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Annals of Marketing
The Dream of Sales and Marketing - Making Consumers Spend
Sunday, 13th November, 2011  - David Farmer
Cowdray Park

The most frugal and careful consumer can be enticed to spend and at times completely abandon all caution. It is the art of inducing this free spending feeling which employs an army of sales and marketing people. For example they create 'sale events' which magnify the belief that the items advertised are at never to be repeated prices. In other circumstances quite different techniques may be so successful that consumers pay high prices for items which they later realise are not worth a fraction of what they paid.

Here are some examples of sale and marketing events where consumers may spend freely:

- the drawing power of a big name auction;

- the attraction of rare items which in the wine business is seen by the stupendous prices of rare bottles;

- the appearance of a 'must have' fashion item such as the 'it hand bag' and in the liquor trade this was seen when Bailey's Irish Cream was first released in Australia in the late 1970s;

- building on an event such as Christmas where the feeling of family and good will overcomes the desire to be careful with money.

Here is an example of the drawing power of a big name auction. The event is the Christie's, Cowdray Park sale of art and antiques in the U.K.

I quote from 'Seeking the Paraphernalia of Grandeur', September 16Th, 2011, by the great art critic and cataloguer of auctions, Souren Melikian, of the New York Times.

"Lord and Lady Cowdray had bought plenty of oak furniture with greater enthusiasm than concern for authenticity, and Christie’s experts called a spade a spade.

"By the time a pair of tall blackish bronze floor lamps vaguely evocative of 17th-century Florence found a taker at £8,125, it was impossible to reject the feeling that bidders were going after the objects for their connection with Cowdray Park and its famous owners.

"There is nothing very glitzy about a dubious oaken chest or a pair of modern Louis XVI marble vases fitted to electricity. Bidders having fun with memorabilia and happy to spend money on a fine day? Partly so. But, more fundamentally, this was a get-together of the middle-class establishment paying tribute to those of their own who had attained the pinnacle of social success.

"The interest aroused by sundry items that can best be described as Cowdray Park tokens strengthened the impression that a whole section of well-to-do British society was chasing badges of self-identification. The bits of armour that helped give Cowdray Park a faint touch of Walter Scott’s "Quentin Durward" went down well. A complete suit of armour described by Christie's with exquisite tact as "comprehensively German, 16th century and later," with quite a bit of restoration, ascended to £34,850.

"The enthusiasm of scores of middle-income earners eagerly spending money over items that might command half the price they cost this week, should they come back on the block, contrasts with the inertia of buyers in every field of the British economy as in the rest of the Western world.

"Anonymous Elizabethan portraits of characters that cannot be identified for sure fetched very substantial prices. A picture sold in 1921 to Harold Pearson, 2nd Viscount of Cowdray as the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheraerdts the Younger neither depicts the Queen, nor does it owe anything to the Flemish-born artist. That did not prevent it from roughly tripling its high estimate at £325,250. Another picture, which might - just might - portray Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Charles, First Earl of Nottingham brought £145,250, topping the high estimate by a third."

And finishes with this exquisite flourish.

"The Cowdray Park sale is another reminder that the art market rattles on in its own world. ...They still spend lavishly over easily dispensable knickknacks of little or no artistic value, seemingly oblivious to the recent riots in this country and to the rising tide of unemployment."

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