As far as I can determine, there is no science behind what drives buying decisions. Wait. No. Actually, there is. Try this on for size, from 2008.

The way the brain buys, from The Economist.

With so much money at stake, finding a way to the shopping decision region of our brains is clearly valuable to all kinds of vendors. My question is how accurate any of this can be. Here’s the clue:

Technology will also begin to identify customers’ emotions. Dr Sharma’s software has the potential to analyse expressions, like smiles and grimaces, which are hard to fake.

Talking to people is one thing. What we tell someone about how or why we buy might be a long way removed from the real decision-making cascade. Telling ourselves stories, fakery, masking, justification: these are the building materials of our ego, which I believe has a large part in figuring how we spend our money.

In other words, we buy what we think we are.

By extension, of we can find a way to understanding who our potential customers think they are, we find a way to pitch our product. It’s that easy.


Monopoly Magic

Here I sit, being screwed again by Comcast.

I paid my bill today, for internet service only. I haven’t watched regular television in years, and am not about to start. Therefore the only relationship I have is for my online access.

On my billing page, I noted a “special deals” tab. I clicked. I saw that for the same money I pay for internet service only, I could have television as well.

This, unfortunately, changes everything. Because I cannot bear to see money wasted, I am contemplating activating the tv service for which I am paying…but not receiving.


#27, Freedom with Broccoli

If you follow markets, you might be watching Chinese stocks. They have, of late, been, shall we say, active. Spastic is a better descriptor.

This behavior is not the result of a “market”. A market requires natural participants and a framework for price discovery. That last phrase, “…price discovery…” is key. Discovery is not what happens when central governments, central banks, or central anythings attempt to manipulate the normal way price is found; by agreement between buyers and sellers who have an economic interest in the price. Not political interest.

Lest non-Chinese nations find some kind of scoff within them at the ChiComs’ blundering about with free market institutions like stock markets, they should allow us some scrutiny of Janet Yellen’s glory box. It’s stuffed full of interesting stuff I bet.

Freedom often means being uncomfortable.


Enormous energies are spent fooling about with our habits.

I, for instance, spent thirty years fooling about with an alcohol habit before I finally figured it out. The calculation was simple, but the application not. The upside was less than the downside. So I stopped. More than thirty years later.

Which is precisely the problem with habits. They take no notice of logic, balance sheets, benefits statements, whiteboarding, venn diagrams, counseling, logic, self-help books, self-affirmations, logic, interventions, replacement, displacement, hypnotism or logic. They are threaded so much more deeply than any of these concepts can reach.

A glimmer of something useful that helps me is a perspective about my behavior. If I envision the lines that connect my life to everything else stretch from before I was born as well as far into the future. I stop seeing habits as discrete units. A habit is much more a line of thinking and acting than a chunk of mindless doing.

To control a line, I taper. Gradually, I allow the energy that keeps it active to evaporate. A spilled glass of wine will not immediately disappear. But over time, the volatiles will waft into the atmosphere until there’s nothing left but a mark on the table. And that’s about right, because a long-indulged habit will always leave some kind of mark.

Good habits I treat in the opposite way. They, too, have a history and a future, but my job is to burnish, reward, encourage, grow and nurture them. A good habit line is more about my stewardship than any personal success or failure.

Time is the key here. Evaporation takes time. And augmenting takes time. Knowing that a habits moves one way or the other slowly helps.