Bigger Boat Syndrome

Anybody who has experience with luxury goods, whether buying, selling, or both understands the psychology of Bigger Boat Syndrome. Especially as technophiles, many of us are susceptible to the seduction of toys that are newer, shinier and cooler than what we, or more importantly our friends have now.

I recall one retail client I had back when digital cameras were still new and most importantly expensive. I had just sold him Sony’s then-flagship Mavica digital camera (remember those?). Less than an hour after he left the store his business partner called and bluntly said “Lee, Larry just bought that camera from you, do you have anything better?” It was important enough to him that he gave me a substantial deposit for a camera that wasn’t going to be released for another two months.

I can be just as bad. I outfitted my media room with a 60-inch Hitachi plasma a few years ago, before that became a commoditized size you could buy at Costco and Walmart. The day after I faxed my order form to Hitachi Canada they announced that they would be shipping an 84-inch panel the following spring. I was on my phone immediately to our territory rep yelling, “Tim you [expletive deleted] why didn’t you tell me about the 84!? I WOULD HAVE WAITED FOR THAT ONE!!!”

Alas, it’s my opinion that actively working on enabling clients’ own cases of Bigger Boat Syndrome isn’t made use of nearly enough in the custom channel. Way back in 2006 I blogged about the results of a survey of the spending habits of 294 hedge fund managers, with an average annual net worth of $61.7 million.

The survey’s findings for their 2005 personal average spending were:

Fine art: $3.99 million
Yacht charters: $429,700
Jewellery: $376,400
Hotels & resorts: $304,900
Watches: $271,300
Fashion and accessories: $204,200
Traditional spa services: $124,000
Electronics: $99,300
Entertaining friends: $76,700
Wine & spirits for the home: $48,900

To my mind, there was something horribly, horribly wrong with wealthy individuals spending less on their electronics than they could spend on a single wristwatch. On the bright side, that realization emboldened me to shoot for the moon when it came to dealing with wealthy clients, and looking for the angle that would get then to add another zero or two to their projects.

Catering to the client’s case of BBS isn’t solely limited to residential AV installations either. The manager of a Toronto-area integration company I know waged a sly eight month campaign on the principal partners of one of his clients, a chain of pizza restaurants and sports bars. The end result of his efforts was their decision to make a 103-inch Panasonic display the centerpiece of their multi-screen AV setup in their new flagship restaurant. As he explained it to me, he knew they would want it before they even knew it existed, he just needed to plant the seeds that would get them to the point where they would start fantasizing about how amazing it would look over the bar and convinced themselves that they couldn’t live without it.

Given that rAVe readers are generally the savviest and most cutting edge of industry professionals I imagine that I’m preaching to the choir here, but if even one sales designer is inspired to bring their game up a notch then my work here is done.