How To: Avoid Buying Trends

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ashley.jpgShhh, insider secret: Consumer product companies want you to be slaves to trends.  Companies that produce automobiles, clothes, furniture, electronics, etc. are all dependent on repeat business (in marketing terms: retention rates) and the only way they can get customers to buy a product again is to argue that their older product is outdated and now has a newer version available. 

You see the above happening every year in late summer / early fall as car companies roll out “newly re-designed” and “all new” sedans and trucks.  The auto manufactures argue that you have to have the latest model because it boasts new safety features, a bigger engine, and technological advancement (think of Acura’s slogan: “Advance”).

The truth is, however, that in most consumer product categories you are better off not buying into the hype of chasing the latest redesign or product enhancement.   What you can do is buy products that have a classic design and good reliability/quality.  So, for example:

Some luxury brands claim to offer the latest and greatest in terms of design and features, but the same brands boast low reliability and high cost of vehicle ownership.  So instead of renewing your lease on the latest Teutonic import, opt for a vehicle that has proven reliability and low ownership costs (hint: think Honda and Toyota).  Look for a classic exterior design so you can keep the car long term (and don’t get sick of it’s looks) and most importantly opt for safety features instead of heated leather seats and fancy navigation system (musts for any car include: electronic stability control, anti lock brakes, and airs bags <passenger and rear as well as front and side>).

Think iPhone here; do you need a slick looking device that enables you to take calls, play music, send email, surf the web, and download cool apps (sounds pretty good, huh!)?  Well, it would be nice, but my answer is no (let your gullible friends take the bait).  There are plenty of basic mobile phones that have just as good voice quality, lower monthly plans than the iPhone (or any other smart phone for that matter), and do not start at $250.00.  Plus, when was the last time you kept your mobile phone for more than a few years?  Consumer electronic companies are particularly intense about rolling out new product as quickly as possible, often re-using components from previous models and not offering much in the way of critical innovation!

Ah, this is a dangerous category because you see new styles all the time (on TV, in your neighborhood, at the malls, etc.).  The pressure to buy the latest suit style or boot is intense, but you can fight the urge to purchase trendy clothes by buying classic clothes.  What I mean by classic clothes is high quality/simple design items like: a classic black leather penny loafer or a 100% wool suit with a high thread count (120-130 is fine).  I’m a big advocate of looking good, but not via trendy clothing. 

The bottom line is that chasing consumer product trends can eat away at bank account and basically make you a slave to the companies marketing the products (inside corporate headquarter all over the US marketers call these customers early adoptersand corporate folks drool over them, so don’t become one!). 

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