Understanding Why People Buy $4000 Shoes Will Change Your Marketing Strategy

It helped me understand my customers and revolutionize my firm

Levi Borba
The Startup
Published in
7 min readMar 4, 2021


Image by stevanvranes from Pixabay

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During university, one of my classmates was the son of a fertilizer industry billionaire. Once we were in a marketing case class, analyzing the case of a certain jeans brand whose trousers cost more than $300.

This wealthy friend told me:

Whoever buys jeans for 300 dollars has a serious need for something else, not only for jeans. I would never pay so much for a pair of trousers.

It amused me that this phrase came from the mouth of a billionaire. But the point was right. Nobody who buys a pair of jeans with a price tag 900% higher than any good quality competitor, only wants a piece of clothing. Maybe you already have a few ideas about why people spend a salary on a jacket, trousers, or watch. Things like quality, durability, design, or customer service come to mind. But they are not all.

Discovering the reasons people buy ultra-pricey products helped me to understand my own-costumers: budget backpackers. It will also help you in your marketing efforts.

Customers know their problems, but not always the solutions.

There is a quote often associated (with debatable authenticity) to Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, during a debate he had with a customer-research professional.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

The point he made (assuming he said that) is verifiable in reality.

A shoe is an item created to protect and sustain the human foot. A $40 mass-produced but good quality shoe could fulfil this role. But a groom on his wedding day, a junior diplomat meeting a prime-minister, or a junior lawyer visiting a…