When times are good, buying things is a sport. It’s a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not?
When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well. Now, we buy out of defense, to avoid trouble. Or we buy because something will never be as cheap again. Or we buy smaller items for the same sense of reward.
Of course, the two different extremes can lead you to buy the very same thing. It’s not the thing so much as it’s the story.
Starbucks was the indulgence of a confident person happy to blow $4 on a cup of coffee. Starbucks can become the small indulgence for the person who just traded down to a small rented apartment.
The challenge for marketers is to figure out how to change the story they are living so that their customers can change the story they tell themselves. What you make, where you make it, who makes it, how it’s priced and sold and … it all adds up to a perception. If you change these elements the story will change too.