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The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts by Matthew Willcox

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8. Loss and Ownership

How people’s non-conscious desire to avoid loss affects their choices in many, many ways.

Sometime in the 1890s, T.R Russell of Liverpool made a gold pocket watch. According to an inscription on the movement, Russell was a watchmaker for the Admiralty and the Queen. The watch has a beautiful, clean face and an assertive tick. It is about 1½ inches in diameter and weighs a hefty 4¾ ounces. I know this because I weighed it on my kitchen scales a couple of months ago, before entrusting it to a safe deposit box.

I inherited the pocket watch from a great uncle I hardly knew. He was a laborer who had immigrated to England from County Donegal in Ireland in the 1920s. My great uncle worked hard for many years in dusty factories, ...

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