This last week we had the opportunity to buy a different vehicle. For most people the process would have been a simple transaction, but for me it was a time to observe marketing at its best, and at its worst.

At its best, I was amazed at how car manufacturers have really dialed into potential buyers’ pain points, and have served up a total package focused on delaying that pain as a means to drive sales today.

For example, car companies know that the average person likely doesn’t have the capacity to drop cash on a new car. They know that people are afraid of making big buying decisions. Their response is to offer cheap and flexible financing.

They take that pain and delay it until sometime in the future.

Another pain most consumers feel is worrying about the price of gas and whether they will have enough money to put fuel in their car. Auto companies know this, so, as smart marketers should, they’ve adapted their product and communications to help delay the pain.

For example the particular car we purchased has a special fuel saving mode and a visual feedback display (a color coded LED) to let you know whether you are driving in a fuel efficient manner. For the consumer it makes you feel like you will be more in control of the amount of fuel you use, and thereby reduces the fear and pain when purchasing today.

Of course, in both of these examples the pain is only delayed.

In the case of financing, eventually you’ll have a bill to pay. And, inevitably you are going to pay for gas. Even so, delaying pain can be a powerful way to overcome people’s purchasing fears.

The worst: salesmen who came up through the used car lots. Ugh, just a minute in a room with one of these guys mad me want to punch him in the nose (for the record our salesperson was great, but his manager was a complete a-hole).

P.S. The special fuel saving feedback mechanism has had an unintended consequence on me: now I’m hyper aware of the fuel I’m using, which serves to fuel my post-purchase dissonance.