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Sensuous Marketing or Sensible Sales: What makes us buy?

Updated on December 17, 2014

Why do we buy?

Any business is hoping for sales regardless of what their core business is, whether a cleaning company or high fashion boutique. We can have the most revolutionary product but if no one knows about it, the business will never get off the ground. This is where marketing comes in: an activity that every business must undertake to generate sales. Marketing tells the buying world about a product or service and seeks to engage the prospective customer. Marketing will build desire and creates a concept in the customer. Sales on the other hand results from marketing and is the action of exchanging goods or services for value in some form, usually money. Both activities are involved in influencing a person to take some action.


Marketing is often the more creative of the activities, but there are some very creative ad successful sales people too. Let's have a look at some depth about some examples of each activity.

Marketing is dependent upon our psychological reactions to certain stimuli, and works on our basic wants and fears. On the one hand we may be persuaded that we need to wipe down our kitchen surfaces with a particular biocide to protect our families against germs (basic instinct to stop disease attacking our children) or perhaps we want to feel desired, beautiful and are persuaded that certain face creams will stop our wrinkles.

Consider the budget supermarket that is selling own brand perfume at low cost. Apparently it smells similar to a high-end brand. This will attract buyers who are motivated by price but do little to attract those buyers who are buying on the premise of luxury and esteem. The perfume business is quite an amazing phenomenon. The concept is of a life of luxury, wealth and a mythical existence inhabited by the “beautiful people”, sophisticated and desired. Prices for perfumes have little relationship to the cost of production. True, there are some elements that some high-end perfumes may contain that are expensive because of their rarity, but the ingredients may have been produced in a laboratory. Advertising for perfumes is based on aspiration, something that is perceived as luxurious and yet is within the reach of many people. The market was mainly for female customers but men’s fragrance market has expanded rapidly and again the attraction has been one of aspiration and luxury. Both male and female markets have high association with celebrities, sports and fashion.

Our sense of smell is evocative and it is strange to think that by tapping into our primeval roots and basic desires results in a multi-billion dollar industry. The buyer has a perception of sophistication, an aim to be desirable and linked to our favourite celebrities. Marketing mirrors that aspiration in persuading us that we can attain a little of the “other world” luxury through the readily available commodity of a smell that not only do we believe will make us attractive to others but also to signal our perceived status. We are persuaded by presentation and perceive the high relative cost as a sign that the liquid is precious. Many of us will use only a small amount of it whilst others will “save” it for a special occasion.

But does the advent of a similar scent readily available for low cost at a budget supermarket mean that we will forsake the high end perfume? Well, just ask any woman if she would prefer a bottle of Chanel or several bottles of the budget store scent and most will opt for the Chanel regardless of whether the smell is similar. The high end packaging, sensuously shaped bottles and targeted marketing will persuade us that this is something that we want to handle and admire. And then we get to open it and access the promise of sensory fulfillment inside. Perhaps it is less surprising that many people do not finish a bottle before opening another brand which too will offer its promises and allure. The very act of opening the bottle is desirable in itself.

Clever Sales Techniques

A sale is more of an immediate activity and, whilst marketing creates desire, a sale secures the transaction, a fulfillment of our immediate requirements. We now own something that we think we need. Marketing is a long term activity, building a relationship between the customer and the brand. Clever sales techniques can persuade us to by more than we had anticipated. Picture the local general store where you go in for one item but come out with a bagful of goods. We are greeted with special offers, prominently displayed goods that we might need: all have “buy-me” signals. Perhaps this is a store where you are served by the owner store-keeper. “Is that everything you need for today?” and engages you in conversation. You may hesitate and consider what's in your cupboard at home. The storekeeper may then ask you if you have seen the special offer on chocolate cookies, “my wife just loves them”. Your inner dialogue may catch you out as you think how nice it would be to give the kids a treat and anyway they are on special offer... and of course you can give yourself a special reward for doing the shopping to have with your coffee when you get home. “How’s your Dad, will he be coming over this weekend? Now there’s a man who loves a great cup of tea. We’ve got his special brand going on special. We have some great French cheeses come in fresh today, go great with some crusty bread...” And so on. Before you know it you have a big bag full of provisions that you hadn’t intended on buying this shopping trip. The store-keeper has sold you things that you wanted, right? After all you are a hunter gatherer making sure that your home and family are well provided for, your kids will have a treat and you will show your Dad you care for him by getting some treat for him. All this emotion wrapped up in your shopping trip.

Sales people will seek to add value to the sale once you have made a buying decision. Having made such a decision on a major purchase, the little extras seem to be low cost compared to the main cost. Car salesmen will offer additional warranty, a service plan and even car mats apparently to enhance your purchase. Dress shops will show you “must have” accessories to complement the outfit you have just bought. “That dress is definitely your colour, very slimming/ youthful / versatile...". Even in self-service shops, there are plenty of small goods next to the till to tempt you. In many shops, there is quite a shift these days to relationship sales where the sales person will engage you in conversation, a shopping friend to help you chose and affirm your buying decision. Actually, this adds to our enjoyment of the shopping experience and will form future incentive to go back and consequently forms part of the shops marketing. This is why it the terms are sometimes confused since they are so closely related.

So what's the difference?

Closely related to sales, marketing is the proactive and creative engagement with potential customers and communicates the benefits and features of the product. Sales can be defined as the transaction that occurs between parties when goods or services are exchanged for an agreed value usually expressed as money. Both tap into our emotions and senses making our buying decisions less rational than we might think. Oh and in case you were wondering, I would love to receive a bottle of Miss Dior perfume, thank you!


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    • HR-Partner profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine de Caux 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for your feedback Amarbani and you are right in what you say. This short article only intends to focus that our buying decision is not necessarily based on logic but our emotional responses and I hope this stimulates some debate!

    • Amarbani profile image


      4 years ago from India

      I think you have talked more of promotion ( and advertisements is part of that) rather than Marketing. Marketing encompasses a lot more than just promotions that appeal to our buying instinct.


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