Marketing is the reason you have too much stuff - by Stanley Hurwitz

January 03, 2020 - Front Section
Stanley Hurwitz

The recent move from our home of 28 years was surprisingly stressful. We no longer needed the five-bedroom Colonial with attached four-room in-law unit that we designed and built when the kids were small. Our three offspring grew up and moved out (Thank goodness!). And sadly, my wife’s parents passed away. We realized that two people and a cat really don’t need 12 rooms. (Although the cat loved the room to roam.) And my bride convinced me it would relieve her stress if the first thing she saw each morning was the ocean instead of my face.

Downsizing sounds simple, but deciding which items to sell, donate, give away or trash turned into a labyrinthine year-long process. As we dug deep into closets, uncovering long-forgotten “stuff,” it raised lots of questions: Why did we buy that set of encyclopedia right before the internet brought all knowledge onto our computer and phone? Who bought all those CDs, DVDs, video games? How did we end up with 11 bikes? We probably should have been trashing and donating things all along, but who knows when you might need that old record player, baseball gloves, hula hoops or sled?

Our 18-month downsizing project caused me to reflect on how marketing convinces us to buy updated versions of things we already have, or to buy things we didn’t even know we needed. AARP explains it: (1) We’re trying to buy happiness; (2)We want to look better, feel happier; (3) We feel possessions give us security; (4) We hope to impress others; (5) We’re covering up emotional issues like depression; and (6) We acquire stuff as a reward, a token of our worth.

Many things people used to see as luxuries (or never even thought they needed) are now viewed as essentials. Are you one of the 41 million who bought a patented My Pillow after seeing their umpteenth TV infomercial? The company claims its pillows help with neck pain, snoring, migraines, sleep apnea, allergies and asthma, fibromyalgia, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Magic!? While many say it works, others aren’t so thrilled, finding it not so different from their regular pillow. You can sleep soundly knowing there’s a 60-day return policy. Once the novelty wears off, one day you’ll trash it or toss it in the closet.

Are you one of the millions who bought a Weather Tech custom-fit floor mat for your vehicle? The vehicle will last just as long without that $30 - $150 luxury. You know those fancy mats and clean floors won’t add to the selling price. Hey, get your muddy feet off my beautiful floor mats!

Creative marketing pros plant seeds in your head about new products. Whatever your product or service, business owners should spend their time running their business, leaving the marketing and PR to an experienced pro, finding ways to convince people they absolutely need your ‘stuff.’ Remember that a good idea can be worth a million dollars, and great PR doesn’t happen by itself. Contact me for a complimentary consultation. (More advice: Start downsizing yesterday.)

Stanley Hurwitz is principal of Creative Communications, Plymouth, Mass.

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