Thursday, December 10, 2009

Be very afraid

In my meanderings around the interwebs, I have run across many folks who are pitching products. In today's post, I am focusing more on the products which are of the intellectual-property type than the ShamWows of the internet.

What has struck me is the regularity with which these products offer to provide the buyer with control of their [insert product pitch point here].

We're not talking about greater influence or a stronger sense of being in charge, but TOTAL CONTROL. The pitch may focus on your life, your job, your relationship, your financial get the idea.

When one digs a little below the surface, these marketing techniques are reflective of what many of us are experiencing: a fear that we are not in control, that we are lost in the turmoil which is today's world.

Marketing is an art or science (you can get opinions, and strong ones, both directions) which taps into the group psyche in order to find the "buy now" button which enough people have activated within themselves to allow a marketing campaign to more than pay back its cost thanks to its success in finding buyers. It really is that simple: if the folks selling us stuff can come up with a marketing campaign which yields more income than it costs to run, we will see it. And, we will see it replicated with astonishing speed as it is taken up as a best-practice technique by other marketers.

The widespread use today of the appeal to a universal desire for control is only one micron from the appeal which a recently booted administration used for a long time to maintain their power base: making all of us afraid.

The difference is in the more-palatable nature of addressing a need one layer above the simple survival instinct which a fear-based campaign seeks to invoke.

So, we are targeted, again and again, with sales pitches which seek to calm our underlying fears by guaranteeing something supposedly at an intellectual level even as it takes advantage of the fear.

I'm not doing anything more today than noting this as an observation which may help you better frame how to view the loud clanging of those seeking to have you write them a check so they can, finally, give you back control of your lives.

Bottom line: control is an illusion. It is a hugely attractive one, but it is an illusion. Paying someone who claims to be able to make the illusion a reality in your life is a little like betting you can beat a gambling propensity by moving to Las Vegas. It could work, but you have to wonder if the odds are in your favor.


Rick Hamrick said...

Good thoughts, Rick. Very interesting. Our system of free enterprise has given us an amazing number of products to choose from. The result of market segmentation and brand extension is 57 varieties of ketchup and 10,000 kinds of tennis shoes. The whole system has analyzed our needs to death - how can we help but feel we're missing something? I think marketing is part of the problem, but not the problem: it's far more systemic than that, something not easily changed. What I find interesting is that the system worsens in times of prosperity, which seems paradoxical. These days, with high unemployment and more widespread need, it feels like we are less receptive to commercialism and more concerned with deeper values, whatever they may be.

Rick Hamrick said...

Yes, Brad, I agree. Marketing, in my view, is symptom not problem. It only makes sense that it would worsen in times when our wallets are full.

In my mind, it is as if we are aiming south to defend ourselves from an incoming threat which is arriving from the north. There is serious confusion both in cause/effect and recognition of effect so as to apply a solution.

Again, I agree with you that it is not easily changed. At the same time, that's not justification for not changing it, only a reason to have realistic expectations of the pace of change which we can insist upon.

Just as water finds its way, unrelenting gentle pressure in the right direction will always result in the solution we seek.