At 23-year-old, Julius Caesar was a junior politician on the way up but he had an advantage: confidence and brain.
While sailing across the Aegean sea, he was captured by Sicilian pirates. They demanded a ransom: 20 talents of silver That’s about 620kg, worth about $600,000 in today’s value.
Caesar told them they were being ridiculous. He couldn’t possibly allow himself to be ransomed so cheaply.
The pirates hesitated, they were confused. Caesar insisted the ransom must be raised to 50 talents of silver that’s around 1,550kg, worth about $1.5 million.
Now, the pirates didn’t know what to make of this. Normally, their captives tried to escape as cheaply as possible. They didn’t understand what was going on. But if he said he would double the ransom, why argue?
They let Caesar’s men go back to Rome to raise the money. And in Rome, in his absence, Caesar suddenly became very famous and well known. No one had ever been ransomed for such an enormous sum before.
He must be exceptional, he must be incredibly important. Consequently, the demand for such amount of silver for ransom put Caesar on the political map and made him famous.
He had just invented the Veblen Effect. Although Thorstein Veblen wouldn’t give it that name for another 2,000 years.
Interestingly, the Veblen Effect is an effective psychological strategy that is being in use for thousands of years and generations.
The best part is that despite the availability of so much knowledge, technological advancement and information, The Veblen Effect refuses to let go.
The Veblen Effect is when consumers perceive higher-priced goods to be worth much more, simply because they cost more.
Like Rolex, Cartier, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Harrods, Cristal Champagne.
None of them may be actually any better than their cheaper alternatives but the price alone makes them seem more desirable.
Caesar effectively made himself a Veblen brand. He placed a much higher value on himself than anyone in Rome.
But, as far as anyone in Rome knew, it wasn’t him who had done it. It was an independent valuation. So it must be true. And because Caesar was now so highly valued, his men had little trouble raising the ransom. They returned to the island and freed him.
But Caesar wasn’t going to allow the pirates to keep that sort of money at all. As an important and famous man he had become, it was easy to raise a huge force which he used to hunt down the pirates and took back all the money, plus everything else they had pillaged, then executed all of them.
Thus, Caesar became both very rich and very famous.
And in time, with that same combination of confidence and brains, he became ruler of all Rome and he presided over the golden age of the Roman Empire.
Expanding it from Spain to Germany, from Britain to the Middle East. Because Caesar knew that reality begins in the mind.
So the most important piece of real estate in which to stake a claim is the human mind.
How you stake a claim in the mind is by creating a perception and how you create that perception is by controlling the context.
Control the context and you control the mind.
Control the mind and you control reality.
A good example of the Veblen effect is Johny Walker Double Black!
JW Black is labelled at least 12 years aged scotch. But JW Double Black has no age statement!
JW Double Black is sold at a higher price than JW Black with a perceived notion that ‘double black’ should be much better than just ‘black’, especially since Double Black is pricier than Black! That is how the human mind works.
In reality, no one knows what is so special in Double Black, except that the label claims it to be very smooth, without actually saying it is smoother than Black!
Many believe that this is simply a marketing strategy to pass off un-aged scotch at a much higher price, through the Veblen Effect!
That’s how the Veblen Effect is a highly successful marketing strategy when correctly implemented.