Make People Feel Good And You Will Go Far

Popular speaker and author, Tom Asacker, weighs in on some things he’s been thinking about lately.

People believe that they are better than they really are, and they want YOU and your people and your business model to validate those feelings. If you’re really smart, you’ll make them feel even better about themselves and their decisions.
I wonder why, no matter how many times or in how many ways I explain this to clients, it seems to fall on deaf ears. Here it is again: Harley Davidson does not sell motorcycles. They sell identity. They sell esteem. They sell belonging. Ditto for Apple and Starbucks and the rest of the best.
Did you hear what one college woman said when asked why she kept buying her coffee at Starbucks even after the professor agreed to purchase it for her (exactly the way she desired it)? Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? Here it is:
“They’d miss me at my regular Starbucks if I didn’t stop in.”
Self-worth . . . only $5 a cup.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Dr. Hans Akkerman says:

    self esteem? belonging? identity? Oh stop it. american marketing wank at it’s finest.
    starbucks sells coffee, apple sells computers and harley sells bikes.
    please, let’s NOT “ladder up” anymore.

  2. You’re not making us feel good, doctor. Ergo, how far can your theory go?

  3. It’s okay David. I Googled the Doctor and it appears that he’s an archaeologist. So from his viewpoint, that’s *exactly* what they sell. Ya dig?

  4. I love archeology. If you do too, see this National Geographic article on the Maya.

  5. I dig.
    Cynicism… Free. Where’s my cup?
    Wait… I get it… “Ya dig?”… Archaeologist?… That’s rich.

  6. Dr. Hans Akkerman says:

    So, let me see. i don’t buy gasoline. i buy the freedom to explore and fulfill myself through enriching experiences. ach!

  7. At the end of the day, you’re buying gas. Between 9 and 5, you’re buying “the freedom to explore.” Okay. Everyone happy?

  8. Dr. Hans Akkerman says:

    obviously i am being slightly facetious here. even us germans have some sense of humour. but i am so bone-tired of the “intellectualization” of simple things like brands and buying behaviour. yes brands can develop beyond their product attributes and have out-sized meaning in people’s lives. but what got starbucks and apple where they are was coming up with an obviously better product. sometimes an operating system is just an operating system. and a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.

  9. Mr. Toussi says:

    Okay I know where you’re coming from…
    you made the girl feel great with that “Starbucks” coffee because you bought it for her ($) When you do stuff like that it makes other’s feel good, “BUT” make sure you dont do those kind of things all the time!!!