Crime Master Gogo & the pre-GST shopping frenzy

In the rip roaring 1994 caper ‘Andaz Apna Apna’, Crime Master Gogo, steals each time he bumps into Robert and Bhalla. It simply didn’t matter to him that he was stealing a lowly bicycle, because as he says ‘aaya hoon toh kuchh toh leke ke jaaonga’ (if I have come then I have to take something). Quite like the shoppers who ran amok on Friday night buying everything they could lay their hands on during the pre GST shopping frenzy whipped up by retailers.

Shopping frenzies are not new. In the last days of March this year, consumers jostled and fought their way to take home discounted two wheelers – bikes, scooters, anything on two wheels – before new emission norms kicked in on April 1. In fact cops were summoned at several dealerships to manage crowds. The marketing head of a two wheeler company told me that his office swarmed with favor seekers – people who simply couldn’t lay their hands on any stock at dealerships. Anyone even remotely associated with the automobile business was asked kuch jugaad hain kya?

From Black Friday Sale to 11/11 (Singles Day sale in China) to Amazon Prime Day, all tap into a unique consumer psychology to make them buy and buy now. What makes normal, rational, penny pinching consumers behave this way? Psychology Today mentions a study by Arie Kruglanski as a possible explanation to this behavior. This 1996 paper introduced a motivational concept called need for closure. As Psychology Today says “This is the degree to which you need to finish with a decision process and take an action. Ordinarily, people differ in their need for closure. Some people like to think for a long time before making a choice, while other people like to make choices quickly. Black Friday creates a situation that creates a high need for closure. The retailer offers discounts on products and suggests that these discounts will not be around for long. The crowd in the store gives the impression that you have to act quickly. These factors push people away from a deliberation mindset and toward an action mindset.”

Combine that with the truth that people don’t buy things they need but buy into how buying it makes them feel. Times reported a Lata who bought fifteen packets of biscuits in the pre-GST frenzy, she probably saved a measly amount, but I think that purchase made her feel victorious, almost gladiator like. Fighting her way through the crowds, queues at the billing counter and emerging triumphant holding aloft her bag of biscuits.

Shopping is emotional. Marketers stimulate shopper’s emotions to make them shop. Whipping up a frenzy with deep discounts, out shouting competition, creating a shopping Armageddon each time. But such battles can be fatiguing, net out with no real money being made off it and potentially damaging the brand. Sadly, most occasions of whipping up a shopping frenzy and building your brand remains a chimera for most marketers.

But am sure Lataji from Okhla has no regrets and she savors her victory each time she dips the biscuits in her cup of tea. Until the next big-whatever-day after all, aaya hain to kuch to lekar jaana hain.