Men are similar to peacocks, except that instead of brilliant plumage, men buy Porsches and they perform heroic acts – farmers growing food and activists saving whales, maybe. Though, it should be noted that such specifics were not mentioned. These theories were outlined in a Carlson School of Management marketing study, concluding that “conspicuous consumption” could be a human mating ritual. Almost everyone will at some point in life buy a luxury item, justifying it in practical terms, but secretly coveting it for something more. And that something more is an attempt to impress a potential mate – for a short term gain, so to speak. Take the Porsche Carrera GT – please. It spends more time topping wish lists than best-value lists because of its ability to impress. From feudal lords and Pharaohs to cattle herding tribesmen throughout history, men have been trying to impress women with everything from a prized goat to a Ralph Lauren shirt.
Consequently, marketers might be well advised to think about what signals their products are sending. Among men interested in short-term “gain,” a wallet with a prominent “mart” logo was less desired than one of the same price that mimicked a prestigious brand. And it should be noted that the more attractive “products” don’t need as much marketing to be impressive (iPads?). And to be fair, the criteria are different for individual cases. Not all females are shallow enough to be impressed by a small two-seater car with no space for shopping bags. Some prefer a nice supersized SUV. Meanwhile, big spending women were not as impressive in mating circles. But ultimately, at least for males, conspicuous consumption may be necessary to sustaining the species.
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