Original post here.

I’m not interested in finding any trends to write about this week. Why bother? For the next month, all anyone will be concerned with is sales. How many laptops have been sold? How many netbooks have been sold? How many HDTVs have been sold? And then, after all is said and done, there will be a slew of post-Christmas sales where all the same crap will be 40 percent off.

Still, I have yet to successfully convince my family that we should celebrate Christmas on January 15. Think of the advantages. You can practically get wrapping paper for free. You can get a Christmas tree for nothing. And the gifts? Everything is on sale for next to nothing.

But no, they won’t delay the holiday.

The herd mentality is a lot more powerful than rational thought. You have to understand this if you want to understand how people buy computers and consumer electronics. Great marketers and promoters harness this mentality, and most people can’t resist it. Those who can are marginalized by the herd. If you don’t embrace the holiday shopping spree, you might be called a “Grinch” or a “Scrooge.” Resist any sort of trend with critical analysis, and you’re a curmudgeon. No one actually knows what a “curmudgeon” is, but it sure sounds bad!

So, who are the two greatest marketers in the history of high-tech? Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. In the late-70s, Jobs talked about selling the sizzle, not the steak. What he meant was, create a desire out of secondary attractants. Have you ever craved a hamburger because you passed a restaurant where burning fat, cooking onions, and other aromas triggered a response? This is the sizzle.

Go to the Apple store and watch the company do its thing. But prepare to be fleeced. And note that the term “getting fleeced” stems from the act of shearing sheep. Note: you are the sheep in this scenario.

What about Jeff Bezos? It’s no coincidence that he and Jobs are friends of sorts. Bezos launched an online bookstore in an era when real bookstores were struggling to make money, and the mail order book selling business was sketchy at best. Everyone thought that Bezos was doomed to fail. And the name? Who names an online bookstore “Amazon?” A decade later, Bezos and Amazon dominate a lot more than just online bookselling.

Another half-decade later, Bezos screws things up ever more by promoting an e-book reader. Heck, these things have been around forever in some mediocre form or another. Bezos was an idiot that time for sure. And again, the name. What the heck is a “Kindle?”

I have been skeptical about both Bezos and Jobs throughout much of their careers. An online bookstore? An e-reader? I mean, come on! And how does Jobs waltz into a moderately successful market for MP3 players, decimating the competition, and taking over the record business in one fell swoop? By all rights the entire MP3 game should be dominated by Sony.

Both of these blokes are selling the sizzle. That’s the key. But as a consumer, you never know exactly how they’re doing it. Having TV commercials with a bunch of spastic cretins dancing around with their iPod earbuds in is one thing. But where exactly is the sizzle in what Bezos sells? It it just the convenience? Is it Website design? It’s the closest thing to a magic act that I’ve seen. Yet somehow it communicates directly to the herd mentality.

That’s the thing about magic tricks, you know the magician is tricking you somehow. You watch the trick over and over, but you can’t figure out how it works. This is the key to great marketing. The sizzle that Jobs talked about disappears within the trick itself. Presto, change-o. Now you see it, now you don’t.

In this day and age, it’s your money that’s doing the disappearing. So my wife is giving e-pods to her friends and getting me something from Amazon. Sigh. Happy holidays. In the meantime, I’ll continue to push for a January 15 Christmas.