Some consumers derive pleasure in anticipating, acquiring, and owning a discretionary purchase. The entire buying cycle contributes to the joy. Advertisements stimulate desire that arouses fantasies in the mind about how the product will satisfy the desire. One of our survey respondents said: "When I see commercials for beauty products, I get caught up in the fantasy. Sometimes I buy the products in those fantasy commercials, then I feel good for a while. I am satisfied for a while, then it becomes ordinary again, and I want to go out and shop for something special again."
A central part of the consumer fantasy is the buildup of anticipation leading to the purchase. The anticipation makes the ultimate satisfaction that much greater. It also enhances the shopping experience. Let us face facts. We derive pleasure in shopping at one store as opposed to another, even if we do not buy anything. Shopping at Wal-Mart is considered basic, ordinary, mundane, but shopping at stores like Bloomingdale's, Saks, or Neiman Marcus is a pleasure experience in and of itself. In the exclusive shopping venue, the illusion is that the well-dressed store clerks are there simply to satisfy the shoppers' whims. They ooh and aah when you try on something. They are honest if something does not look just right. They encourage you in the joy of shopping. In fact, the very best salespeople are so enthusiastic that they actually shop with you, rather than try to sell you something. Moreover, it is so much more fun shopping together than alone. A respondent explains: "When I am down in the dumps, shopping makes me feel better."
Pleasure as a driving force in consumer shopping is as much about the doing and experiencing (i.e., the verb), as it is in the item or product bought (i.e., the noun). No wonder that so many companies selling things that consumers don't need take control of the complete sales cycle, opening company-owned, dedicated stores to present and sell the brand. These companies recognize that consumers often derive as much ppleasure from the brand in the act of acquiring a product as they do from owning it. Marketers that sell through independent retailers need to be vigilant that their brands are sold in a pleasure-focused way. Sales training and point-of-purchase marketing materials are a start, but it is clearly a challenge for a company whose products bring pleasure when the shopping experience does not.
Pleasure as a driving forcein consumer shopping is as much about the doing and experiencing (i.e., the verb), as it is in the item or product bought (i.e., the noun).
Pleasure is equally important for men and women as a motivator for discretionary purchases. Younger-to-middle-aged consumers, aged 18 to 54, derive the most pleasure from their discretionary purchases. Consumers in this age range are far more likely than those aged 55 or older to rate pleasure as "very important" in their consumer choices. Moderate-to-high-income households feel entitled to gain pleasure from their purchases and, therefore, are highly motivated by this factor as well. Consumers who are married or live in two-person households are more highly motivated by pleasure than singles living alone.
Devoted to Sybaritic Pleasure
With its three core brands—Victoria's Secret, personal-care retailer Bath & Body Works, and White Barn Candle Company—Intimate Brands is a $5.5 billion company that markets a magic formula of sophisticated adult pleasure to its customers. It's a formula that has worked beautifully, with the company nearly doubling in sales from 1995. CEO Leslie Wexner credits Intimate Brands success to its brands. "What has been working and winning and will continue to work and win as far into the future as I can see are brands. Powerful, compelling, multichannel brands." The key to its brand magic is the company's intimate understanding of its customers and its dedication to consistently delivering on the brands' promises. Victoria's Secret targets women of all ages, body sizes, and shapes, with the promise that they can attract the passion and hold the interest of their man. While sex always sells, for women sex must come wrapped in romance. Victoria's Secret's 900 stores and its mail-order catalog are female friendly, promising sex appeal and romance in a decidedly adult, but nonpornographic, way. The catalog's voluptuous and beautiful models are nonthreatening to the female consumer because, with a touch of genius on the part of the company, the catalog uses a regular crew of models with whom the reader becomes familiar.
The company's Bath & Body Works brand works along the same lines as Victoria's Secret. Through the company's exclusive lotions and potions, a woman can entice her man with soft, caressible skin and draw him with exotic and sensual fragrances. The brands are all about pam-pering and indulgence, sex and romance, beauty and the power to attract. These are potent, evocative brand messages. Wexner says: "What are the characteristics of the best brands? They are always clearly defined, with a strong emotional content. It's simple. People want the brand. They buy the aspiration, the look, the attitude. All of it."