Foamy Shampoo

Today I used some Dove shampoo that my wife recently bought. As I massaged the white goop in my hair, I thought of how well it must be working because of how thick and foamy it felt.

And then I realized that I had been duped. Shampoo is foamy for the same reason that margarine is yellow and Silk is located in the refrigerated aisle by the milk: because that's how consumers expect and want it. For some reason, people think foamy shampoo cleans better than non-foamy shampoo, even though it's purely psychological. So Dove counts on that assumption when they create their product. And I fell for it.

Nice branding, Dove.

Lunch with Seth Godin

On Friday, Michelle and I went to a charity event to see Seth Godin speak. Seth is an influential marketer/author/blogger whom I follow pretty regularly. I bought his new book, Linchpin, at the event. Michelle knew it would mean a lot to me, so she ran up to Seth and had him sign my copy. Seth's gave a really intriguing presentation about being indispensable. Here are some of the notes that I took from the event.

A genius is simply someone who solves a problem in a new way

A factory is anything that produces the same thing over and over again

Seth's definition of Art
1) made by a human
2) gives a gift
3) changes someone for the better

"If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper"

Don't do something where people expect you to be average

Getting good grades in school only means that you're good at school

On the recession: "Just because the tide is out doesn't mean there is any less water in the ocean"

Anxiety is the feeling of failure in advance

Overall, we had a great time and I really enjoyed seeing Seth in person!


At the Hongqiao Pearl Market in Beijing, vendors thrive on the fact that customers (mostly foreign tourists) by in large are clueless as to the value of the items for sale and how little vendors would actually sell them for.

"She's asking $30 for that Ermenegildo Zegna tie. Could I get it for $20? Or maybe even 10?"

"$80 for Adidas or Puma shoes is a bit steep. I could probably offer half that."

With a little bit of negotiating, though, you start to figure out the exact price at which the vendors won't sell. When I visited this market, I used this information to my advantage, spreading real prices to the members of my group and even other tourists whom I didn't know.

"Most people will give you shoes for $5 or $6."

"Thanks. Don't pay more than $1 for the ties."

Once the shopkeepers found out what we were doing, they were furious. Understandably, the more ignorant they can keep people, the higher their margins. They got angry and said they wouldn't play by our rules. But in the end, they had to cave. I'd just go into a shop and skip the entire bargaining process by saying "I'm here to buy 10 ties for $10 or I'll go somewhere else."

Though some customers are able to find the bare-bones price, I'm sure that these merchants often score big on tourists who don't know how to haggle (or even that all the name brands are fake, for that matter).

Most businesses don't have the luxury of feeding off of ignorance. With the internet, consumer reviews, and word of mouth, you can't expect to pull a fast one and get away with it.