Sorry man, but you've already hit the wall coming out of the gate. You have Want and Need confused - They are not synonyms.
Mr. Joker, you're wrong for two reasons.
First of all, even if a product (say, those stupid wristbands that come in goofy shapes, that seem to be everywhere lately) has no objective purpose, they can still improve a person's situation if that's what they want
. Consider this can of Mountain Dew in front of me. I certainly don't need it. I could have gotten a cup of water instead, at no cost to myself. But I like Mountain Dew, darn it, and it's worth $0.50 to me to have it even if it doesn't do anything objective for me.
The economic thinking behind this is called the utility function
. Everybody has a set of values, how much a given thing is worth to them. Even if you can't measure the value of a product (because it's purely subjective, like the stupid wristbands), an economist would still say that a person ascribes some value to it, and that value is obviously communicated by how much they're willing to pay.
The fundamental point of economics is the choices that people make: why are they willing to forgo one option in favor of a second (see opportunity cost
). The fifty cents I spend on my Mt. Dew I could have used on a cookie for dessert, and instead had a cup of water. But I value the citrus bite of the soda, and how it clears the chewed sandwich out of my mouth. I could even have saved it for a larger purpose, but the marginal utility
of half a buck is tiny for me. The person who bought the stupid wristband thing is wasting her money according to my values
, but the decoration on her wrist perhaps makes her feel better about herself, and so provides value to her in excess of its purchase price, according to her utility function.
Thus, you can see that even if we don't see a practical application of something, the fact remains that a product's purchaser somehow
values it more than the money he spent to acquire it. And thus, the producer of idiotic wristbands is indeed providing value to that hypothetical girl.
Second, who are you
to say what's a gimmick and what has value? As I alluded to above, we each have our own values, our own utility function. Just because something has no value to you (nor to me, for that matter) does not mean that it has no value to anyone. And you and I aren't in a position to understand why the purchaser values it (indeed, frequently even the purchaser doesn't know; the utility function isn't necessarily arrived at rationally or even consciously, it can be, and probably is, largely emotional).
Once again, the fact that someone valued the wristband more than she valued the money to pay for it is prima facie
proof that the product does have that much value. If you disagree with that, you're setting yourself up as Big Brother, as someone who claims to know better than any of us how to run our own lives.