It starts with pleasure and pain

Photo by Andru00e9 Ulyssesdesalis on

2 weeks ago, I wanted to buy some playing cards (as I use it for my hobby). I am used to the brand Bicycle but this time I want to test other brands. Since I did not know what to buy, I asked the store magician for suggestions. Thanks to technology, he gave me a virtual tour using his phone. He gave me some brands like Empire, Tally-Ho, Bee and others, and I asked him to show me how those cards look like so he presented them to me as he moved around the store. I ended up buying Bicycle  and Tally-Ho. 2 things drove me to choose the brand, Tally-Ho: one, because of his suggestion and the other because of the design. I would not have chosen it even if he suggested it, if I did not like the design.

Lately, I find myself taking interest in philosophy. I never really saw the value of this subject back in college but pandemic made me ask many questions relating to the nature of things, and even our purpose. I found a bunch of wisdom reading timeless and contemporary texts on philosophy, I can name many of them but that will take the focus away from what I want to share here. Here, I particularly want to share one thing that can help someone in business and that is: Pain and Pleasure is what drives a man to choose and avoid things. This is from Artistotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. Understanding what pain and pleasure is can help someone in the field of sales and marketing. In this article, I will define the factors under pain and pleasure, give examples and suggest how they can take advantage of this information.

According to the text there are 3 things that move us to choose and 3 things that move us to avoid them: Under pleasure are the beautiful, noble and advantageous. Under Pain are the ugly, hurtful and painful. In short, we choose what is appealing and avoid which is not. Take note though that I am using the word choose and not buy because price is another matter, but at least, the marketer has won half the battle if the product is appealing to his audience. Note also that each will have their own definition of beauty, noble, advantageous, ugly, hurtful and painful and their definition is based on personal and past experiences. In able to understand the definition, a further and deeper study of the market is vital. At least what we have here is a take off point for the fundamental understanding of what influences their choice.

As long as Mac and PC brands exist, there will always be a discussion on which is better. It seems that users do not want this settled because no one is accepting that each will have its own strengths and weaknesses. One thing is for sure, the market who follows each will have a different set of definition for what is pleasurable and painful.

The use of pleasure and pain can be put to use in messaging, and packaging design (marketing has influence in both). It may seem elementary to suggest to make packaging pleasing as most we see in the market are beautifully packaged. However, there is still a segment where items can be packaged beautifully and I am talking of those pasalubong or homemade products that are only put in generic plastic containers. Yes, I see the value of saving cost but putting them in beautiful containers can entice buyers and also create a differentiation versus other products. Japan is a good example for this. In every region, they have a specialty (food) and their specialties are wrapped beautifully that makes the products more appealing and enticing. I think you will agree with me that one will choose a product that is more beautiful than the other given everything else is equal. There is also the other side of choosing, which is avoiding. We avoid anything we perceive as a source of pain. Even my cat knows this. One time he caught a lizard and continued to hit it with his paw. Out of pity for the lizard, I went beside Parker (my Persian Cat) and gave him a disapproving look. He knows that everytime he does something  I don’t like, I give him that look and if he continues, I bring him back to his room, so he stopped but when the lizard started moving, he did it again. You know what’s next. Going back, When in other places, most specially those we are not familiar we avoid those areas that warn us of possible danger. For example, when hiking, we avoid areas with warning sign “slippery”. We avoid because of any possible mishaps that will result to pain. One thing escapes me, Filipinos still ignore those signs that say, BAWAL TUMAWID, NAKAKAMATAY.

Pain & pleasure can be a jump off point for marketers in understanding how to entice their target audience. In buying the cards, based on the story I told, what drove me was the beauty of the design. Like I said, this is just part of the marketing process. To get deeper into the minds of the market, more study needs to be done and tests for validation but at least we have eliminated the question, where do we start?

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