Today on the Groupon Blog, founder Andrew Mason spoke about his company’s set of Super Bowl advertisements:
When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. [...] Ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers.
So basically instead of write a terse but thoughtful apology to those offended by his company’s outreach efforts, he managed to take a holier-than-thou attitude where, somehow, Groupon is righteous and all those misogynistic other advertisers suck.
Problem is: ads are meant, by design, to promote their advertiser. “Shameless self promotion” sounds about right. The truth is this, sales and marketing is about getting others to buy (into) you. There are a number of reasons why they might do this: they’re either buying you or they’re buying your product. Often both. For the former, maybe you’re charismatic, you’re persuasive, or you’re persistent (if you’re good at sales, probably all three). For the latter, your product is the best, the most useful or the cheapest. We love Apple (the best), we use Google (utility) and we buy Groupon (cheap) because they fit in these.
These aren’t the only reasons, of course. Values of the company (“Don’t Be Evil”) are important, and that’s why Mason had to respond today after being assailed on the Web for the past 24 hours.
The reason sales and marketing are lumped together is because they’re related: the client/customer isn’t just buying your wares, they’re buying YOU. So when Andrew Mason replied to criticism by scapegoating Bud Light (or whomever else), that’s not something very attractive to buy into.
Next time, tell us about the great savings, the instant deals and the local goodies available from your site, Andrew. Ironically enough, it’s Groupon which looks most self-congratulatory out of this whole thing…I don’t buy into this attitude of apology by way of our happiness that, “At least we didn’t do X” or “You should be happy we weren’t as sexist as Y.”
Just be one of those shameless self-promoters and espouse the benefits of your company – they’re numerous. That I’ll buy.
A while back, a friend’s mom told me about a game she used to play with her friends and colleagues (she has a background in law and interactive media).
The premise of the game is that all advertising is rooted in one of two things: sex and fear. More on sex in a minute, her point about fear was that even if advertisements did not play on your explicit fear of, say, security, they would touch upon your fear of being an outsider when you didn’t know about the latest and greatest products.
The point of the game, however, centered around sex. She pointed out that you could use just about any jingle or slogan to promote Viagra, even phrases from otherwise unrelated products. My favorites were the adaptation of Men’s Warehouse: “You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it.” Or the use of Chevy’s ads, “Like a rock.”
It’s a fun game, but it drives home a point: advertising appeals to our base instincts, desires and thoughts.
Which is why I found this article on “neural advertising” in Time such a good read.
Researcher Martin Lindstrom monitors consumers when they are exposed to advertising; he checks brain activity, pupil dilation, sweat responses and flickers in facial muscles — all markers of emotion.
To figure out what most appeals to our ear, Lindstrom wired up his volunteers, then played them recordings of dozens of familiar sounds, from McDonald’s ubiquitous “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle to birds chirping and cigarettes being lit. The sound that blew the doors off all the rest–both in terms of interest and positive feelings–was a baby giggling. The other high-ranking sounds were less primal but still powerful. The hum of a vibrating cell phone was Lindstrom’s second-place finisher. Others that followed were an ATM dispensing cash, a steak sizzling on a grill and a soda being popped and poured.
Imagine, then, if companies go ahead with the talks Lindstrom is already having: European supermarkets piping the sound of percolating coffee or fizzing soda into the beverage department or that of a baby cooing into the baby-food aisle.
What would this mean for Web marketers? How could you drive home affinity to the same set of interests and needs online? Can you use the same hook (namely, sound) to draw in your audience without making the user feel as though s/he is being bombarded?
There was an interesting article today in Slate’s Green Lantern section which answered a question about biodegradable plastics. (“Breaking Down Is Hard To Do“).
The biggest challenge, it seems, is not simply getting people to recycle– after all, here was a self-proclaimed frat boy about to throw a night of debauchery asking about biodegradability.
The problem is that the term “biodegradable,” as a marketing term, is unregulated by the federal government. This means that, “manufacturers can sometimes get away with being a little squirrely in their advertising.”
Granted, the science behind it is complicated as well, since landfills have different levels of biological activity: many compact trash tightly and cover it daily with dirt and clay to reduce odor. Then there’s the question of whether biodegradability is such a laudable goal at all:
Then there’s the fact that biodegradability may not be a worthy goal in the first place! The tomblike conditions in most landfills mean that any biodegradation that occurs is going to be anaerobic. In the absence of oxygen, the process produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. So your biodegradable party-ware might end up warming the planet more than a standard plastic cup—which would at least sequester its carbon for a long, long time.
What I take away from all of this is not that sustainability is worthless, or that it is impossible for the average college student, urban dweller, suburban mom/dad, etc. to do.
This is on the same day that SF Mayor Gavin Newsom announced San Francisco now recycles 72% of all trash, making the goal of 75% by 2010 and zero waste by 2020 a distinct possibility.
Large-scale recycling efforts, then, are not out-of-reach. In fact, Newsom’s announcement shows me that the key to sustainability is in government regulation, outreach and support.
This means starting small and scaling up. Take, for example, the ASSU Green Store here on Stanford campus. The student government, with I’m sure some help from the University Administration, has made an effort to make sustainability easier for students throwing parties (like the Stanford version of the frat boy in the Slate article).
Now consider how the ASSU initiative fits into a greater Bay Area political effort, such as Gavin Newsom’s emphasis on recycling.
And if the federal government were to enact legislation imposing tougher sanctions on what “biodegradable” is (like the USDA does for “organic“), then you’d have a comprehensive set of incentives and opportunities for people to lead more sustainable lives.
While sustainability is not “cheap,” price is one clear hurdle which can be passed. I did some quick comparison shopping:
|Source||Type/Brand||Number||Price||Cost per item (in cents)|
|ASSU Green Store||Recyclable||50||$5.60||11.2|
|BevMo (online)||Solo (Jack Frost)||100||$11.99||11.9|
So while cost plays into the decision, it ultimately would dictate that buying Green Store cups is the best bet anyways.
The role of the government, then, is to take a more active stance in regulating marketing terms for consumers who may not understand but who want to make the right purchase. Correction of misinformation (and misleading advertising) when combined with community and national initiatives can result in– if not a lot of good– at least a lot less of bad.
Tags: assu, bevmo, biodegradable, costco, cups, garbage, gavin newsom, Government, great pacific garbage patch, green store, marketing, organic, party cups, recycling, regulation, san francisco, SF, slate, Stanford, sustainability, trash