Here’s a communication piece I can’t tell if it’s super smart or just plain dumb: A recent Harvey Norman catalog that landed in my letterbox features some truly fugly small appliances co-designed between Dolce & Gabbana and SMEG.
I’ve always had a beef with SMEG ever since living in a designer unit in Surry Hills that came with a SMEG oven, stovetop and dishwasher that had the most unintuitive icons. Every time I wanted to cook something I had to look up the instruction manual online (which I bookmarked - it was that bad).
Once I got over the visual eye sores gracing the catalog cover, I then moved on to sticker shock seeing the prices: a $799 toaster, kettle and citrus juicer, and a $1100 blender. The blender perhaps didn’t phase me as much as I know they can get quite exxy, but charging $800 for life’s most mundane appliances was still comical to me.
Plus, although I love Italy, my home is Scandi in design - far too minimalist for these patterns! And since I’m currently living in suburban Ipswich for a few months, where I assume all my neighbours received the catalog as well… is this really the target market for this product?
But I wonder if this is actually really smart marketing: If you’ve read up on behavioural economics, you’ll know the concept of ‘anchoring’ which is where a company puts a really expensive option in their line of SKUs to make the others seem much more palatable to the wallet. A classic example is the luxury car that’s on display at a boat show for $300,000. After looking at multi-million dollar yachts for a few hours, suddenly the $300,000 car doesn’t seem so expensive and you’re more likely to consider it (assuming you are still richer than God).
Going back to the catalog: When I open to the next page and see a range of toasters and kettles from brands like DeLonghi, Russell Hobbs and Breville all selling for around $150, suddenly that seems pretty reasonable. And let’s face it: that’s where the bulk of their customers are going to be purchasing from - not the front page selling $800 kettles.
So if the job was to anchor the price and make the homewares inside feel accessible, mission accomplished. But if the job was to get suburban Ipswich folks to buy into the Dolce and Gabbana meets SMEG aspirational lifestyle, I have to question the success of the catalog cover and for that reason I’m bucketing this one under BADvertising.
Tell me: what do you think?