January 02, 2007

Beyond marketing

I was driving along the Post Road, early Saturday morning, after doing my grocery shopping (I did a lot of cooking this weekend) and I was sort of taken aback by the number of Lexus cars and SUV's on the road. They looked kind of nice and I got to wondering about whether I would want to buy one. And while I was wondering, really, no more than idly musing, I was sort of eavesdropping on my thinking not quite out loud and I heard myself, to my horror, wonder: Who drives a Lexus and do I want to be that person?

Feels like a triumph of marketing to me, that I am more concerned, at a somewhere between conscious and unconscious level, about the image or the lifestyle or the personality associated with a car than I am about whether the car is a good piece of design and will be safe and reliable. I like to pride myself on the thought that I can make decisions rationally, that I will decide on major items based on the sensible criteria. I suppose, however, that I am not immune to questions of style and image -- no matter how wonderful the Yugo may be (and it isn't), the fact is that I will not drive one. No, the other problem is that I am woefully unqualified to judge based on first hand information how well a car is made. Cars are now way beyond the ability of a shade tree mechanic to repair and maintain. So, maybe all you have left is style and image and anecdotal information such as you get from Consumer Reports.

When I related all this to my wife, she reassured me that actually this was a failure of marketing. Marketing doesn't want you to consciously think about these questions. They want to influence you in more subtle ways, in meta ways, and if you ask the questions than marketing has failed.

Scary, when you reflect on it, how marketing shapes our decision making process at a fundemental and basic level such that the decision itself is corrupted from the get go. I mean, if the way you set the process up to make the decision is faulty, than the decision has no integrity either, does it?

Posted by Random Penseur at January 2, 2007 09:36 AM | TrackBack

My husband drives a Lexus. In fact he's on his second GS and he *loves* his car(and he's not a car person). It goes in twice a year for servicing and that's it, they never break down.

Reseach had everything to do with our decision to purchase the first car; he got tired of servicing his North American branded cars 'constantly' and after we read CR and a bunch of other publications, we bought the Lexus and never looked back.

Posted by: Jocelyn at January 2, 2007 05:18 PM

Fight the power!

Until you decide to give in, then it'll hurt less because you showed you had a spine for a time. ;)

Besides, Lexii are nice cars. And, if you need a sensible reason, they're made by Toyota---and Toyotas are PHENOMENALLY reliable.

Posted by: Kathy at January 2, 2007 06:16 PM

Gee, RP, doesn't that last paragraph describe every decision in this life. I stand accused of being close-minded, opinionated, and inattentive, but it's the only weapons I have to fight against the flawed decision-making you so aptly pointed out. So obviously, in your situation, more important than the make of the car is the color of the interior, the coffee-cup holder design, and the quality of the stereo system, right?

Posted by: Roberta S at January 3, 2007 04:02 PM
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