That gendarme was obviously a nice guy, and I was lucky to be given help and let off without a fine. But I must admit there was a little bit of psychology involved. People do like to feel important and useful, and I managed to switch his source of pride from being a prosecutor to being a caring father.
Getting people to feel one way or another is obviously very useful in business too, and I love seeing it in action. There are many examples. Apple has done a tremendous job of making fairly drab pieces of computer equipment look more attractive. Even better, they have managed to make mobile phones a fashion item. People’s urge to be seen with the latest iPhone causes huge demand, even though they may be only fairly minor upgrades from the previous version.
Big retailers are also very clever. They put a lot of thought into where things are positioned in the store, especially at kids’ eye level and for the impulse-buy products near the counter. Their offers of “limit five” items are designed to get you to do exactly that: buy five, when otherwise you may have just bought less.
Airlines are clever users of “market segmentation”. In most instances, the business class or first class services are not very good value compared to economy class. But it is important to have an offering for those customers who have plenty of money, or an expense account. Other companies will deliberately offer some overpriced options in order to make their other products look good value. So there are lots of tricks, and not just nice policemen are fooled by them.
Richard Farleigh has operated as a business angel for many years, backing more early-stage companies than anyone else in the UK.