Jeremy Stein - Journal

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Opposite Marketing

I’m fascinated by marketing. It intrigues me that you can influence people’s buying decisions by non-rational means. In fact, that seems to be the most effective way to influence people.

When I was younger, it used to deeply disturb me that my thinking could be influenced by advertising. I wanted to buy Crest toothpaste because it was the best product, not because Procter & Gamble had tricked my brain into associating their brand name with positive feelings. To counter the effects of any advertising I encountered, I would make it a habit to always contradict everything they said, out loud, during the advertisement.

Tube of crest toothpaste“Crest fights cavities on teeth and roots. With regular brushing you can fight cavities and leave your breath feeling refreshed.” To which I’d reply, “So does every other toothpaste. So does baking soda and peroxide. My breath will ‘feel’ refreshed? You don’t even claim that it actually freshens breath; it probably doesn’t. Why should I waste my hard-earned money to pad the pockets of the marketing company that came up with this ridiculous commercial…” etc. etc. By doing this, I hoped to counteract whatever positive feelings the marketers had hoped to associate with their product. (I use Colgate.) This was also good practice to help me become the brusque and cynical person I am today.

More recently, I’ve noticed that many advertising campaigns are based on taking the worst attribute and claiming that the opposite is true. Joel Spolsky did a good job of explaining this phenomenom in the first couple paragraphs of an article on a completely different topic. He brings up plane travel advertised as comfortable, paper companies as environmentally-friendly, and cigarettes as symbols of active outdoor life.

Aldi’s bread is cheap and tastes fine, but you know it’s a few weeks old. What do they call it? L’Oven Fresh.

We had cable TV for a while growing up. It has a sizable selection of entertaining programming. That sounds like a reasonable basis for marketing. You’d probably want to steer away from mentioning that cable is a huge waste of time, a poor use of money, full of mindless drivel, and rather expensive. Time Warner’s most recent ad shows four people with the following quotes:

Huh? How do they get away with saying that? Do they think I’m that stupid? Or can the psychological power of repeated advertising cause me to change my mind about cable. Oooh, that’s scary. I’d better go back to contradicting the ads. Out loud.

Got any other examples?

July 19, 2004 1 Comment.

One Comment

  1. Tara replied:

    Only Colgate Total, with its 12 hour protection, fights 12 teeth and gum problems, reduces plaque and gingivitis — even after meals — , offers 12 hour protection against a full range of oral health problems, and helps fight tartar!

    Colgate. The toothpaste recommended most often by dental professionals.

    July 25th, 2004 at 8:39 pm. Permalink.

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