‘Sex isn’t really what sells. What sells is fear’

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How many times have you glanced at the front cover of a glossy magazine, stared at an image on Instagram or gazed into a shop window and thought how well-curated, stylish and – well – downright sexy everything looks?

Luxury fabrics; girls with pearls dripping from their glossy lips; that ‘must have’ shade of mustard/aubergine/burgundy – it’s all there. But does it make you want to buy it?

Does sex sell?

The oh-so-shiny (and pricy) periodicals are always ahead of the game. Are you just about to sashay into September? The October issue of Vogue/Tatler/Harpers etc. is already on the shelf. Its mission is to persuade you to buy the next thing (and the next thing) and to get it first.

The Sunday supplements then reinforce the message on a weekly basis with their snappy articles entitled: “What’s hot now”; “What to wear this month”; or “The latest colour story for Autumn”.

All of this stuff looks so attractive, cute and highly fashionable. It looks sexy. But, does sex sell?

Well, no.

The title quote from this blog post is taken from Matt Haig’s Notes On A Nervous Planet, which I’m reading at the moment. What Haig says is this:

“Sex isn’t really what sells. What sells is fear.”

Oh.

What is this fear you speak of?

This ‘fear’ we’ve all seen – and been driven by – takes many forms:

  • Fear of not looking stylish, beautiful or fashionable enough
  • Fear of not seeming successful enough (or not appearing to move in the right circles)
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Fear of not being enough
  • Fear of loss

You can add your own fear to the list.

Have we succumbed to purchases through fear?

My most recent ‘fear’ purchase came about through fear of loss. In my last post, I mentioned that I had ‘won’ (bought – doh!) a bag via eBay. In fact, it wasn’t a terribly successful transaction but its motivation was definitely fear.

I had recently returned home to find my bus pass on the road at the bottom of our drive. I mus have pulled it out of my bag when rummaging for something else, but I hadn’t noticed its lightweight form dropping to the ground. I need this pass every day; just imagine if someone else had picked it up or I’d arrived at the bus stop only to discover it was missing?

My intended new bag was designed to mitigate this risk, as it had a small zip-up pocket on the exterior of the bag. In theory, my pass would be the only item to go into that little pocket, which would be zipped up firmly to ensure no future loss! You see? Fear…

Bigger purchases can also be driven by fear

Bigger, more substantive purchases can also be driven by fear.

Worried about turning up at business meetings not looking adequately successful in your old family estate car? That fear can literally drive you to purchasing a brand new, beyond-your-means vehicle that you don’t actually need and that will represent too great a chunk of your monthly outgoings. (Note – Dave Ramsey’s rule of thumb is this: never have anything with a motor that represents – in value – more than half your annual income).

The solution

Examine what drives your behaviour. Behaviour change is key if we’re going to get beyond fear-driven impulse purchases that lead to clutter (and even debt).

Think of all the categories in which you’re likely to spend for fear of missing out; for not seeming pretty enough; for not feeling as well-groomed as you would like; or simply for not being on top of the latest trends. As Autumn is just around the corner, this is another time of transition in how we look and what we wear. So, think about the following categories:

Make up

You know what suits you. Just buy that when it runs out.

If you do fancy a change of product, then do your homework before you buy. I’m about to go and have a make-up session at Trinny London (check out the results on Instagram after next Thursday afternoon!).

The reason I’m doing this is because I have read very good things about Trinny London products but really want to try them out properly before I buy. It’s also a fun thing to do with my 16 year old, before she goes back to school. I once treated myself to some make-up in SpaceNK where the helpful salesperson applied a little bit of product to a square inch of my cheek and declared the colour match to be perfect. It wasn’t.

Clothes

Don’t try and emulate the clothes of a friend whose style you admire. They won’t suit you and you’ll end up passing them onto someone else.

Need a wardrobe boost? Put Project 333 in to practice before you buy more.  In my case, that’s “Project 224” (I tend to change my wardrobe around every 2 months, using normally 24 items or less in that period). The weather – and notably the temperature – changes frequently in the UK. Although we’ve had an unusually prolonged hot spell this year, the end of August has seen temperatures drop back to a more usual level. This has led me to doing my habitual switch-around where summer clothes go and spend the winter in the little wardrobe in our study and the autumn/winter clothes begin to emerge from their enforced exile.

Accessories

Choose accessories that work in any season and buy quality over quantity. I’m not big on accessories, I have to admit. I used to work with a wonderful woman who knew how to wear a chunky necklace and who was never without a fabulous statement belt. That’s just not me. So, buy what you need and only buy what you’ll actually use (not what your ‘fantasy self’ or your best friend might wear.

Be not afraid

So, as the final Bank Holiday of the year becomes a memory, don’t be driven by fear.

Especially if you’re off to college or university or Sixth Form, remember that being you – and being your authentic self – is way better than trying to emulate someone else’s style, looks or bank balance. It’s much better than way and I promise you won’t miss out. So let’s get ‘Fear’ off the list once and for all.


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