I do not mean by sell less that your total sales should be lowered. I am saying sell what is necessary to the customer, and not force him to buy more than is needed (and later to be thrown away) or consume more than is needed. Marketers have learnt to sell more, or get consumers to consume more.
Take toothpaste, whose caps sizes vary from 13 mm to 40 mm. Lemin Wu and Yuheng Zhao in a 2014 article on “Loyalty and Durability: Evidence from Toothpaste Tubes” found that the usage of toothpaste went up when the cap size was increased (which means the opening of the tube), and consequently the market share went up. This also meant the consumer is forced to use a larger amount of toothpaste with larger tube or cap opening.
Soft drink manufacturers found the same thing: the larger the bottle opening the more the consumption. So, they went from 28 mm caps to 38mm caps. However, consumers had difficulty in drinking from the larger opening, and the cost of the container was slightly more with the larger opening. So most soft drinks use 28mm size caps.
The single serve soft drink can has gone up in size from 200ml to 380 ml. The taller cans look bigger than squat cans, causing them to be attractive buys.
Bottles where 200ml was a standard single serve size have gone up to 600ml. All this forces you to consume more.
We have so many examples of this. In restaurants they tend to give you larger plates, which makes the quantity look less and makes consumers want to buy another dish. In buffets, smaller plates are used, and the same amount of food looks like more, reducing overall consumption.
On another note, take medical creams. Let’s say you need an anti-bacterial cream to be used a few times. You are forced to buy a cream that will last for 30 to 50 times the usage, causing you to throw it away.
This is true for anti-bacterial swabs, they are sold in 4 inch by 4 inch size swabs, 4 in a box. You may require only half a 4 inch by 4 inch swab, and then have to throw the rest away.
There is also the question of buying something like a phone. Can you buy a basic smartphone. No, you cannot. They come with all kinds of bells and whistles that you do not need, but have to pay for them. Another way of selling more or getting the consumer to buy more.
Netflix, instead of making a movie or a very limited series, will make a longer series, forcing the viewer to view more episodes.
The world is replete with these examples. Why? Of course, companies want to sell more…their definition of value is more sales, more profits (and more waste or unnecessary consumption at the consumer’s end).
They hardly look at the value the customer perceives. Often consumers have no choices and so they have to buy more, spend more, waste more.
Gone are the days where you could buy exactly the amount you wanted, when items were sold in bulk or in loose form. Food like rice and flour, fruits and vegetables (half sold in loose form, and half packaged) were available only in loose form.
In India, to increase sales and indeed rural sales, items like soap, shampoo, etc, were packaged in single serve or smallest sizes possible, opening up new consumers and markets (consumers who will be marketed to buy larger sizes), and new segments. An example of selling less to sell more.
This increased value to these consumers and to the company also.If you accept the role of a company is to make more profit, then larger is better for the company. If you accept stakeholder value including customer value is to be increased then you start to look at the customer’s view point. Else smarter companies will displace you, or the customers will not buy as much. Tilt the balancing act in favour of the stakeholders.
Let me end by quoting Jeremiah Owyang in a 2008 blog called “Marketers get people to buy stuff that they don’t need”
“This was the quote I heard last night from someone I know, his impression was that the role of Marketers was: “to get people to buy stuff that they don’t need”. Partially, he is right. The reputation of marketers is often negative, where marketers are considered to be involved with trickery, deceit, and mass consumerism.
“In business school, we learned that the classical definition of Marketing was to connect customers with products, yet the definition never included tricks, lying, or manipulation. If you’ve read Seth’s book that All Marketers are Liars, you’ll quickly realize that the premise of the book suggests that marketers actually tell consumers the stories that they want to hear. I know most marketers will feel better about their profession after reading this book.”
I leave it to you, dear reader to decide what is right, and whether you have been forced to overbuy. Can we buy less and not more? Did this create value for you?