18 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


This essay has it all, misogyny, racism, classism,
posted by bleep at 3:19 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


although this is known not to be true:

If you follow ad/marketing people and their books and theories so, so much depends on these just so stories and stuff they can’t falsify in the first place.
posted by The Whelk at 3:20 PM on May 16 [15 favorites]


I think this is the first time I ever felt like punching an article in the face.

Oh? Are you new on the Internet?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:27 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]




Beaten to the punch, but yeah, that this guy treats the egg thing as gospel and thinks Newton wasn't alchemist AF gives me doubts to both his specific expertise and knowledge in general.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:35 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


High on his own supply
posted by sallybrown at 3:47 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]




Lexica: I'm dubious about his accuracy, given that he unquestioningly cites this story:

I seem to recall encountering the story in The Feminine Mystique. Is that how the story got famous? Friedan used it as an example of marketers trying to inject a simulacrum of meaning into the lives of women who had been trapped at home and made redundant by labour-saving devices like no-added-egg cake mix.
posted by clawsoon at 3:54 PM on May 16


Having the tech text the customer when they’re on their way is in no sense a counter-intuitive improvement. A lot of these make for interesting cases but dude is also clearly presenting them such that folks will buy his book.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:13 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


Lexica: I'm dubious about his accuracy, given that he unquestioningly cites this story:

I seem to recall encountering the story in The Feminine Mystique. Is that how the story got famous?


I learned about it from the marketing/psych documentary The Century of the Self, which, coincidentally, was recommended on Ask MeFi.
posted by hexaflexagon at 4:30 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


I now totally understand why the bathroom has three seashells next to the toilet. It's so I'll have to pay more.
posted by zaixfeep at 4:32 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


His book is called Alchemy.
He ought to k now (as pointed out here) that Isaac Newton was an alchemist.

Also this gem:
" look at the paper money in your wallet; the value is exclusively psychological. "
No, it isn't. It very much isn't.

I was fascinated by how tremendously wrong this chap is.
I'm currently watching his 10 rules of alchemy here.
It's quite something.

Needless to say, I shan't be buying his book.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:58 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Imagine proposing the following ideas to a group of skeptical investors:

→ “What people want is an expensive vacuum cleaner that looks really cool.” (Dyson)
→ “The best part of all this is that people will write the entire thing for free!” (Wikipedia)
→ “I confidently predict that the great enduring fashion of the next century will be a coarse, uncomfortable fabric that fades, takes ages to dry, and to date, has been largely popular with indigent laborers.” (blue jeans)
→ “Just watch as perfectly sane people pay $5 for a drink they can make at home for a few pennies.” (Starbucks)
→ “And, best of all, the drink has a taste consumers say they hate.” (Red Bull)


He's making it sound like these were worthless products that marketing alone sold. I don't think so.
- People will pay more for a well designed vacuum that avoids common problems.
- People will pay more for premium coffee and to just sit for a while.
- People want a cold energy drink alternative to liquor in social spaces like bars or nightclubs.
- You should invest in our already successful blue jean or internet business. People want / use it already.

I get that marketing was a key component to selling and growing these businesses, but he's making it sound like it did all the work. A lot of these businesses saw an unmet need and at first became successful from the ground up without marketing.
posted by xammerboy at 5:17 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Newton was a fucking alchemist
Newton spent almost as much effort on theology as he did on physics (he was a secret Unitarian, or at least non-Trinitarian, iirc, which was still a dangerous thing to be), and he had all kinds of extravagant ideas, such as that comets resupplied the Solar System with spiritual energy.

Later, Newton would fill our heads with thermodynamics and the conservation of energy.
I don't think Newton did any work on thermodynamics at all, did he? When a writer is so lazy about an easily checked fact, it does not inspire confidence.
posted by thelonius at 5:20 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


If you really want to talk about the shift from alchemy to modern chemistry, you talk about Lavoisier, not Newton, but I guess fewer people recognize that name off the top of their heads. The general metaphor would still work, if you switch to conservation of matter, rather than energy.
posted by RobotHero at 5:51 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


I employed this effect when asked to help promote a fabric detergent designed for the developing world -- it required clothes to be rinsed once, rather than three times, to save water. Our idea was to create a more complex bucket to replace the three buckets previously needed, which would add a degree of gratuitous complication.

Is there a claim on the name for this law yet? The one where you can safely ignore any advice doled out by someone whose central thesis is "observe the majestic poor person from a developing nation, and the ways in which we must trick him into advancing his own best interests"? Because I swear to christ, I am going to lose my goddamn shit if I read one more Freakonomics knockoff telling us breathlessly about how they tricked uneducated day laborers from rural India into doing something beneficial to themselves by deploying some ghastly psychological hack, rather than just using that research funding to invest in education. (I'm looking at you, Poor Economics, and your anodyne observation that you can get more people to come back to your rural health center if you give everyone who comes in with a sore throat a B12 shot that you tell them in an antibiotic, because poor people just expect to get a shot when they go to the doctor)
posted by Mayor West at 5:55 PM on May 16 [14 favorites]


And some of the examples bring to mind "dark patterns" which is more what I initially expected from "psychological magic tricks in advertising." Magic tricks are about misdirection. Airlines are kind of the poster child for constantly trying to trick and misdirect you into extra fees when you're trying to book a seat.
posted by RobotHero at 5:58 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]




Also, I think his data interpretation is wrong when he tries to make a quantitative point. If X% will only reply by phone, and Y% will only reply by mail, then of course if you allow both you get something like (X+Y)%. It's not because you've done fucking alchemy and presenting them "more choices than they need" and somehow tricked them. It's because you're sampling from two subpopulations instead of one.
posted by freebird at 7:18 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]


The egg thing is also explained/debunked in the book “Something From the Oven” by Laurie Shapiro.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:20 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]


And as long as I'm being a pedantic nerd, the idea of treating something like the airline thing as alchemy puts me in mind of Adam Smith vs. Edmund Burke. If value is created by labour, then selling something for a higher price without any labour to explain it means someone is getting cheated. But if value is determined by what people are willing to pay for it, then sure, you've created value from nothing.
posted by RobotHero at 7:34 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


There are a lot of lessons to be learned from focus groups and marketing psychology that we've gained from them, by the way. A few that I recall from classes back in the day:

1. Focus groups were presented with a basically identical shopping list from fictional housewives back in the day, something like:

-Eggs
-Butter
-Laundry detergent
-Instant Coffee
-Cereal
-Milk
-Bacon
-Tomatoes

But in the control group, instead of "instant coffee" it simply read "coffee," and the opinions the groups gave of these imagined women were wildly different. Like "caring homemaker" vs. "bad lazy mother" different. That can show you a lot about what people think about a product (as well as a lot of other baggage surrounding expectations and family structure, etc.)

2. When Levis tried to branch out into creating suits back in the day, they brought in a focus group of their core demographic, showde them the suits, got them all excited (the group was definitely into the designs and everything) and then revealed the label, at which point the focus group (white male early eighties yuppies) unanimously said that they would never buy a Levis suit no matter how good it looked. Levis pushed forward anyway, and failed miserably.

So there can be value to this stuff, and I don't even think the "complicated bucket" is that bad an idea, if it convinces people to use less water where there's not a lot of water to use - that's a useful product with a realistically tough-sell aspect behind it. But as pointed out above, the survivorship bias is strong here.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:20 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Washing clothes has some locked-in foibles - if you grew up in a country that thinks pre-soaking is important, you're not to going to buy a washer that doesn't pre-soak. And Big Washer makes country-specific models with different dials rather than trying to re-educate people.

(Unless I got this from freakenomics or something and it was totally wrong.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:43 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of interesting things to talk about the psychology of marketing and people making unintuitive choices. This wasn't it.

He makes some really bizarre assumptions, but the Starbucks one is really something.
“Just watch as perfectly sane people pay $5 for a drink they can make at home for a few pennies.” (Starbucks)
Has he never heard of restaurants? Convenience stores? (Besides the fact that a cup of coffee is not $5, only the most expensive drinks on the menu are. This is one of those things that people repeat all the time I find really weird. They used to say "can you believe they charge $2 for a cup of coffee", but then the imaginary inflation kicked in.)

Thanks for clearing up the cake mix egg thing. I've heard that so many times, and I think about it a lot because I just had trouble believing it.
posted by bongo_x at 2:40 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Imagine proposing the following idea to a group of skeptical Mefites: What people want is a book filled with easily-disproven "facts".
posted by clawsoon at 4:10 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]


unintuitive choices

Thank you. Not "illogical". People's preferences not falling into line with the first prediction that enters your head has nothing to do with logic.
posted by thelonius at 4:12 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


Just planting seeds...(SLYT)
posted by Thug at 5:12 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


My MIL used to tell the story that when Toni home permanents first were sold, they cost 25¢, and did not sell well. After some analysis, it was determined that the public thought that at that price, it must be crap, so they raised the price to $2, and it took off. (No idea how true this was. )
posted by MtDewd at 5:29 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


This is the point where I realized "oh, I get it, you're scum."

He did work at the agency founded by David Ogilvy, after all.

Full disclosure: I've worked there too.
posted by slogger at 5:35 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


The underlying message is that other people are stupid and I will make you smarter than them so you can fleece them. I'll do this by sounding clever and suggesting you're like me (or will be once you buy my book).
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:45 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Okay but one of their core examples, people being mad about having to take a whole fucking day off work to wait for a service technician to show up at some point... having the tech text you 90 minutes before they're gonna arrive is literally an improvement. It's not a psychological trick. It fixes a huge problem with the original scenario. It adds information that you didn't otherwise have.
posted by odinsdream at 6:16 AM on May 17 [14 favorites]


Perhaps the ideas (and the book) would be more appealing if the essay had been less detailed or specific, or had included some kind of online quiz.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:53 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


People want a cold energy drink alternative to liquor in social spaces like bars or nightclubs.

You mean mixer, right? Because Red Bull is only tolerable when mixed with liquor, much like Mountain Dew...
posted by jkaczor at 8:50 AM on May 17


My MIL used to tell the story that when Toni home permanents first were sold, they cost 25¢, and did not sell well. After some analysis, it was determined that the public thought that at that price, it must be crap, so they raised the price to $2, and it took off. (No idea how true this was. )

I will match you anecdote for anecdote: a friend of mine from university became a graphic artist professionally. She has told me that when she was a broke Gen-X twentysomething, she used to give her painting skills a workout by hauling her easel and palette and a stool down to the corner of her block and painting the church that stood there.

Passersby would sometimes stop and talk with her, and in a few cases, would like her work enough that they would ask about buying the painting. She tells me that if she quoted a price of fifty dollars, the interest often evaporated; asking five hundred seemed to demonstrate she was a much more serious artist and got correspondingly more buyers.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:15 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Half-baked theory time: Counter-intuitive psychology most often applies to status goods. How much Red Bull you can drink is a status marker for the kind of guys who are into Jackass-style pranks, extreme sports, and eating food so spicy it hurts. Art - and cars - are obvious status goods for wide variety of people.

This theory may be bullshit.
posted by clawsoon at 9:45 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


My MIL used to tell the story that when Toni home permanents first were sold, they cost 25¢, and did not sell well. After some analysis, it was determined that the public thought that at that price, it must be crap, so they raised the price to $2, and it took off. (No idea how true this was. )

In Originals Adam Grant talks about advising the founders of Warby Parker to inflate their prices to the current point so that people would see them as a bargain but not suspiciously cheap. So that one's documented by someone who was there.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:26 AM on May 17


My MIL used to tell the story that when Toni home permanents first were sold, they cost 25¢, and did not sell well. After some analysis, it was determined that the public thought that at that price, it must be crap, so they raised the price to $2, and it took off. (No idea how true this was. )

My mother used to manage a business stationery store. She used this strategy regularly and it usually worked. And that was 50 years ago.
posted by Altomentis at 11:47 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Also my nephew was the youngest person ever made a store Manager at KMart about 20 years ago. They kept sending him to stores that were tanking them and he kept turning them around because of management and because he knew how to "merchandise". His stores were often the leading sellers of highlighted items because he was a master at merchandising. In every store you walk through the art of merchandising is more or less skillfully in action.
posted by Altomentis at 11:50 AM on May 17


If you think that’s impossible, look at the paper money in your wallet; the value is exclusively psychological.

No it isn't. Money isn't valuable simply because I think it is. It is valuable in functional ways, not psychological ways. I can, for example, use it to pay taxes, and accordingly secure my legal freedom to exchange labour and goods. The law is not exclusively psychological; it is what the government can force you to do because it has prisons and guns and the power to use them on you.

Tell that to people who live in places where their currency has collapsed. So far we aren't printing million dollar bills....
posted by Altomentis at 11:53 AM on May 17


Tell that to people who live in places where their currency has collapsed.

The collapse of the currency is a social and economic fact, either related to the collapse or weakness of the government, or to economic factors, that is not strictly reducible to psychology. It reflects a crisis in power and legitimacy, and, while that does involve people coming to believe that the currency is worthless, it is a much more complicated situation.

An example: one major reason of the hyperinflation crisis of the Weimar Republic was that the government was unable to deflate their currency, which was something that the other combatants had to do. This is because they were obliged to pay both large war reparations, and, to stay in power, large social benefits (if they had stopped payments to veterans, there would have been an overthrow). The fact that the currency stopped being valuable in functional ways does not show that its value was simply reducible to psychology; that collapse itself was caused by non-psychological conditions.
posted by thelonius at 12:03 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


My last comment:
Has no one else here read Thorstein Veblen? Especially The Theory of the Leisure Class.
posted by Altomentis at 12:25 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Altomentis: So far we aren't printing million dollar bills....

Or maybe we are, but we're just in a liquidity trap and all that money printing hasn't resulted in the inflation we were hoping for.

I learned what liquidity traps are, like, two days ago, so I may have them wrong.
posted by clawsoon at 12:35 PM on May 17


Is anyone really surprised that a book from a bullshit artist on how to bullshit is filled with bullshit?
posted by iamnotangry at 2:42 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I think the higher price trick is kind of, following the crowd, where the crowd is itself assumed to exist because of trust in an invisible hand of the market. Like, someone else must be willing to pay whatever price it's being sold for, or they wouldn't be charging that much, right?

But for that to be entirely logical, those other people have to be better informed than me about the quality of this product, but what if they're just doing the same thing as me?
posted by RobotHero at 10:45 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


I hate marketing. When it meant that the Dept. Store ran an ad in the local paper about what was going to be on sale, that was useful information. But now it's all games and bullshit because the US has a massive oversupply of consumer goods, and an equally massive oversupply of marketers whose job it is to make you want or at least willing to buy useless crap. I want shopping to be pull; where I have a need/want, like the newest novel by John Literato, in softcover. Marketing wants to try to tease me into buying the new memoir, nope, I want fiction, or novels by guys like John Literato, but nope, I want what I want. Amazon are pretty skilled at what they do; it can't be an accident that they fling all sorts of crap at me.

I'm car-shopping for a Prius. The sales guy at the dealer that no longer has a Prius available keeps calling and emailing, even though I responded (once) saying Yes, I am still shopping and only looking for a Prius, and please use email. He wants to call me because he and his bosses believe that he can hustle me into something I don't want.

I want to take that article and book and teach high school students how to view, decode, and resist marketing. and then burn it.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


« Older 👸👷🚧📐🔨   |   Any boss who sacks anyone for mourning today is a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments