When our kids went to primary school, once a term they would be sent home with a sales brochure from a company called “Scholastics”.
Inside this work of fiction were adverts for books and toys. My suspicion is the school was incentivised to hand this magazine out with kick backs in terms of money or “free” books for the school library and the Principal justified this because it encouraged the kids to request their parents to let them buy and read books.
Except, the kids were never interested in the books, but the toys grabbed their attention.
The adverts for the toys were case studies in creative marketing. What do I mean? This, for example.
The “Ultimate Spy Mission Kit” for just 25 bucks? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, let’s ask customer reviewer, S. Poyser:
Bought kit through loop book club. Spy ear – wires came off the circuit board during first use. Very disappointed 7yo. No circuit diagram to figure out how to reconnect it, even if I had a soldering iron.
That was the experience of our kids with everything they were tricked into splurging their hard-earned pocket money for.
Yesterday, I spoke to my now teenage daughter about the cycle of emotions she experienced during these purchases. First came the excitement of realising she could afford such a wonderful and life-changing toy. Then the anticipation and delayed gratification until the delivery. The unwrapping and playing brought a mild disappointment followed by grief and upset when the inevitable happened and the cheap plastic shite broke in her hands.
Rinse and repeat next term.
Our kids generally took three cycles of this until they realised Scholastic was a cynical wealth redistribution project to relieve kids of their pocket money in return for useless Chinese-manufactured crap.
I use this example frequently when trying warn my kids about falling for the sunk cost fallacy. I go on to explain how gamblers often trick themselves into throwing more money after their losses in the hope of a big win to make them whole again.
In completely unrelated news worth considering as you queue for your third and fourth booster shot, international flight routes have been shut down again, Central European countries are back in various versions of lockdown and masks are back to compulsory fashion wear in shops and public transport in the UK.
Remember how elated you felt when the vaccines were announced?
Perhaps you downloaded the vaccine passport with a little frisson of glee once that second shot had been given and the two weeks for it to “bed in” had elapsed?
Did you post a virtue signalling selfie on Instagram or LinkedIn urging everyone to do the right thing and get jabbed so we could /checks notes/ get back to normal?
How’s that investment going for you now?
Perhaps I might interest you in the exquisite rampant mackerel ashtray, diligently fashioned in blue onyx?