Joel Kelly's Blog

Joel Kelly's updates about his latest writing, his process, and his life as a Halifax-based author and marketer.

Consumers are rational

It’s often suggested that consumers aren’t “rational." They don’t necessarily buy the product with the best features at the lowest price. Instead, they’ll buy the product that looks the nicest, or the one their friend bought. Or the most expensive one.

And this is considered irrational.

But only if you don't think about how society itself works. Each of those things has a perfectly — dare I say — rational explanation.

  • Buying the nicest looking thing: Status is a fundamental part of society!
  • Buying the one their friend bought: Shared experiences are a fundamental part of society!
  • Buying the most expensive one: Veblen goods are a symbol of status, and see above about that!

In fact, good marketers who understand human behavior think all these things are pretty rational. Because people are people. People are part of a larger society. And society has a lot of rules that might be unspoken, but are just as real as any other rule. Even the ones we all consider “rational."

The problem isn't "irrational consumers."

The problem is bad marketers.