Kyle Waring, of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., is both clearing a path – and a profit – by selling snow, because he has tapped into the very rich vein of profitable, emotion-driven consumer irrationality, says one marketing professor.
Mr. Waring is making headlines and television appearances because he is selling snow piled up in his yard for a mere $89 for six pounds and 10-pound packages for $119, according to his website ShipSnoYo.
Waring’s first shipping attempts were a failure as the 16.9-ounce snow-filled bottles (sold for $19.99 each) melted by the time they arrived at their destination, according to published reports.
Despite his new improved method of shipping with dry ice, the site carries the warning that there is a no refund policy and snow may arrive as water.
So far, his website says he's shipped 133 orders of snow - or 928872 snowflakes.
“One of the things that fakes us all out as consumers is that we think we’re rational when in reality we buy emotionally,” says Neale Martin, author of "Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore."
Mr. Martin is also a professor of innovation at the Coles College of Management at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
This emotional override Prof. Martin describes in a phone interview what leads people buy pet rocks and super cars that can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour when speed limits in the U.S. will only allow us to drive a fraction of that potential speed.
“Maybe people are buying the snow to have a snowball fight just like they did when they were younger and perhaps grew up in a colder climate than where they currently reside,” Martin says. “Maybe buyers are people who have moved away from Boston and miss it or who see this as an historic snowfall and want a piece of it.”
It's what he calls the “post-hock rationalization” of the purchase of a commodity viewed through an all-consuming, all-forgiving, all-excusing emotional consumer lens.
"This [snow sale] would be a very interesting marketing research project,” Martin says. “Whenever you see something so irrational you have to start looking for the emotional trigger or tie to the product. Because people will buy anything if they feel something about it.”
While Waring’s snow sale is a clever form of entrepreneurship, it may not be as canny as that of Kirill Rudenko, who sells "Original canned air" from New York, Paris, Prague, and Singapore through his online Etsy shop.
Mr. Rudenko, a photographer, sells air from all over the world for just $9.95 plus shipping
“We have established a direct contact to a supplier in Paris, France. Each week we receive a few hundreds of gallons of fresh air from Paris,” according to his Etsy shop. “The Air Formula is: 20% The Louvre, 20% Notre Dame, 25% Eiffel Tower, 15% Musée d'Orsay, 10% Champs-Elysées and 10% Sacre Coeur. ATTENTION! May contain traces of liberté, égalité and fraternité.”
Such product sales are "all about the consumer who attaches emotion to something and then the seller taps into that by realizing that the item has become the repository for that meaning. It is the essence of marketing,” says Martin.