help those who want to become leaders

12% actively seek to be first and feel superior

This is the eleventh of 20 daily THOUGHTS examining emotions in marketing.

Recent research in the United States found that 12% of consumers admit to wanting to be first and to be seen as superior when making a purchase. This study also found that 11% of consumers surveyed wanted to be seen as wise and knowledgeable when making a purchase.

While earlier research suggests that less than 3% of consumers are true ‘trendsetters’, this recent study indicates that a much larger number want to ‘feel’ that they are trendsetters. They want to  feel superior, wise, and knowledgeable.

Being first, or at least among the first, is a powerful and irrational driver of human behaviour, as is the need to feel like a trendsetter. It is an emotion that many businesses such as Apple, Nike and Microsoft tap into very successfully as they launch new products, new models, and new services.

A survey of university professors found that 70% believe they are above average educators. Clearly, at least 20% were wrong. Another survey found that 90% of drivers think they above average drivers.

Clearly, at least 40% of them must be wrong. Similarly, the majority of people consider themselves to be leaders, think they know more than others, and believe they are above average in terms of wisdom.

Clearly, at least 50% of them must be wrong.

Taken as a whole, these findings suggest three things:

  • Many human beings have an inflated view of their capacity and importance
  • Despite what they might think, few human beings really understand themselves
  • Marketing is best served by targeting perceptions rather than reality

It does not matter whether people are leaders or not, and it does not matter if they are first or not. What matters is whether members of your target market see themselves as leaders, trendsetters, wise, and knowledgeable.

Your marketing objectives will be supported by reinforcing these perceptions, regardless of their validity.


Human beings do not understand themselves, and they tend to have an inflated view of themselves.
Many human beings think they are leaders and, as a result, want to be first to try something – or at least one of the first in their cohort or community.

Marketers are well served by understanding, targeting, and reinforcing these perceptions.


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