The Real Reason People Value Certain Things

French marketing professor Ziv Carmon teamed up MIT’s Dan Ariely to perform a study on nearly 100 students from Duke University.

They divided the students into 2 groups. The students in group A were asked to state the highest price they would pay for a ticket to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament while the students in group B were asked what’s the lowest price they would be willing to sell such a ticket for if they had it in their possession.

The median selling price was $1,500 while the median buying price was $150. In other words, the sellers perceived the value of their ticket to be worth ten times more than the buyers did.

What does this tell us?

Well for me, it says that people place a higher value on things that are already in their possession. Once someone takes true ownership over something (no matter how large or small) it becomes a part of their identity.

It becomes – on some level – a piece of the puzzle that makes them who they are. Perhaps someone with tickets like the ones mentioned in the study creates a subconscious identity with being a huge basketball fan.

And surely, a real fan would never part with tickets to the finals unless it was really worth it.

How can you leverage this information?

Make every attempt to get what you have to offer in the hands of as many people as possible.

This is certainly nothing new. All different types of companies have been using this strategy for years. Things like free samples and risk free trials are designed with this thought in mind.

The theory is that if you let people try your stuff first they will eventually come to like it and therefore purchase it.

While there is something to be said about the actual “experience” that a product/service provides, I think there is really something much more subliminal going on here.

In his masterpiece Breakthrough Advertising, world renowned copywriter Eugene Schwartz explains that people make purchases based on desires that are related to one of two different types of roles that they play in life.

The first are character roles which describe the type of person he/she is/wants to be perceived as. Brilliant, intelligent, well-rounded, etc. are all examples of character roles.

The second are achievement  roles which have to do with the level of status one maintains in society.

Schwartz’s findings show us that people use certain products/services to help solidify these roles which ultimately define their identities.

Therefore, if you can get your product/service into the hands of your target (and he/she actually likes it or is at least interested in it) it will become a part of their identity.

Once that happens, the person will place an extremely high value on it.

This is often why we see people who cannot break habits for years; even when they know they should while others can break them instantly and never look back.

The difference lies in the identity. People who have been overweight for a long time and can’t seem to stick to a diet or workout regimen do so because they haven’t yet created the identity of a healthy, toned person.

People who lose weight and keep it off often become gym rats almost obsessed with fitness because thy’ve created the identity of a healthy, toned person and the gym is a staple in that identity.

Realize this, it’s very difficult to behave in ways that contradict your identity. Doing so, creates cognitive dissonance which no one likes to experience.

There is so much that can be learned from this information but the key takeaway for this particular post is to get people to associate what you have to offer as a strong element in their identity.

That’s how you gain unshakable loyalty.




  • Hakeem says:

    This is really great stuff, Paul – the principle of truly great and rich people. But this succint article brings out the subliminal reason. Thanks again. I could use this in my marketing in my workplace. – Hakeem

  • So very true. Wonderful words of wisdom and advice. Thank you so much!

  • Great article thanks for the insight. I was shocked at the extreme disparity between the selling price and buying price. It makes sense though.

  • Victoria says:

    Hi Paul!
    Informative blog, thank you!
    I am familiar with the first desire of buying but I did not know about that 2nd identity role, makes sense!

  • Totsan says:

    Thanks for the post/share. Indeed, this is a great stuff as Hakeem put it. It is worth applying it for our own…regards.

  • Iqbal Ismail says:

    Paul,great wisdom behind it, will use it for sure.Thanks a ton