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The Economics of Pain

I have always been a firm believer in a value-based economy. Nope, I am not referring to "value" as in morals or ethics, but in terms of value-adding to the quality of life which a person experiences. I believe that as logical human beings, we would be willing to invest our resources (i.e. money, time and effort) if we are able to gain a deemed worthwhile "value" out of this investment.


I think this concept is neither unique nor very remarkable. This is also why most businesses are born with the intent to alleviate pain or create gains. Herein lies the follow-up question: how strong is pain as a motivator for transection?


It is apparently VERY strong.


In terms of physical pain and irritation, we know of people who will do anything to fix their headache, gastric or rash issues (which is often just a product of stress). In come magical products that improve sleep, supplements that promise quick fixes and "snake oil"s that solve apparently all ailments. In terms of mental and psychological pain, some humans turn to chemicals (e.g. drugs, tobacco, alcohol) or other vices (i.e. various forms of addiction) in hopes to address these pains. We even have products such as insurance that targets our fear of the unknown (which by the way, is important).


Yet, the most fascinating realisation that I made this week was that there are innovative ways in which businesses have made use of our (lack of) tolerance for pain. This realisation came while I was playing mobile games and I noticed how the in-game cash products largely target one major pain — the pain of anticipation. This is interesting as in order to maintain a wide pool of players, there are options for free-to-play players (i.e. players who do not spend money on the game) to gain in-game currency. And I noticed that the moment that I was most tempted to make a purchase (proud to share that I have not succumbed to that yet 🤭) was when I am CLOSEST to the purchase goal (e.g. when I collected 190 gems over time and I need 200 to make a purchase) . I am sure I am not alone and this proves that this business model is working!


I am sure you would have heard of more business stunts in "creating a problem and selling the solution". For example, Macbooks without USB ports (which is fine if they included an adaptor which is sold by Apple at S$29.00) or removing charging adaptors ($29.00) and earpieces ($29.00) in the latest iPhone, cigarette companies selling nicotine patches, etc.


On the bottom line, we cannot deny that pain is a huge motivation for action. There are much more to look into but I shall stop here in this post. Happy to explore further in future posts!



Spend money to solve a pain, then feel the pain of spending money. 🤣


Thanks for reading. Have some experiences with being "exploited" by businesses due to a painful experience? Share in the comments below! Have an awesome week.

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