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What People Buy

Yesterday, I read the first few chapters of the Boron Letters. The Boron Letters are a series of letters written by Gary C. Halbert written from jail to his son. After reading what he wanted to call the book that was to come of the letters I was hooked; How to be your own Messiah. This guy is writing letters from jail to his son and is talking about being a god. He’s crazy. I love it. Give me more.

I continued reading into his rants about how to eat (funnily enough it’s pretty much my current diet), how to start your day (he got me again), and some important attitudes like self sufficiency and toughness (the guy’s an oracle). At this point I am ready to join whatever cult the guy proposes because he has hit every single one of my buttons. Then I realize he’s a direct mail salesman.

A direct mail salesman sells with his writing. After reading a few more pages it became clear that with his book he is teaching his son how to write copy.

One of his ideas that perked my ears was the idea of being a student of markets. That means to find out what people buy; not what they say they buy, what they actually buy. I decided to see if I could find some products that really surprised me, and that I did. The most frequently bought appliance right now is an ice cube maker. Not only that, but of the top 10 applicances the stupid ice maker is on there nine times. What?

Ultimately, I think this is an interesting exercise in looking for what people do rather than what they say. If we look at the most recent election and the absolutely absurd difference between what pollsters predicted (vote wise) and what actually happened, we see this effect happen again. Pollsters didn’t take into account that there was a social stigma behind voting a certain way in the last election. This skewed there results in a certain direction and created an incredible valley between reality and prediction.

Figure out what people buy. Don’t look at what they want.

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