The Joy of Sets
post # 225 — October 27, 2006 — a Client Relations post
In recent years, my UK publisher has been re-issuing my books with covers that have a consistent look, turning individual volumes into a “set.”
It’s an old trick, and it works. I know that in my hobby of collecting music, I am a sucker for completeness (all known recordings on the XX label) or multivolume presentation. If there are available “The hits of 1995, volumes 1,2 and 3″ and I want something on volume 2, there’s a vey high chance I’m going to buy volumess 1 and 3, just to make my collection complete. Book publishers use this phenomenon with their look and the (sometimes) artificial creation of series.
I get suckered in in extra ways. Record companies keep discovering “bonus tracks” (sometimes only studio demos of tracks already on the album) and then re-issuing the whole album at a premium price, justified by the inclusion of the one extra track. Who’s the mug who re-buys the whole thing, even though he has the original album already, just to get that one extra track? Me, of course.
I was always this obsessive. I think it common among little boys to collect stamps and coins, and I did both, but I was a bookish, nerdy kid, and I started applying the same “gotta have the set” thinking to my reading. In my teens, I read everything (and I mean everything) written by James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Ayn Rand. (Yes, I’ve got wierd tastes.) I wouldn’t start with an author unless I was prepared to ‘complete the set.’ (Is this the same as being brand loyal? Not quite, but it might be related.)
So, here’s the point of this blog post: is the impulse to collect “sets” – the urge for completeness – a general phenomenon? If so, can it be applied beyond retail things to professional businesses? If you were a consultng firm, a law firm, an engineering firm, an ad agency, an accounting firm, etc., how would you take advantage of people’s propensity to want to complete “sets” or have things presented as “sets”?