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Testosterone Levels, Social Status, and Luxury Brands

There is a river of research flowing daily by my desk. While I was checking the nets recently, this study caught my eye. Researchers have found that men exposed to doses of testosterone are more likely to choose luxury brands seen as status symbols. Science Daily has a good breakdown of the original research.

243 male volunteers received a dose of testosterone gel, or a placebo gel. Once the testosterone had peaked 4 hours later, participants returned to the lab, where they answered questions about their brand preferences. Those who received the real testosterone showed a stronger preference for luxury brands. This is fascinating stuff. The article explores male dominance displays in nature, such as a peacock displaying its feathers. Humans often display their tail feathers through a show of wealth and preference for sought-after brands. This is called “conspicuous consumption” — showing off one’s ability to buy luxurious things to increase the perception of social status.

Now, we’re obviously not going to slip doses of testosterone to our buyers. But it’s important to remember that social status is important to many people. Luxury brands know this, and capitalize on it. And yet, many organizations focus solely on providing fewer and fewer barriers to participation (discounts, extra perks to motivate buyers, etc.). It’s great to have one focus be on people who care more about saving money. But let’s open up a new line of ideation on people who want social status.

One of the best examples of this I’ve seen is the program my friends at Shakespeare Silicon Valley call “The Royal Treatment.” Many of the tickets to the productions in the park are free. However, when I last attended, two patrons per performance could buy “The Royal Treatment,” (2 $100 tickets) which includes special seating on two thrones, wine, a picnic snack basket, and lavish amounts of attention from both actors and audience over the whole performance. Talk about a memorable first date. Shakespeare Silicon Valley created a special experience for those who care about social status at a premium price. And they have grabbed massive attention in the process.

This week’s mission:

At your regular staff meeting or company chat session this week, simply ask this question: “What options do we offer for people who are seeking social status?” See where the conversation takes you. I’d love to hear what you come up with.




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I'm Ron Evans. I dramatically improve individual and organizational performance. If you found today's topic intriguing and want to apply it to your situation, I'll brainstorm with you. The few who follow through and take me up on my offer will benefit greatly. Strike while the iron is hot! 


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