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The Sales and Marketing Trap – How Companies Get You To Buy More Than You Actually Need

Ah, capitalism. 

No matter how vigilant we try to be against the tricks of the trade, I’m pretty sure we’ve all fallen victim to seemingly ‘innocent’ marketing traps at one time or other. It’s the .99$ promos, the membership discounts, the buy-1-free-1 deals. We think we’re getting a bargain; that we’ve outsmarted the game. In reality, we’re all just suckers in a system designed to separate us from our money by playing on our wants – and turning them into ‘needs’. 

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Case in point: despite being well aware of all of the above, I still fell victim during the recent year-end sale. I didn’t NEED a bunch of body butters in various scents when I already had some at home that would have lasted me for at least two months. I just FELT like I needed them, and because “it would be a shame not to buy them at a discounted price”. But the loser at the end? Me. Because I ended up spending more. Score one for corporations, zilch for Eris. 

So how exactly do companies get you to, in sales speak, ‘go through the purchase funnel’ ? (ie buy their stuff) ?  Let’s take a look: 

Relentless Advertising

Ever searched up something online, then got constantly bombarded by advertisements of related products and services? This is because despite all the assurances of privacy and etc., companies DO collect data about you and your browsing habits – to be used or sold to potential advertisers to create targeted ads. Some websites give you a heads up that they ‘collect cookies’, but it’s all just a show to appear transparent – because many of these sites do so without asking for permission anyway, and there is no way to regulate this. This is probably why you’re seeing a lot of hotel deals on Facebook, after looking up airfares to Langkawi. They can wrap it in fancy terms like  ‘tailoring a more personalised experience’, but I’ll call it what it is: digital stalking. And they’ll keep showing you ads – until you finally cave in. 

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I recently shopped for items on The Body Shop online, since they had a promo and were giving away freebies (another way of sucking you in to buying stuff…coz who doesn’t like free stuff?). For the next few days, I kept seeing ads for body creams, lotions and fragrances. Inadvertently, it weakened my resolve – and I ended up buying more items from Bath and Body Works, which I did not actually need. Was it my fault for succumbing? Partly yes – but that’s how companies target your psyche, and ultimately push you into action. 

Free, But…

Behold the magic word. 

Malaysians love freebies and discounts. It’s the reason why many of us don’t mind lining up for hours on end just to get a free bag which would probably have cost 5 bucks. Was it actually worth it? Maybe not, but hey. It’s free, right? 

But is it really? 

Here’s an example, again from my experience at The Body Shop. So aside from buying online, I also bought from their physical store, to get Christmas gifts for friends. The sales person suggested that I sign up as a member, which would entitle me to a 20% discount. But to be eligible for a member, I had to purchase a minimum of RM80, and my gifts were like RM20 short. I ended up getting body butter for another 80 bucks. -___- 

Did I actually NEED the body butter? No. But my brain basically rationalised the purchase, saying ‘Hey, you got that for a 20% discount!’ 

Upgrades

Related to the above. I also commonly see this at Starbucks, where the barista will ask if you’d like to upsize your drink for an additional 1 or 2 bucks. Question is, do you actually need to drink that much ? Or are you just upsizing because you think that you’re getting much more ‘value’? 

“Unbeatable” Deals

I can’t remember where I read this, but I once came across this saying that companies don’t sell products; they sell FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Buyer’s psychology is such that we feel the need to one-up, to get (or at least believe that we got) the best value from our purchase.

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The sales tactic works extremely well for this. The end of the year is especially brutal, what with the 10.10, 11.11, 12.12, Christmas and new year’s sales. Yours truly can testify, having held out for all of them except for Christmas, and more recently, Bath and Body Works new year sale (bought another body butter and a candle for RM39 each). Speaking of which, the .9 tactic is another way companies make you believe that you’re spending less, and that you’re getting a deal. Because again, buyer’s psychology is such that RM39 seems much more appealing than RM40, despite it being just a RM1 difference. 

While I’m sure many people are well aware of all these little marketing traps, it can still be difficult to resist at times – especially in this day and age where we’re constantly exposed to marketing messages of buy more, spend more. Unless, of course you have a willpower of steel.  For the rest of us, we’ll just have to be more conscious about our purchasing habits, and be more intuitive in our spending. 

Now excuse me while I go apply some of those damn body butters I don’t actually need.

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The Hype Is Real – Lush Finally Opens in Malaysia!

You can probably count on your fingers the number of beauty-related posts there are on this blog, lol. Not a beauty guru, and makeup isn’t really my thing.

But soaps. Soaps I love.

Basically me but with soaps.

When I heard that the UK-based beauty and cosmetics brand Lush was finally opening in Malaysia at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, I was pretty excited to go check out their store. Good thing I was in town because I would be lazy to drive all the way to KL otherwise, ha

It was the second day since their opening and the place was pretty packed even though it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. I can see why though….

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LOOK. AT. THIS. DISPLAY.

If the phrase “Like a kid in a candy store” applies, then this warrants “Like an Eris in a Lush store”. ok lame

But seriously. The colourful and attractive display immediately entices the shopper. I think it’s brilliant how they market it because the stuff doesn’t even have wrappers ffs. They’re basically naked. But it’s arranged in such a way that it looks appealing. Of course, there’s the whole “promoting zero waste” philosophy that they follow. Good thing for them is that it also helps to save on packaging costs.

And that, folks, is how you do marketing and sales. 

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Some Halloween/autumnal/Christmasy-themed bath bombs.

One thing you have to be prepared with when you visit Lush? Bring a pocketload of money. Never been to a Lush overseas, but I am told it is much more affordable (also because of the purchasing power la lol). A bar of 100g soap here will cost you upwards of RM45, while bath bombs start at RM35 per pop.

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Gift boxes for the holiday season!

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Corner for demonstrations, where you get to try the scrubs/soaps/creams/etc. The staff were really friendly and keen to assist.

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DEAR LORD HERE IT COMES MY FAVOURITE PART OF THE DAY LOL

There were so many exotic ‘flavours’ and scents to choose from – sweet, fruity, floral. A lot of them had quirky, tongue-in-cheek names like Baked Alaska,  and not all were ‘block’ shaped like a conventional soap bar. The Golden Pear, for example, was shaped like… a golden pear, lol. Everything looked creamy, rich, decadent and luxurious.

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These were frickin adorable and were aptly named Strawberry Santa. You know, if I saw this alone on a small stand outside I’d probably go wtf is this deformity but again….THE POWER OF MARKETING AND BRANDING

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More gift packs. You can also customise your own.

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I was really tempted to buy the shower jelly (right) because it felt squishy and cold. Apparently you can put it in the fridge but my mom would kill me if the scent of strawberry somehow seeped into the chicken ew

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Lush’s soaps are handmade –  they even have the name of the artisan on them! The ones on sale in the Malaysia store are imported from Japan.

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Looks more like a creamy block of butter or cheese that you can eat > soap lol.

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Shampoo bars in various colours and scents.

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Pic when less busy

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In the end, my limited budget allowed me to buy ONE bar of soap. Not a big fan of citrus-y scents, but since I love honey, I got the Honey I Washed The Kids, which featured a really sweet, pleasant scent. I’ve been using it for a couple of days now and what I can say is the quality IS much better than some of the commercial soaps which tend to splinter and sting. This was quite gentle on the skin and left a nice, lingering smell. My bathroom also smells like honey!

That, or maybe I’m just trying to justify spending RM45 on a bar of soap.

LUSH

Lot 4.23.00, Level 4, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

 

Eris Elaborates: Can You Really Earn Money From Blogging?

 

Ah, the million dollar question.

Can you really make money from blogging?

At least, at a comfortable rate that you’d be able to afford the lifestyle often associated with being a, quote unquote, ‘lifestyle/travel/whatever-else-they-call-it blogger’.

I mean, it all seems so glamorous. The food reviews. The makeup reviews. The product endorsements. The travel junkets. And on top of that, you get PAID FOR IT? What kind of Matrix-blue-pill world do they live in?

Now, I’d like to clarify that most of my content is self-generated, with money from my own pocket, OR sponsored by companies FROM WORK. Since I work as a writer, I often post about the stuff I do at work, repurpose it a little for the blog, and voila. Blog post.

I can’t blame some of my friends who think that I earn big money from this space. Unfortunately, and I very much wish for it to be otherwise, the above scenario only applies to really hotshot bloggers with thousands, if not millions, of followers. And although I’ve been blogging consistently for nine years now (yes, time flies), nobody wins a medal for seniority in the blogosphere ;P

So the answer is both yes, and no.

Yes, because you CAN make a comfortable living being a blogger, if you have a large following.  That can entail a number of factors – luck, skill, a niche, the ability to keep readers interested and coming back for more, and the ability to market yourself well and get your blog out there in an extremely crowded space.

No, because most of us regular bloggers probably go through our entire lives without earning enough revenue to support us for a month, let alone as a full-time ‘job’. A good example? This blog (lol), where I write about travel, food, movie reviews, book reviews, and anything else that interests me.  While I can’t say my content is better or worse than other blogs, there are certainly those that are much simpler than mine, but still rake in more views.

Now, we come to the question of how much I actually earn. drum rolls

Last year, I made the shift from a personal to a ‘Premium’ account on WordPress, mainly because I was tired of the free themes and wanted to upgrade the blog’s look and feel. And since the account came with the WordAds feature, I was curious as to how much I could actually earn from just running ads through it.

Tada! A measly $8.81. Can’t miss out on the .01 cents.

WordAds pays you by ‘impressions’ rather than number of clicks, so the more impressions ie people who have seen your site, the more you get. This might not always reflect through the ads served, because visitors may be using ad blockers, leaves before the ad can fully load, or advertisers aren’t bidding higher than the minimum price to display their ad. Well, that’s the official explanation anyway lol.

If you’re seeing an H&M ad on my blog, that doesn’t mean H&M has exclusively paid to have their blog run in my website! It doesn’t work that way. It’s kind of like Google Ads where they track your preferences and see what you’ve been looking at, and then tailor-run an ad from whatever affiliated companies to suit your surfing habits. Creepy, I know.

If you’re curious about how much I’ve earned TO DATE since I started blogging ‘seriously’ (around 2015 – before this I changed blogs multiple times lol), here’s a rough breakdown:

 

  • Advertorial for a cashback service: RM150
  • Advertorial for a property launch: RM250 – this was for a friend who worked in PR
  • Advertorial for a taxi provider – USD60 (RM240) – A project from Upwork
  • Advertorial for holiday tour – USD60 (RM240) – same employer from Upwork
  • Linkback post – USD10 (RM40)
  • + USD8 (RM32) from WordAds

 

Grand total: RM912

Considering I’ve been blogging here since mid-2015, that would mean…  912/30 months = RM30.40 a month. Yep. Even if I ate Maggi everyday, it wouldn’t be enough coz a cup of maggi is now RM2+ or something lol. 

So there you have it. Mystery solved. Not quitting my day job anytime soon.

That’s not to say I won’t be blogging just coz it isn’t bringing in the dough. If it does, awesome. I will do what is in my power to promote it, without losing the essence of what it is, but in a personal capacity, I love blogging, and it brings me great joy when someone says they like my writing. I share what I like because I want my readers to experience what I see, feel and think, and more than anything, it’s a journal to look back on when I’m older.  

I hope this post has answered some questions!

To those who still aspire to make it big in the blogosphere, by all means, go for your dreams, but I hope you take into consideration what I’ve written, and plan accordingly. Best of luck! 

PS: This is my personal experience, and in no way am I saying that this applies to ALL bloggers.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

   

Change or Be Changed: The Marketing Mantra in Today’s Business World

First published in EFY Magazine Vol.3 2016

Adapt, or lose out. This is the philosophy when it comes to marketing in today’s world, according to Celcom Axiata Berhad chief executive officer Dato Sri Shazalli Ramly. Speaking during the recent Asia Pacific Marketing Congress (Appies), he shared his insights on marketing in a fast-driven, rapidly changing consumer market.

By Eris C

Business today is not like it was twenty, ten, or even five years ago.

Relating how much the landscape has evolved, Shazalli recounted his days while working at Unilever, managing a ‘big change’ from bath soap to shower gel products. Back in the days, the market was 90% bar soap and only 10% gel – the opposite of what it is today. But in today’s world, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the speed at which consumer trends change is staggering. And for companies to stay on top, they have to be faster and better than ever.

“Many apps are coming up, killing earlier apps. Now (at Celcom Axiata), we deal with app development for about 35 apps at the same time. Back then, I hardly handled the marketing of one shampoo product a month!” he chuckled. He cited some examples of how technological advances have displaced older consumer models over the years.

“Just five years ago, the day before Raya saw some 185mil SMSes sent out. This coming Raya, you’ll be lucky to get 1mil. Things change very quickly,” he elaborated. Another example was vape, which Shazalli pointed out holds 16% of the market share, a significant dent in the tobacco industry. “Back then, nobody would have imagined you can smoke a steep pipe,” he mused.

But were these technologies disruptive? Gel displaced soap, the same way it did with film and digital cameras. New consumer driven apps like Uber are driving some taxi companies into a corner, while crowd sourcing has helped self-made entrepreneurs remove the need for bank loans. Do they spell the death of conventional marketing as we know it?

Gone are the days of waiting for data to be keyed in and taking years for results and trends to come back to you. Today you have data scientists and analysts at hand, and a small window of opportunity as with so many choices, consumers get bored fast before they move on to the next shiny new thing.

“You can only convert them when you’re at the right place at the right time; and in most cases, consumers behave in a completely different way than what you expect them to be,” he said. To lead the charge for change, Shazaly stressed on the importance of good marketing, with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of a company taking the helm.

Some of the traits that a CMO must have, he opined, was the ability to be dynamic. While acknowledging that tech plays a crucial role in today’s markets, he emphasised that it was equally important to go back to basics.“As a marketer, you have to really understand what your job is about and not get drowned in the latest apps. One should have clarity of vision, and know it better than you know the technology,” he quipped.

A word of advice from the man himself: don’t let ego get the best of you.

“I have 35 years of experience, but learning is synonymous to my name. When you’re agile, you embrace new living better.” He added that he did not look to hire people who claim to be experts, as those are the ‘building blocks of ego’. “I’d rather look for interesting characters who are willing to learn,” he said.

Shazalli believes that as CMOs, it’s a balancing act: being sensitive to unserved customers’ needs, plus being aware of tech trends and how it can help to serve a business. “It’s no longer enough to simply look at a customer’s needs. Marketers and businesses need to respond to things faster than ever before. New products can be replaced instantaneously because tech is made available so quickly,” he said.

Granted, there are still some which combine the best of both: such as the conventional bookstore and Amazon, or patients going to doctors for check-ups whilst monitoring their own progress with Fitbit devices. But Shazalli’s point is clear: it’s sink or swim and for folks who have missed the boat – like Nokia’s inability to provide data plans, which provided an opening for iPhone into the market – it spells bad news.