Tag Archives: marketing

Carrots and Sticks

27 May

The ongoing push to get people vaccinated in the US shows a lot of incentives, which are not working as well as they hoped. I’m not interested in the pros/cons of vaccination, but rather in how the government pushes for compliance.

Even before the epidemic, there was a growing number of “anti-vaxxers,” people who were more concerned with the side effects of the drugs (usually autism) versus the prevention of the disease. However, they were a small minority, and most people tended to ignore them, some were just more cautious about how they got vaccinated. When I used to work in hospitals, I was required to have my flu shot every year, and since I tended to get more sick almost every year, I frequently forged the paperwork to make it look like I had it.

So I sympathize with those who have questions about the vaccine. The government screwed up their COVID response from the beginning. Instead of telling people, “we need our limited supply of masks for hospitals,” they said, “masks don’t work.” Then they do work. Now the government says, “vax up for safety,” at the same time, “keep wearing masks even if you’re vaccinated.” Then “it’s okay to be maskless if you’re vaccinated.” Good job following the science, guys!

So I’ve seen highway signs, billboards, print ads, video ads, radio ads, all saying “get vaccinated.” They’ve appealed to your sense of social responsibility. They’ve appealed to getting back to normal. They’ve appealed to your health. And they’ve achieved 50% compliance throughout the US.

Some people are lauding this achievement; so many more are yelling at “why isn’t it going faster?” Looking at the CDC’s Vaccination Trends, they’re still getting just under 2 million doses per day. That’s pretty good. But it’s obvious that everyone who wanted a shot has gotten one. That’s not good enough for many authorities. My own company will not let us take off our masks in our building until we hit a higher level (currently at 37%). They’re giving people free sandwiches to get vaccinated, they’re giving them discounts, even paying them!

We’ve been beaten with the stick of mandatory masking and limited business contact for over a year. However, with all the carrots to get vaccinated, it was only last week that someone suggested to the CDC that maybe people didn’t like wearing masks. For me, that’s the big incentive. The places I go have been open for sometime, limited or not, so that’s not been an issue. If I could show a pin and it says “I don’t need to wear a mask,” then I would get it. But we get back to why the government initially told people not to wear a mask… “we don’t trust you.” People would be wearing fake pins by the end of the day. They did come up with vaccine passports, but that has privacy violation issues that would be easily shot down in most federal courts… and can also be easily faked.

So at some point, the government push to vaccinate has to either trust the people they claim to serve or stop pretending to care. But I could be too bitter about this issue–what do you think? Is the PSA marketing push making a difference? Is everyone who wanted to be vaccinated actually vaccinated? Should they give it up? Let me know in the comments below. Then if want something other than doom and gloom, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your cheery disposition, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

Survey Says?

18 May

So recently, I’ve fallen into the habit of taking surveys for money, and it’s an interesting universe. What marketers and academics are interested in hearing about and what they’re willing to pay for that information becomes research in and of itself.

Where this all started was with my wife–since she’s doing research for a dissertation–she needed to reach a wider audience so that she could get better results for her survey. Someone introduced her to a website called Prolific and she got double number of results that she had previously. So… success! However, it required a lot of money that she really didn’t have as a graduate student, but thankfully, someone had some extra money in their fund that they transferred to her use.

I thought–wow! Getting paid to do academic surveys? That sounds pretty cool. So they wanted to know a lot of information about yourself, which is understandable, so that you can weed out surveys that don’t apply to you. However, the information became more and more detailed. Finally, they wanted my personal information, including a screenshot of my ID, and that’s where I started to get worried. I made sure to check the website out, made sure it was legitimate, and then submitted the information. I got an email saying I was rejected.

What?! You make me go through actually showing you my ID to prove I’m a real person to tell me that you’re not Prolific material. Oh, hell no! So I write them back demanding an explanation. They reply saying “they don’t monitor this email account and could you reply through their service desk?” It took me a while to do that and… va-voom! Suddenly I get access.

What was the difference? My guess is that as long as my wife’s survey was live, they couldn’t use my input. Now that it’s closed, it’s open season for me. I’ve filled out three and got a couple dollars credit I can convert over to hard cash soon.

While I was waiting, there’s plenty of other apps which provide the same opportunities for regular marketing issues. These are not as exciting–and not as profitable–but they require very little to confirm who you are. I fell into Survey Junkie and rather enjoy it. They do a whole thing involving points that convert directly into USD pennies for… reasons. I guess that allows them to collect information for internal surveys to sell your information to get more marketers.

It reminds me of a lecture one of the lawyers I was working with explained. People get upset when they sell your data; but if you pay them for your data, they’re willing to give it for free. Modern people know that so much of your data is being stolen from you all the time, but hey, I get a free app out of it, so why not? However, there’s a limit to how much data theft we’re willing to take… but if you pay them for their data, suddenly all objection vanishes. That’s going to be the future of data mining.

Of course, what the heck would I know? I just make eLearning modules. Maybe you have a better insight than I do. If so, let me know in the comments below! And while you’re at my site, why not pick up one of my books? However, if you need to take a few more surveys to pay for it, download one of my stories for free!

It’s National _______ Day!

9 May

If you really need an excuse to party, there are several choices every day you can choose from. However, if you declare today National Archery Day (and it is), if no one knows it… does it really matter? What’s the point?!

Of course, in America, today is Mother’s Day–important for little kids’ gifts, the most phone calls made, breakfast in bed–but ever since it was promoted back over a hundred years ago, it’s the flower industry that reminds us of it every year. The archery industry just doesn’t have as much of a marketing budget to overcome that advantage.

For example, National Bowling Day is August 16th this year. I remember I was organizing an event five years ago at a bowling alley and we didn’t know it was a holiday until we arrived. We just planned to bowl regardless. However, we got free t-shirts, and it was nice… but as encouragement to bowl more, it lacked a lot of oomph.

Arbor Day is even having a hard time getting any traction. There’s an entire foundation dedicated to remind people to plant trees. The last I heard about it was when I was in 2nd Grade and we planted a tree as a class… that was the 80’s. It was April 30th this year… which is probably part of the problem. You’re hitting the end of the school year, and you had Earth Day on April 22nd (just the week before), so to have another environmentally-based holiday is rather hard to get excited about.

Despite the rhetoric, every day is NOT Earth Day, because we only have so much give-a-damn in our lives. Unless your cause is the environment, the rest of us have things to do. We’ve got to go to work, and take care of the kids, and feed the pets, and binge watch that Netflix series. Even if you care deeply about the environment, what are you doing daily to save the Earth? Recycling? Maybe that’s enough, but you’re not going to think about it after a while, and maybe you’ll check your coffee is free-trade, but you won’t care as much about your frozen pizza. You can’t pay attention to everything all the time.

Which is why there are holidays in the first place; one day you can remember to do one thing to make things better. But people have to know about it in the first place. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Awareness Day (today) only works if people have heard about it; maybe shift it to a… not-Mother’s Day date? BTW, it’s a genetic disease that affects kids different ways, reshaping bones, and causing mental disabilities. Important… but shouldn’t it be important enough to put on a different day?

So if you’re going to have a Miniature Golf Day, a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day, or a National Moscato Day realize that the entire point is to advertise that fact, and make sure you get the word out. And maybe not have them on Mother’s Day, because otherwise, no one will hear about it. But I could be getting too crotchety about this. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then since it’s National Buy My Book Day (it’s not), buy one of my books. But if you think that’s a silly holiday, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Better Than They Needed To Be

4 May

I’ve recently come across a new category of films. These are films that turn out to be great–deep and moving and philosophical–but are at their core, simply a cheap franchise. Why are they better than they need to be?

So me and my son watched the first two Hunger Games films together, after my friend introduced me to them in Tucson. At their face value, the story is rather simple. Teenage girl, dealing with teenage problems, now has to balance her love triangle in a deadly situation. Okay–since your audience is teenagers, you have to keep the rating down to PG-13, otherwise, they can’t get in the movie theatre.

You’re asking the director to make a film about a battle to the death… without showing blood. This sounds like a box office nightmare.

And yet… you watch it and… it’s unbelievably brilliant! It compares economic disparity, elaborates on the falsehood of television, deals with PTSD… all of this through something that was supposed to be a throw-away blockbuster. The story writing is amazing, there are NO bad roles or bad actors in this film, and the costume and makeup are insanely good.

Then how did they get around showing a blood bath without blood? Simple camera tricks; in the first film, they had shaky cam work. The second one was even more clever–having the camera leave the focus for a second or have something else move in front of it. Better yet, do it off screen! The scariest part of the second film had no blood in all, just the screams of the people of they loved… (shiver)

Similar thought about the Lego Movie. Lego had been making movies for years–usually 5 minute clips with no sound showing off how their playsets could be used. So they knew it could be done well. However, no one was expecting anything hilarious and brilliant. The writers realized that, “Gee, no one’s expecting to take this seriously, so why not just go all out with it!” And they did.

Once they had a great script, they could bring in a serious amount of voice talent with known names to do the roles. (Of course, you could say the same about the Emoji Movie.) However, they had access to all the franchises that Lego has ever done (DC Comics, Lord of the Rings, NBA All-Stars), which helped up the ridiculous factor. What came out was an amazing film that has great quotes, great earworm music, and a plot that made you laugh and cry with these animated characters.

In the end, way better than they needed to be. Is there another example that fits this category? Should it be it’s own subgenre? Let me know in the comments below! Speaking of better than they ought to be, check out one of my books. 🙂 However, if you’re not convinced that $1.99 is worth losing to chance, go ahead and download one of my stories for free! Then I’ll see you at the movies.

Literally Phoning It In

4 Apr

Commercials are endlessly fascinating to me; to get to your attention, it had to go through several levels to get approval before it got on the air. So how is it that a commercial so bad made the airwaves?

After so many days of serious posts, I figure I need to talk about something trivial. Vitamin supplements are the source of my pain today… well, ads for supplements, anyway. These radio ads are literally someone calling in on their crappy phone, testimonials about how they’re going higher, faster, stronger thanks to Brand X. There’s even a pet version of this with a cute dog barking at the right moment when the customer says the brand name.

So when you’re listening to AM radio, where the signal can be glitchy, and you can often barely hear the radio hosts… adding a “I can barely hear you on the phone” element seems ridiculous. Same reason I hate it when people call into the show; which is why my favorite shows have abandoned that schtick and have settled with texts and email.

But I have to remember Marketing 101: product, price, promotion, and place. The product is super pills. Just like any medication, you can’t show the disease, you show the cure. You show someone living clear of plaque psoriasis or walking barefoot without fungal warts. Price… eh, let’s not mention the price. It’s never mentioned, just a free sample, because once you get sold on the item, paying $50 a month (or two weeks) seems reasonable. Until you do, it seems ridiculous. When I started losing my hair at 25, I could have used Rogaine, but it cost… well, exactly the same. I didn’t have money in my budget to pay $50 a month! So better to shave my head than carve out a chunk of my wallet.

Promotion–this is a radio ad. So maybe this is the clue to understanding a “phoned-in” ad. So many times, I’m used to advertisers using the same ad for online, TV, and radio… and it doesn’t make much sense. When the voice actor says “click on the link to learn more,” I start chuckling because… I’m listening on the radio! A voice actor gets tuned out. Having the host (or a host you know) lets the ad keeps your attention longer, but that means paying the host more. So if the average radio listener’s ear makes the slick commercial ineffective, why not throw a little cash at some customers (or better yet, employees pretending to be customers), record the calls, then shoot it out to the radio networks? You’ve saved on production costs and gotten a superior product!

Which leads to the place–you’re trying to reach people in cars. They can’t “click to learn more,” they can’t even write anything down. So… repeat the brand name, repeat the phone number, and hope it sticks in the listener’s head. The advantage of the testimonial is the same with having the radio host read the ad; it lends the illusion of respectability. And hey, if you repeat the ad, they’ll remember the stupid brand name in their sleep!

So… perhaps there is method behind the madness after all. Now if someone can explain the stupid Coke ad where this excited voice actor sounds as if drinking a new Coke flavor will lead to you becoming the next Steve Jobs, that would be helpful. Or Mountain Dew’s “Baby-Puppy-Monkey” ad that will still wake me up in the middle of the night in a terror. I find it funny that Wikipedia calls the reception “mixed,” but all the examples of that are all awful.

Am I thinking about this too hard? Is it just a bad ad? Or a good ad in disguise? Let me know in the comments below! And if you need another ad, check out one of my books! $1.99 is the price, but if you need a free sample, go ahead and download one of my stories. Looking forward to hearing your testimonials. 😀

In Defense of Civil Religion

7 Mar

How we choose to spin things makes all the difference. History, holidays, ceremonies–they’re all part of the academic term “civil religion,” worship of the state. As part of a conscious effort, people are losing their faith in the state, and… is that really a good thing?

There’s an old joke, “Build a man a fire, he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.” The intent is the same, the results… far, far different. Take for example, “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen, which came out in 1995. It’s a great book, exposing a lot of the falsehoods that have been put into American history books, and showing you the origin of those things. I read that as a history teacher and thought, “Wow–that was really in-depth coverage, I should include some of that in my curriculum.” Other teachers thought, “My students need to know all of it, make THAT the textbook!”

Intent is the same, results much different. When you include these errors as part of your instruction, you teach your students to question and analyze what they read. When you make it the textbook, you teach students to reject everything they’ve learned, and question ANY authority from there on in. People stop believing the “American Dream,” that lovely idea anyone from anywhere can do anything in America, because you’re free to pursue it, with enough hard work and sacrifice. No, that’s not precisely true, but probably more true in America than most countries. In the paragon of socialism, the Scandinavian countries, you don’t see many companies moving there, new exciting innovation–mostly because it’s cold, but probably because you have to jump through a lot more hoops and pay more taxes to work there.

On the other hand, if you’re taught that America is the most racist place on Earth, your world view from there changes, and any information comes through that filter. You ignore that Spaniards throw bananas onto the soccer pitch when a black player comes on the field because, “Well, that’s a sports game,” forgetting the amount of anger we had over taking a knee at a football game here. You ignore the fact that in Rwanda, Hutsis were chopping up Tutsis because, “Well, they’re all black. That’s not racism.”

When Howard Zinn wrote “A People’s History of the United States,” raising up the working class and minorities in American history, he did so at a time when all textbooks were written from the spin of “we need to defend godly America from godless Communism.” So for his initial audience, they grew up with the “our side good, their side bad,” so the revelation that our history is not sunshine and rainbows was eye-opening… but didn’t change their world view. But if you make Zinn’s book your textbook, then you’ve created a citizen who believes that America only exists to oppress them.

And you’re seeing a world that’s lost its faith. Americans don’t believe in God, they believe in science. They don’t believe in the system, they believe in their side. The problem is they don’t realize that the new faith they’ve embraced is just as flawed as the one they left, so you have to ignore the bad news about your side, because to do so would ruin the fundamentalism of your faith.

So embrace inconsistency, but hold onto those traditions that keep us together, those beautiful lies that allow us to achieve things as a nation. Salute the flag, serve the country, believe in the equality of every man… but fight to make sure those beautiful lies actually become truth. Because if all we do is fight for our side, it’s only of matter of time before the other side wins, and all your faith turns out to be misplaced.

Do I need to come off my soapbox? Does “civil religion” cause more harm than good? Is it better to start from airing our dirty laundry first to achieve those beautiful lies? Let me know in the comments below!

Beer… in Cans!

4 Mar

It’s something we take for granted–getting beer or soda pop in cans. However, the first commercially produced beer can didn’t come out until January 1935, three hundred years after it was first put in bottles! Why the change?

When radio stations are trying to fill time, they’ll put on all sorts of filler, and iHeartRadio throws in “This Week in History.” As an amateur historian, this always perks my interest, so when they said that Krueger Beer was the first to deliver beer in cans in Richmond, Virginia, I had to figure out why it took that long to come up with cans.

The first issue was… you didn’t have to. Most people just had their beer at the pub, where someone with a keg poured it out into leatherjacks (leather mugs) and you drank it there. Once glass became cheap (and strong) enough to put in windows, it was cheap enough to turn into glassware. With the stronger glass, you could also make growlers, so you could take some beer home from the pub, but again… only as far as you could walk. Then some forgetful (drunk) parson left his growler of beer by the stream, found it days later, and found the carbonization caused the cork to fire off like a gun. With that, people realized you could transport beer farther. IPA’s came about two hundred years later because they had to figure out how to transport beer to India and keep it good, so they put a higher hop count in their bottles.

So two centuries of commercial beer transportation later, there was a limit to how far you could reasonably transport your brand of beer. Bottles were heavy and they were returnable… which had to be inspected before reuse. Plus, glass still cost more than shipping things in cans. So the American Can Company (still around), in order to drum up new markets, offered to fund the new production line for Krueger to see if it would work. This was just after Prohibition, so they figured this was a great new revenue source.

If you see the original can, you’ll notice that it’s more bottle shaped–this was done to make it easier for smaller breweries to use so they didn’t have to change their production lines. However, they had to design the can to contain 80 lbs of pressure. Also had to put in a liner so that the metallic taste didn’t transfer to the beer. The pull tab (versus the bottle top) only came thirty years later.

With beer in cans you could transfer it as far as you could reasonably keep it cold. Since we had international ice transport since the 1850’s, this wasn’t a big deal, and companies such as Anheuser-Busch took advantage of this and dominated the domestic American beer market. It also helped they were located in St. Louis, Missouri, and were more centrally located to distribute their beer from the Rockies to the Appalachians. Coors, located in Denver, Colorado, only transported as far as the Mississippi River until 1986, although that was more to do with pasteurization laws in Eastern states, but did give us the plot to Smokey and the Bandit.

This took me down a serious rabbit hole, and I have Bryce Eddings to thank for that, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead and not go into why Yingling didn’t leave Pennsylvania for decades. But what do you think? Why does beer in cans still exist, since we’ve solved the transportation problem? What beer would you really wish you get in your hometown? (For me, Leo Beer from Thailand–good cheap beer with a shrimp aftertaste.) Did the microbrewery phenomenon save or kill commercially produced beer? Let me know in the comments below!

The Affirmation Industry

10 Feb

After watching the Super Bowl, I found that commercials broke down into easy categories–the local, the network, the humorous, and the affirmational. I may be too cynical, but who are the affirmational ads for?

Having heard interviews with advertising execs, the successful advertisement is the one that 1) grabs your attention, 2) you remember after it’s shown, and 3) you remember what the product was. For me, the humorous ads accomplish at least the first two… and usually I remember what the product is. But usually the second I see “There’s a lot of struggling people out there…”, my brain has already tuned out.

There is so much bad things in the world that I can’t do a blessed thing about that I frequently tune it out. Apathetic? Sure, but I’ve got enough things to worry about in my own life–why do I need to import more? Yet I know that some people get into that. Some people (and I’ve met them) seem to enjoy wallowing in the bad things that are happening in the world. After all, good news doesn’t generate clicks–disasters do.

But I guess that’s the appeal of the affirmational ad. Bad things are happening, but don’t worry, with us working together we’re able to have a happy ending. Yay!

That’s not to say that affirmational ads can’t work for me. In fact, there were actually two “affirmational” ads that caught my attention–the one where the girl whose legs had to be amputated (Hyundai?) and the one with the chapel in Lebanon, Kansas (Jeep). However, I remember the Jeep one better because although I thought the message was good (meeting in the middle), the presentation was terrible.

I guess the Super Bowl–which has a wider audience than the rest of the NFL games–feels they have to appeal to different demographics. Doritos–flavored tortilla chips–goes for humor because making people feel bad doesn’t get people to eat overly fattening foods. (Or maybe it would–who knows?!) The people who want to fight systemic racism feel better about buying… um, NFL games because “they share my values.”

Yes, we’re all against earthquakes. Earthquakes are bad. We should give money to people to fight earthquakes. Okay, I’ll turn off the snark, but I’m curious–what kind of commercial appeals to you? Regardless whether you actually buy it (I haven’t bought Doritos in years), what type of ad will actually make you watch it… and watch it again. Let me know in the comments below!

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