People across the world - people just like you and me - spend crazy money on products and services every single day without giving it another thought. $4 for coffee here, $500 for an iPhone there, $50,000 for an SUV, $100 for a steak dinner, $60 for a concert ticket. I could go on and on.
And, while you may THINK you are paying for a cup of coffee, a cell phone, an automobile, a cut of beef, and a show, that isn't REALLY what you are paying for. Mostly you are paying for "how it makes you feel," and you just happen to get the product or service along with it.
Think about it. You can make a strong cup of coffee at home. But, when you walk in Starbucks (or drive through) you are doing so because it makes you feel good. You enjoy the experience. Same with the iPhone. People were lined up for days in advance to be among the first to claim one of those bad-boys. Were they buying a cell phone? Well, yes...but, long before they actually made the purchase they had convinced themselves that the iPhone was something the just HAD to have. They bought into the story that Apple sold them in their marketing, and ultimately they forked over 5 C-notes so they, in turn, could be a part of the story.
In his fantastic book All Marketers are Liars, Seth Godin explains that great companies build their product or service around worldview that already exists, and then they tell a "story" to the consumer. If this is executed effectively, it is then up to the consumer to buy in. And, where there is consumer buy-in, there are lies being told by people - to themselves.
When you go to that one-in-a-million secret hideaway restaurant and shell out a hundred bucks for dinner, you are paying for the experience (the story) and how it makes you feel. Face it, we ALL love to feel like insiders, don't we? We all want to be in on the "big secret." Think of the things - restaurants, gadget stores, etc. - that you really enjoy patronizing. Then, think about how you feel when you go there. You feel alive. Strong. Energized. THAT's what you are paying for. Because you could go to a half-dozen or more places to get the same THING - but not the same feeling.
What's this all mean? Well, ultimately, it means you and I have more power than we realize when it comes to consumerism and merchandising. It's up to us to decide how to steward our resources, and to determine if we are going to "buy the lie" or look beyond a brand and make the wise choice. That's not to say that the cheaper choice is the wise choice. It's just to say that we should pay attention to each and every purchase we make - to truly think it through, and not let the marketing geniuses of the world make our decisions for us.