Marketing really interests me. For two quarters in college, I prepared a thesis on marketing in the form of a case study. I found it pretty fascinating; it’s really a study on human tendency and what moves people to buy.
One thing that I find even more impressive in marketing is how it works on ME. I get this odd sense of enjoyment when I see that a company’s marketing has worked on me, when they’ve suckered me in to buying, upgrading or subscribing to their product. I stop and think “well you know what, good for them! They marketed to me and they won.” I can think of a few specific examples of this.
Let’s throw it back to 2007 (how in the world was that almost TEN YEARS AGO?!). These were the days when only a few select people had an iPhone (ONE!), when texting had limitations (remember when you had to delete texts to make room for more), when sending picture messages merely was a novelty (that you definitely had to pay for) and navigation… please… only for the rich kids.
Yes, life was so very difficult for us all back then; how in the world did we get by? Well, during that time, and in my late teens, I was tired of many of the above limitations. I wanted better, and my service provider, Verizon Wireless, had the answer. It came in the form of this commercial.
It was funny (I especially love the “Hola” at the end)! And it spoke to my perceived “need” at the time for NO limitations on my texting, my picture messaging, my Flix sending (because calling them video messages back then just was NOT cool). So I had to pitch the idea to my dad. And boy, did I make a case for it. We NEEDED this plan. It would benefit the whole family and just made sense. Right?
And he gave in.
I was thrilled. No more being restricted with how much I wanted to send. I could message whomever I wanted, as much as I wanted, guilt free. Looking back, it was that ONE commercial that did it for me. That’s all I needed to see as an anxious high schooler to give in and get my family to buy their product.
Yet another example stands out to me. Many of my friends have been avid users of the music service Spotify, but I wasn’t sold just yet. I used Pandora for radio, and felt that I had enough of my own iTunes to keep my ears plenty of company. But that wasn’t enough for Spotify. They wanted me. They locked me in their sights. And they struck.
Three months of service for 99 cents… Compared to the normal $10 for EACH month that a subscription costs, this was a huge deal! They were giving this offer out for people to sign up and give their service a shot.
I feel like if something costs that much, it’s never 99 cents… it’s “ONLY” 99 cents. That’s what they want you to think. And come on, who doesn’t. If something is 99 cents, you kinda have to buy it, right? It’s a cultural obligation.
So I did.
And I liked it.
So I kept it.
That’s exactly what they wanted. They’d achieved their goal. Spotify was the hyena. My credit card, the gazelle, lifeless in its grip. And you know what, I loved it! I loved the service I subscribed to and I loved seeing how their very direct, very specific marketing plan WORKED on me.
I’ll give you a third example. Watch this trailer, but try not to get too creeped out:
Did you watch? Don’t go spoiling it and reading ahead.
Ok you did it, right? Promise.
Ok how good was that trailer!? I’m not one who watches scary movies too often, because for some reason they make me laugh! I don’t know why, but something scary just cracks me up. So that trailer, as creepy, zany and maybe a bit corny as it was, had me laughing.
“I HAVE TO SEE THAT” I thought, after seeing only THAT trailer. That one trailer. The movie was entertaining. By no means was it the best that I’d seen, but watching it with people who were genuinely scared throughout it made it that much more entertaining. I couldn’t help but lose it from watching my friends squeal and squirm at the frightening parts!
The point? The movie company had a great marketing campaign in the form of that ominous trailer. And that alone got me to spend my money on it, which is precisely what they wanted.
To me, it was so cool seeing how that marketing worked on me. As someone who is continually intrigued by business, watching the process of marketing take place before my very eyes has often been really cool to see.
All of these experiences, among others, make me reminisce to a time at my childhood where I had a mission: to get my hands on a Nintendo GameCube. My parents were not really big on me having video games, as they saw how it detracted from some of my friends’ time management and social skills. But I was convinced that I could be different. The GameCube seemed just SO cool to me as a 7th grader, and I had to figure out how to convince them to get me one. So then came the time to do some marketing… for myself.
So I designed a large poster board and I made my case. I still remember that it was called “It’s Game(Cube) Time, Baby!” I wrote a paper about why I felt I’d earned the privilege of having the system in the first place. I included a recent straight-A report card to show them that I was focused on still doing well in school. I’m pretty sure I included some types of pie charts and bar graphs to make it look more official. This was nearly 14 years ago, so I don’t remember every detail, but I DO remember the effect. My dad and mom were blown away.
My dad has owned a small business for the last couple decades called Paradigm, International. His company manufactures and sells industrial spill cleanup and containment products. So, anything business-y automatically draws him in. I remember him expressing to me “Bud, this is incredible. I wish my guys could market like this for MY business!”
My own “marketing” campaign worked. I went into it not feeling entitled, but worked at showing my family why getting me the GameCube would be a good idea. Marketing worked for me as a kid, and it worked on me as I got older. And in both cases, I loved it.
I’ve yet to cave in another instance of good “marketing”, joining the flock of those who drove up Red Lobster’s sales by 33% in a weekend after Beyoncé mentioned it in a single she debuted at the 2016 Super Bowl. I’m sure I’ll be in soon enough.
If a business can be effective in its marketing, it has the potential to grow exponentially. And over the years, the state of marketing has changed. A newspaper ad today doesn’t have the same wide-reaching impact that it might have 40 years ago. Social media outlets play a part in marketing like never before. Sure, we may be inclined to skip past those YouTube commercials as fast as we can. But while many will watch, a number will buy. And that ROI is worth it to successful marketers.
It’s a process that I love to see take place!