The Secret

With this assignment of creating a consumer behavior blog, my awareness for the entailing trends, marketing, and advertising, has become extremely heightened. This blog itself has become its own object of my observations and lessons in consumer behavior. I found myself at times thinking “that could be a really cool topic for a blog post”. I in turn became much more aware of my actions as a consumer, and analyzed often how I interpreted advertising and products that I encountered. The book and short film, The Secret, talk about laws of attraction, and how when you think of something continuously and thoroughly you subconsciously act in ways that allow that thought to become a reality. It essentially suggests that your mind is in control of a lot more than you think possible, and throws luck to the wind on some level. In reality however, once you buy into all of that, it boils down to you being more aware of that thing that you’re continuously and thoroughly thinking about. When you hear people saying things like “Ever since that day, I always look at the clock at 9:11, it’s the weirdest thing!”, that is a perfect example. You look at the clock just as often at 8:51 every day, but 8:51 isn’t a significant number that makes you aware that you’re viewing it every day. I believe that this is what has happened to me this semester after writing this blog.

This blog has become somewhat of an addiction to me. Too often I find myself taking a break from my Business Law studies because I’m itching to write about the idea I thought of earlier in the day. After taking a step back today, during my study break coincidentally, I decided to write about myself and how I am now under the magnifying glass, analyzing my own consumer behavior. As consumers we are prone to find comfort in tradition, routine, and personal satisfaction. This class on consumer behavior has brought to my attention my interest in scrutinizing not only my personal interaction with every day products and marketing, but the general consumer as well. Basically, at the start I fell victim to the teachings of The Secret. I would be caught off guard, often thinking that these objects of consumer behavior were oddly becoming more prevalent in my life, more than before I took this class. My itch to write about my reflections was likely more of an underlying passion for the topic of a consumer, and essentially myself. As I snapped out of my Adderol induced study craze today however and found myself staring at a blank blog post, that underlying passion yelled at me in a way and said that these observations aren’t more prevalent in my life since I’ve started this class, I’m more aware of them.

I’ve taken some valuable lessons away from this blog. The teachings in consumer behavior, my newly acquired awareness of marketing schemes and advertising messages, and my now analytical buyer behaviors all aside. The most important lesson I have taken away from this blog is my passion for the topic. With a marketing internship in London with TNS lined up for this summer, I hope that I can expand and explore on this new interest of mine. The point of this post is essentially a dissection of my consumer behavior. Partaking in a class assignment can turn into much more than an A or a B in the class. I encourage any readers of this to take a step back and look at the things you subconsciously include in that daily routine of yours, or the thoughts that consistently make their way into your thought process on a frequent basis. Consumer behavior is not just a break down of how people behave in certain situations, it can also be what you, and they, take away from something. For a while, what you take away from an event, advertisement, or a small purchase at the convenience store, may stay secluded in the back of your mind for a duration, but if there is an underlying passion for that lesson learned, it will make itself known at some point. For me, that moment just happened as I opened up a blank blog post in my obsessed trance like state of mind.

Pump up the volume!

Apple has revolutionized the ways we listen to music and entertain ourselves on the go. The Apple iPod is a technological paragon that has become a regular household item for our generation. When it was first introduced, the iPod put Walkman’s and personal CD players to shame, and the old clunky MP3 players in contempt. A walk on a college campus or a heavily populated city is a great chance to observe how many people are walking around to their own beats, with those well known white ear buds protruding from their pocket or backpack. As the generations of iPods have continued to improve, the original creation with the rotating wheel has now taken many forms that allow for discreteness, with the Shuffle, or for more technologically suave folk that enjoy touch screens with a sleek look. The iPod has become an item that is no longer limited to auditory pleasure, but is now capable of playing movies to keep the kids quite on the road trips to Florida, or the business man occupied during that three hour flight to NYC.

Apple has marketed around this project in ways that are highly beneficial to themselves. Working in tandem with the iPod, Apple iTunes is the sole operating program to customize your iPod, and add music and other media to your personal device. In addition to this, when you purchase music from iTunes, it comes in its own MP4 formatting so as to prevent people from putting Apple’s music on other MP3 players, and also so that they can control the customers from handing out the media to friends and family. Disguised as a convenience to it’s customers, to appear as easy to use as well as cheap for its value, this is actually more beneficial to Apple because as you buy their music, you are in turn almost forced to purchase an iPod if you want to take it on the go. This is never really a topic of complaints though for most people because the iPod is superior to all of its competitors, and has enough variety in its models to satisfy the needs and wants of its consumers.

The iPod is the leader in the market of personal music players. As its sales continue to rise, its creators continue to come out with new versions, and better technology to bring its original users happy, and its new users happy with their purchases. Having transformed the way we listen to music, Apple has put themselves on the leader board again, and have continued to out-do themselves time and time again. With the Sony Walkman being a thing of the past, one can’t help but wonder what will be next for the music junkie’s and technology buff’s. With sales of the iPod continuing to rise, it is reasonable to believe that you will only start to see more of those white ear buds on your walk to class.

Play me a song, Piano Man

The Piano Man at the Neon Cactus in the levy is a one of a kind performer that I honestly don’t think I could get tired of. From the moment he sits down on his piano bench, he is lively, witty, and flawless in his performance. I recently got to watch him for the first time this past saturday when my fraternity went there as a group for all of the 21 year olds and their mothers. At the start of his show, he makes it clear that he will show no mercy to anyone, and that participation is a must if you would like to stay in his bar area. Being a “newcomer” I was allowed to request a song and have it played. After requesting the popular and well liked Elton John song, Tiny Dancer, I was made fun of for my light blue shirt, and asked to give up my man card for my song choice. Knowing that it was all in good fun I played along, and thoroughly enjoyed his performance of the classic hit I requested.

The atmosphere that the Piano Man creates is more than I ever could have expected. The room literally becomes packed with every stool and chair occupied, and foot room becomes hard to find. His song list is seemingly never ending, and that’s just the piano play list. He is also very well versed on the guitar, and does not disappoint by any means with that incredible play list either. The crowd participation feels as though you have payed to see a world renown artist that has been playing since your grandmother could walk. It is a general understanding that if you interact with the Piano Man himself, he will likely find something about you to make fun of in a completely joking manner.

If you’re ever looking for something to do on a night that you want to go out, especially a thursday night, I highly recommend this one of a kind performer. At the price of free, you truly cannot beat the show that you witness. I can only imagine that his contract with the Cactus is worth millions, because he is nothing short of an tourist attraction to anyone in the area. If they owners and managers of The Cactus are smart, they will never let this man out of their sight, because the revenue’s that he must generate for them have to be astronomical. Play me a song, you’re the Piano Man, has a whole new meaning to this fan. Bravo.

Lenny’s Sub Shop

One of the most recent additions to the Chauncey Hill Mall’s food line up has left me in awe with its sub par operations. Lenny’s Sub Shop, located right next to Taco Bell and Hookah!, is missing out on a great opportunity for success. With its location being where it is, most of the businesses in that area utilize the bar scene and take advantage of it by staying open at least an hour post bar closing time. I was unpleasantly surprised when I walked by Lenny’s the other night at 11 p.m. only to see the lights turned off, and all of the chairs nicely turned up-side down on top of the tables. I’m not claiming to be a genius or a market expert, but what rock are the owners living under? Everybody knows that drunk people carelessly spend money, especially on cheap delicious items such as subs. This is all overlooking their poor layout, which I’ll get to in a minute. Surely the three or four employee’s you would need to hire to operate the business would not be a loss to you, because you’re almost guaranteed to sell the 15 subs you would need to in order to make up for the extra 3 hours that you’re open. Even if you weren’t getting as much business as Five Guys (see previous post, great place) or Taco Bell, the advertising and name brand that you can get from operating during those peak hours of Chauncey are more than worth it in their own light. Personally I believe that Lenny’s is just making a huge mistake by missing out on such a great opportunity for better profits.

The second thing that bugs me about Lenny’s is their layout for ordering. In the unlikely situation of Lenny’s getting a large crowd, due to their hours, the awkwardness of their ordering “station” is poorly placed. Right next to all of the tables, a long line would have no good place to form. In addition to this Lenny’s could reduce one register by simplifying their line up, and possibly even operate with one less employee. Why not take a page from every other fast food place, and either make the register where you place your order be where you pay as well, or place your order with the people making your food, THEN pay for it? When you walk in, you walk to a register where you order, and then they enter it into a register that then prints out a receipt that simply has what your order is on it. Then, while you’re ordering your sub, since there is no reason to be in that line watching them, most people would use this time to fill up their drinks, but the pop machine is inconveniently placed away from the line up causing customers to get out of line, cause a jumble at the fountain, and then walk over to pay. Maybe this all has a rhyme and reason that I’m missing out on, but doesn’t it seem like a waste of paper and machinery to have two registers, only one of which you pay at? And couldn’t the pop machine maybe be placed in a location that is en-route to you obtaining your meal and paying for your order?

In the big picture, I simply believe that Lenny’s is missing out on a lot of opportunity to improve their efficiency. Hours of operation are one of, if not the most, important things to consider when first opening a business. The efficiency of your layout should be considered of high priority as well so you can improve turn around on orders, as well as serve more customers in a timely fashion. Maybe Lenny’s is using the scarcity technique, thinking that people will value their subs more since they can only have them 12 hours of the day, but you would think that the owners and managers would realize the window of opportunity that is wide open, almost as if its a doorway. A little more market research and development around their target market could prove astronomically beneficial to Lenny’s Sub Shop. As an avid lover of sub sandwiches, I hope that they some day realize these large flaws in the performance of their establishment.

A night at the cinema

A date night at the movie theatre, or a family night to see the newest flick, is more detrimental to the pocket book these days than it used to be back in the day. In the years of the great depression back in the 20’s, a ticket to the movie’s cost around 27 cents, and in the 60’s around $1. Those were the days. Today, if you were to take the wife and two kids to see the newest Nickelodeon film, you can expect to throw down the plastic for no less than $45 or $50, and that’s if you’re all reaching over each other to share a large popcorn and fountain drink. Now, in order to get that buttery bliss known as popcorn that goes hand in hand with seeing a movie, you’ll have to spend around $5. However, be ready to answer that annoying ploy from the theatre employee when they say “Would you like to get the next size up for just 25 cents more?”, as they hold up the two sizes in an attempt to reach into your inner child and quench that true desire for more. And never once can you truly look at the size difference between a small and medium and not be a little pissed off at how a small is literally the size of your hand, and then bitterly reach into your change pouch as you give in to their corrupt marketing scheme. In theory, it’s ingenious, but on the other hand it’s cruel how they manipulate you into buying the next size up on everything.

The days of low prices and 25 cent Coke bottles are long gone. We now live in an age of Mastercards, American Expresses, and Visa’s, because no one ever carries enough cash to indulge in a majority of life’s luxuries. Movies just being an example, a night on the town with the wife and kids has become something that you have to budget and factor in to your monthly spending. For those on a tight spending limit, saying no to your innocent 5 year old as they beg you with their watery baby blue eyes to take them to see the new Sponge Bob Square Pants movie has just become your biggest nightmare. A reply of “I’m sorry kiddo, I have to save up so I can send you to college some day” is sadly enough now a viable response to their kicking and screaming. It’s either that, or you frantickly skim the Sunday morning coupon ads for a deal of a lifetime to the local cinema. Thank God for movie rentals and DVD players. Although it may be 2 months after it came out on the big screen, there is still an option to save the day, and save your reputation as a father.

John Mayer

The birthday weekend was a success and was filled with excitement and entertainment the whole way through. This past saturday a few of my friends joined me in the celebration, as about twelve of us traveled up to Chicago for the last stop on John Mayer’s tour. Nothing short of spectacular, John Mayer brought the music to the stage and his fans were lit up for all 3 hours that he played without hiatus. Any true fan could reasonably, and precisely say that John Mayer is one of the greatest musicians of our generation.

Concerts are a well planned production that is aimed to grab new listeners, entertain the old ones, and hopefully drop all jaws. This one did just that. Opening up with a transparent curtain around the stage and a short film projected on it, the crowd roared as he began to play the first song from his latest album Battle Studies. Seeing the United Center packed to its gills, you can’t hold back the goose bumps for long once you realize the show that is about to be put on. A day in the life of John Mayer would be ridiculously overwhelming. A ticket that I bought in October for $90, which had me just off the center of the floor, right of stage, could have been sold on stub hub for around $600 in the week prior to the concert. Just imagining having that amount of publicity, loyal fans, and true admirers is beyond invigorating.

The masses that come from states away to see a human being perform on a stage is a true indicator that we are reliant on entertainment. As John Mayer said towards the end of his show, a 70 plus person crew is the amount that it took to keep him on the road throughout his tour. Long before John Mayer himself, his crew would be at each venue before sunrise, and would not leave until the last speaker wire is wound up well after midnight. All of this, for a performance that 20,000 fans can call the best one they’ve seen to date. John Mayer is an icon for our generation, and I am extremely lucky to have been able to see him in concert, along with the other 19,999 obsessed fans this past weekend.

Birthday’s come but once a year

Birthday’s are a very interesting concept in theory. Year after year we have been trained to celebrate the day of our birth, no matter how long ago that may be. Different cultures may view this differently, but in America it is virtually completely understood that you seize the day, accept gives, and celebrate another year of being alive. For me, I’m hitting another milestone tonight at midnight, the big 2-1. The night that is feared by most, and known to many. Sixteen seemed so distant for many years, anticipating the independent feeling that comes with being able to drive a car with no one next to you if you please. A year later I could be devious and see an R rated flick without Mom or Dad accompanying me, and without fear of being caught for buying a ticket to one film and walking into another. Eighteen seems almighty when you are finally a legal adult, and can smoke cigarette’s and cigars until you can’t breathe anymore if you would like. Then this one, the night that I have been waiting for ever so patiently to be able to legally consume alcohol, or even rent a hotel room for a nice Valentine’s day getaway with the girlfriend. I’m squirming in my seat as I write this, as I watch the clock tick away more slowly than it ever has before.

It’s kind of funny to think that once a year, you get money and gift’s thrown at you for something that you literally had no choice in taking part of. Your parent’s decision, or mistake, to bring you into this world is attached with the reasonable expectation to receive praise and recognition for just being alive. Sympathy is automatically given when you state the phrase, “It’s my birthday!” to people, and celebrations are nearly always in order. Whether it’s just with close family members, or the entire crew for a night on the town, you gotta’ indulge.

Birthday’s are one of many cultural traditions that we take part in on a yearly basis. The society that we live in puts a heavy weight on partaking in some of these traditions. School and work are put on hold in some cases, and commemoration is given to the day. Our behavior in this light is very interesting, and it will never have an end in our life time for most of the event’s that we recognize with certain levels of importance. For me, not too many mile stones are welcomed from here on out. In two years I can rent a car, and at 50 I’ll just be called over the hill. Big whoop, right? Cheer’s to birthdays. And cheers to everyone I see at the bars at midnight; hopefully I survive to post another day.

Stalker’s Haven

The human mind is biologically prone to be interested in the lives of other human beings. To most people, social interaction is imperative, and without it we can come to feel distant, isolated, and depressed. Based off this principle it is easy to conclude why websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are nearly instant hits, but still fads none the less.

With social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace, you can easily stay connected with your friends and family, as well as communicate readily and share video’s and pictures. People can literally become addicted to sites such as this because they become so fascinated by other people’s lives. One can deduce quite a bit of information after spending some time on someone’s page. By reading wall posts, looking at pictures, and other numerous stalking techniques, its quite easy to figure out something such as what your girlfriend did last friday night. Personally, I believe that the somewhat new network named Twitter has taken this fascination with other people’s lives to a whole new level. It’s mind boggling to believe that humans are SO intrigued by what other people are doing, that a website is created so you know what the people you are “following” are doing at that moment. And as a little side note, “following” only makes it sound more creepy, as if I’m over your shoulder every second of the day. Back on track though, Twitter is commonly used on smart phones and 3G wireless phones by people that use the network to readily answer the now famous question, “What’s Happening?”. It almost makes you wonder what’s next. I can reasonably assume that if I were to create a “social networking” site called Birds-eye, if you will, where you could watch a live feed of someone as they carried out their daily tasks, that I would be a millionaire within months of it going on-line.

All in all, the usage of sites such as these is at a new level, and it will likely only become more intense from here. As hypocritical as it may seem, I must admit that I have a facebook tab open currently. And if for some unforeseen incident were to occur where I get that “oops, we’re sorry but Safari closed unexpectedly” messages, not to fear, as soon as I open a new window I can breathe again because its my second home tab that pops up automatically. I stand strongly saying that I will never use Twitter, but I have to say that I could see myself reconsidering if I were to have a blackberry or an iPhone. But as for right now, all you need to know about me is that I just posted a new blog entry at 7:15 p.m. on April 7th, 2010.

It’s the simple things in life

One of my biggest aspirations for my life is to create an invention that is incredibly simple, but have it become a necessity in every day lives. For sake of example, bottled water is a convenience item that is purchased and consumed on a regular basis by families all over the world. Items like this are mind boggling to me. The fact that no one created it before the person that did is incredible, it’s so simple. Taking a substance that is needed for the survival of our human race, and any other life form for that matter, and just making it portable seems so simple. If I were to guess, I’d say that the person that invented bottled water didn’t even create the bottle himself. My assumption would be that he had the idea, then went to a plastics company after he had the idea secured, and had them produce him a bottle made out of plastic. An idea that makes millions upon millions a year.

This follows closely with a marketing technique that is a large key to success. Take an existing product, and make it something new; aka create a niche. People are on the go day in and day out, and you can’t take your kitchen sink with you to stay hydrated! The person that invented bottled water did not by any means come up with the idea of transporting the liquid, they just made it easier and more practical. It’s relieving consumers of a burden that can make a product sell. Who wants to carry a canteen, or an non-disposable water bottle around after its empty? When there is nothing around to fill it up, there is no use for it, its simply taking up space and is dead weight. Providing them with a cheap alternative, with purified water, is ingenious. A better product, that comes at little cost, and that has a benefit that is worth the spending. It was an invention that was sure for success since its conception. I can only hope that some day I will have the life changing idea, such as this one, that will make me millions.

Google

In light of my previous post, a commonly used search engine intrigued my interest and sparked my thinking. Google incorporated could arguably be one of the most simple multi billion dollar ideas that we have seen in our life times. It revolutionized the way we search the internet as we know it. Internet browsers come standard in a lot of cases with the google search bar embedded in the top corner of its window. When you think about it, you have to tip your hat to Larry PageĀ and Sergey Brin, the creators of the search engine.

One of the most impressive things to me is the simplicity of Google’s name. Six simple letters that are now known world wide, and used by millions of people every day, sometimes multiple times a day. As America’s top search engine, its incredible how the plain white page has evolved. I believe that it’s simplicity is key to their success. Their name is easy to remember. That is VITAL to gaining the share of the market in almost every industry. If you have a name that people remember over your competitors, you’re on turn 2 before your opponent is rounding the 1st. Another reason for their success is the work that it does for you. Every consumer loves it when they can sit back and have their work done for them. Type in what you’re searching for, and Google will throw back the most relivant results to make things easier for you. Online shopping is easier than ever before with Google. You type in what you want, and it lines up different prices from different websites within seconds, all so YOU benefit. This is all only magnified by one of their best secret weapons. IT’S FREE! Everybody loves free. Why would you pay for an AOL account, or another service, when you can create a gmail account for free that allows you to chat with your contacts when they are online, share documents with them, create groups, load photo’s, and many more things? No reasonable person should, it’s a serious waste of money.

Google is sure to only get better from what we know it as currently. Just a few weeks ago they were setting out to find a test population for their new internet service that is supposedly 400 times faster than any internet that we know today. How that is possible is beyond me, but I can only imagine and expect that the pages will load before I can finish clicking the button with those kinds of numbers. What an incredible company.

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