Treasure Hunt: Inside the mind of the new consumer
by: Michael J. Silverstein
This book is an enjoyable read and it offers what it promises: a window into that part of the mind of people where they make decisions about what to buy and why. Written in 2006, the message and the examples of consumers and companies still feel very up to date. The core message is that people will either Trade Up or Trade Down their buying patterns. Trading up means that they buy goods at premium price ranges because of the satisfaction of quality or brand recognition. Trading down is the reverse: ruthlessly looking for the lowest price – quality level that is acceptable to them. Everything is is “dead in the middle”.
The book is biased towards the USA market and USA consumer, but makes a welcome effort to compare what is happening with USA consumers to those in Europe and Japan. It makes a compelling case for the universality of what is happening. And even here in India I see evidence to that. Friends working on a USD 200 salary, think hard about how to trade up their mobile phone for a USD 600 iPhone and where to trade down to save money for it. The call-centre girls who roam the malls in Gurgoan (the centre of multinationals Northwest of Delhi) show some of the characteristics of the Japanese Office Ladies described by Silverstein.
The examples range from basic retail, with the success stories of Aldi and Lidl in Europe, to successful launch of Lexus cars by Toyota. The way the histories of the companies are told is amusing and offers better understanding of the business acumen that their leaders have had to make the correct decisions in preparing their companies for the current market trends. This is probably the most enjoyable part of the book, knowing that many of these players, who in my mind as consumer are new on the market, are often more than 50 years old. LG, Lidl, In-N-Out burgers, and many other companies described in the book. They are veterans who knew how to reinvigorate themselves.
As many American books tend to be, it is slightly over-edited resulting in repetition. Although distracting sometimes is does not do much harm to the overall quality of the book.