This is a tremendous post by Seth Godin on firms using salaries as a one axis marketing tool. Here’s an excerpt, but be sure to read the full post, its brilliant.
After a million dollars or so in salary, the absolute amount that a person is paid has no real impact on their life. They can’t eat more meals in a day or wear more shoes. What matters to the manager is the relative amount. How much more would I make over there? Why does that company pay its CEO more than my company pays me?
(Aside: should the guys who drive an armored car that carries millions of dollars in bonds get paid more than the guys that drive an armored car that only carries thousands of dollars in cash? Does the amount of money handled change the difficult of the work?)
Twenty years ago, financial industry salaries were a tiny fraction of what they are today. Did lesser people do the work? Did they try less hard? Think smaller thoughts? Of course not. The reasons salaries are high is that the number is a signaling mechanism, a very expensive marketing campaign.