Mimetic Desire

🤔 Did you know…

When Stanley launched the Quencher in 2016, they struggled hard to sell the 40 oz. tumblers.

Sales were so bad in 2019 that Stanley discontinued them.

But just four years later? Stanley made $750 million thanks to those Quenchers.

The product itself stayed the same. So what changed?

Keep reading to find out what the multi-million dollar game-changer was.

Imagine this…

You spent weeks planning the perfect spring break vacation with your best friend.

Which hotel to stay at, what restaurants to eat at, what time to get to the pier for the sunset…

But the one thought that never crossed your mind? What sunglasses to wear.

You just tossed the pair you bought from Target 5 years ago into your suitcase.

But now, the sun’s blazing down on the beach. So your friend whips out her brand new orange aviators that put Tom Cruise’s to shame.

As soon as she does, she catches the eye of a Liam Hemsworth look-alike. He says, “Nice shades” to her as he walks by.

Your friend chuckles and says, “These shades always grab attention. And the polarized glass is actually way better for your eyes than the cheap-o sunglasses I used to buy.”

You look down at your plain sunglasses lying on your beach towel and feel frumpy.

As the day goes on, it doesn’t matter how many rounds of beach volleyball you win. Or how many times a crow tries to steal your sandwich. Because all you can think about is one thing…

Those sexy orange aviators.

Yesterday, you didn’t even know these sunglasses existed. Today, they’re all you want. Why?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy 🧠 we’ll explore Mimetic Desire—why we imitate the desires of others.

Let’s get into it.

The Psychology of Mimetic Desire 🧠

In the 1950s, French philosopher René Girard began studying classic novels and noticed a pattern.

Characters didn’t want something because of their own preferences.

They wanted something because others wanted it.

But this concept isn’t limited to the pages of Proust. We rely on “models” to know what we should want. Not just on the runway, either.

Models can be any person, group, or thing.

And it’s not always about things.

Sometimes the desire is for an intangible, like a better lifestyle or higher social status.

An author doesn’t want to get on the New York Times Best Sellers list just to be on a list. They want the recognition and credibility that come with it.

Girard called this sister concept Metaphysical Desire.

But whether it’s an object or something immaterial, you need to know one point when selling:

People desire something if they believe others also desire it.

That’s why smart marketers use models to show the desirability of their product or service.

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?


Embrace popular trends (when useful)

Every December, Pantone announces a Color of the Year for the next year. (Psst, 2024 belongs to Peach Fuzz.)

And that single color influences the entire consumer-spending industry.

From marketing and fashion to furniture and technology, you’ll see the color painted on everything.

We already know color is a powerful psychological trigger for consumers. But when Pantone announces a certain color as *the* one to have, it amplifies the power.

Because consumers now know which color to want (and buy).

So there’s a good reason why Apple released iPhones in Pantone’s exact chosen shade—twice.

Luxury consumer goods

Sell an experience—not a product

BMW has used a couple of slogans, from “Sheer Driving Pleasure” to “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

But you know what’s stayed exactly the same?

The fact that BMW isn’t in the car-selling business. And they know it.

The few words in any slogan they’ve used speak to their customers’ actual desires: superior performance and prestige.

Because the people who get behind the wheel of a BMW don’t want any ol’ car.

They want the premium driving experience and social status a BMW sedan (or SUV) gives them.

That’s what BMW sells, and they do it well.

How well?

In 2023, BMW broke their own all-time sales record, selling more than 2.2 million cars worldwide. 🤯

Service-based businesses

Use social proof from “models” your audience already likes and wants to emulate

Remember, people look to models to decide what they should want. That’s why using social proof from the right kind of people is so important.

At UNIGNORABLE, we help ambitious entrepreneurs build their personal brands.

As Neal shares in this LinkedIn post, many of the smartest and fastest-growing thought leaders on TwitterX and LinkedIn are alumni from our audience-building programs.

While other audience building courses boast about how many people have bought their courses—which only proves they’re great at marketing—we highlight the calibre of our alumni and the success they’ve had since completing our programs.

People already recognize and respect these experts.

They know they’re smart. So if these people are wise enough to recognize the importance of building their personal brand, other smart people will want to follow suit.

The Short of It 💥

Unlike biological needs such as food and shelter, humans aren’t hardwired to “desire.” There’s no internal compass to guide us. So…

We depend on others to figure out what we should want.

That’s why smart marketers focus on highlighting a service’s or product’s desirability.

Until next time, happy selling.

🐦 Your Brainy Tweetable

Desire isn’t personal.

It’s social.

We look to others to find out what’s desirable and follow suit.

It’s called Mimetic Desire.

Exhibit A: The Quencher was discontinued in 2019, but skyrocketed Stanley’s sales to $750 million by 2023.

Tweet this now >



Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

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Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

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