Psychology of Consumer Behaviour |

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get Ready to BUY NOTHING!

This Friday, November 28 is BUY NOTHING DAY. For 17 years environmentalists have been asking people to buy nothing on what is called Black Friday, the Friday following American Thanksgiving and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season.

Unfortunately, it's not really shocking that the word “Bailout” was looked up so many times this year that it has been chosen Merriam-Webster’s 2008 Word of the Year.

The current financial meltdown is not just about toxic derivatives or unregulated markets says Kalle Lasn, co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, “It’s really about culture….our culture of excess and meaningless consumption.” “A simpler, pared-down lifestyle – one in which we’re not drowning in debt – may well be the answer to this crisis we’re in,” says Lasn. “Living within our means will also make us happier and healthier than we’ve been in years.”

An Illinois auto dealer is offering a two for one sale. Under the deal, shoppers who pay the sticker prices for gas guzzling 2008 Dodge Chargers, Rams, Grand Caravans or Dakota trucks can get a compact, intermediate or minivan for $1.
What exactly does that say about the price of these vehicles and what does it say about a culture that would be causing the phone at this dealership to be ringing off the hook?
No doubt someone is going to be looking up “bailout” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary!

I have written previously that we as a culture really, really need to de-stuff.

Bring in the therapy! Want some help?

Check out, “a safe haven—a confessional” where you can confess things you shouldn’t have bought. Run by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it’s non-commercial and non-profit. It’s safe, honest, and probably pretty therapeutic. There are some pretty funny confessions there.

I’m in the Worst Shape of my Life

Thinking of buying a new cell phone? Check out INFORM's The Secret Life Series, a collection of videos highlighting the environmental impacts of everyday products.

And if that hasn’t done it, see The Story of Stuff and sign up for their newsletters.
The Story of Stuff has been viewed over 4.5 million times by people in 227 countries and territories around the world.

Buy Nothing ---Granny Knows

So if someone tries to sell you on the idea that you are what you buy, remember your Buy Nothing granny........You are Not what you Buy!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Gifts that Keep on Giving: "The Pain train's comin"

We first met Terry Tate, Office Linebacker in a Reebok 2003 ad during Super Bowl XXXVII. Tate's job -- givin out the pain to office staff who disobey office policies.

Reebok went on to produce 8 more episodes. Terry even got his own website. The advertising campaign was one of the most successful in the history of the Super Bowl although some have questioned the number of people who actually connected Tate and his linebacker antics to Reebok. Terry became famous for lines such as, "The pain train's comin'", "You kill the joe, you make some mo'", "Cu'z when its game time, it's pain time!" There's something about Terry's brand of justice that is funny no matter how many times you see it.

Like the Wassup guys who produced a new version Wassup 2008 in support of Obama, Terry reappeared a couple of weeks before the election in a website and in viral YouTube videos. His target? Sarah Palin of course.

Terry Tate: Reading is Fundamental

"How's that for Drill Baby Drill! You just subscribed to Terry's Journal of Pain!! And the first issue is free, baby! Whoo!! ... Hey Katie!"

Terry Tate and Sarah Palin have something in common- both are gifts that keep on giving!

Governor Palin has just pardoned a turkey after reading a long proclamation. Afterwords a local television reporter wants to ask her a few questions. See oblivious Sarah speaking about how "You need a little bit of levity in this job," while blood is flying and turkeys are massacred behind her.

Will the Real Turkey Please Stand Up! "Cu'z when its game time, it's pain time, Sarah!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Road to Obsolescence –a little sex, a lot of style and a lot less substance

In 1918 half of all cars in America were Model T’s. Henry Ford joked you could have one in any colour as long as it was black. By 1927 over 15 million Model T’s had been produced. But by the mid 20s sales began to decline as other car companies began offering new features and credit plans. “Ford saw his car as a great social leveler, a democratic one-size-fits-all symbol of American classlessness,” writes Giles Slade in Made to Break: Technology & Obsolescence.

In the early 20s advertising for automobiles was pretty boring- maybe a basic car silhouette and a few lines of copy describing its features.

The business was in need of a good ad man!

Enter Ned Jordan and his Jordan Playboy Roadster. When Jordan started his company in 1916, he believed he could make a profit buying parts from manufacturers, assembling his cars and selling a small volume. It wasn’t long before he realized his Playboy Roadster was not really that different from what was on the market.

It was 1922 and as the story goes Jordan was in need of a vacation to think. On a train passing through Wyoming, he happened to glance outside the window and saw a beautiful young woman riding her horse along side the train as if in a race with the locomotive. Apparently, this so impressed him that he turned and asked where they were.
The reply “Somewhere west of Laramie,” became the opening line to what has been called “arguably the most celebrated copy in the history of American advertising.”

The famous "Somewhere West of Laramie" ad for the Jordan Playboy Roadster ran in the Saturday Evening Post in 1923. The artwork showed a young woman on a horse racing against the Jordan Playboy roadster with the copy

"Somewhere west of Laramie there's a bronco-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I am talking about. She can tell what a sassy pony that's a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he's going high, wide and handsome. The Truth is--the Playboy was built for her."

"Automobile advertising was forever changed as specifications and capacities gave way to emotions and possibilities; an automobile wasn't just a mechanical device. The Jordan driver had an exciting lifestyle, and the Jordan automobile was the perfect fit of that lifestyle riding the open highway or taking a jaunt to the country club."

The ad said nothing about cost, nothing about features. It was selling the sizzle, the sex, and the lifestyle-your key to riding off to the “land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides lean and rangy, into the Wyoming twilight.”

The Jordan Playboy sold well and the advertisement’s style and success were noticed by other automakers. A car could no longer be the one-size-fits-all practical black box that merely took you from place to place.

General Motors under the direction of Alfred Sloan created a three point strategy, nine models, a car for every lifestyle. But more than this, Sloan is credited with creating the concept of “planned obsolescence.” He recognized that cars would not only eventually become obsolete as technology improved but that with models being introduced more often they would soon look out dated. The result was the annual model change. Henry Ford famously resisted planned obsolescence.

Sloan created the first style department. Harley Earl the visionary who ran this new style department is credited with introducing the panoramic windshield, the concept car, clay modeling and the modern car show. Earl recognized that minor style changes could create what he called a dynamic obsolescence. Changing major features of an automobile from year to year would be expensive. Styling changes would be inexpensive and noticeable leading to psychological obsolescence.

Hear about Earl and his tail fins

As GM thrived and Ford floundered, it wasn’t long before Ford jumped on board the road to obsolescence with annual model changes.

In 1934 the average ownership of a car was 5 years; by the 50's it was 2 years. After the war, Earl was influenced by the P-38 warplane. Its 30-foot twin tail became the inspiration for the Cadillac tail fins. As American car companies obsessed over tail fins and style, manufacturers around the world worked on technology.

When Ford introduced a bulky gas guzzling marvel- the Edsel, smaller more efficient cars were being produced abroad. While the Japanese concentrated on product design and quality, American manufacturers focused on big cars loaded with options, whatever the market or energy message.

What does it say and what does it mean when you focus on style over substance?

Maybe that's the road to obsolescence.

The Shape We're in- Whoo Baby!

Last night everything suddenly became clear.

While Alan Greenspan is saying, "We are not quite in free fall, but something fairly close to it." A baby is saying, "Check it, click; I just bought stock,"

"If I can do it, you can do it" (sound of barfing) 'Whoo"

Whoo Baby....No wonder!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

In Need of a Hero- Old Soldiers- Intellectuals -Community and Change

There was a time before in the 1950s when America was in need of a hero. While your everyday American feared the Atom bomb, practiced air-raid drills and built a bomb shelter in his basement, science fiction movies showed detonated bombs destroying civilization. And Joseph McCarthy charged that the US government was filled with "Commies."

Political campaigns at the time were mostly about silly songs praising this candidate or that. Television was new and it was still being seen as if it were radio with pictures.

But admen realized this was not the same game at all.

Rosser Reeves who most everyday people would never have heard of was about to change the way American presidents were sold.

It was 1952 and the Republicans wanted America to elect someone who wasn’t a politician at all- Dwight D Eisenhower. Eisenhower (Ike) was a war hero, wore glasses, looked old and had an assortment of campaign messages. His rival Adelaide Stevenson came from a distinguished family in Illinois and was known as an intellectual and eloquent orator.

Rosser Reeves of the Bates agency was hired to repackage and sell a new Eisenhower. Reeves did not overestimate the intelligence of his audience. Noted for the idea of the USP- the unique selling proposition- a focus on one theme, Reeves believed that you needed to pick one overriding theme that your competition did not have and hammer it home. Repetition was a key and it often resulted in the most annoying of ads like one for Anacin, Anacin Anacin that worked FAST! FAST! FAST!

Reeves researched which one message would be most effective for Eisenhower and then he set about orchestrating how best to deliver the message.

The spots would target the undecided voters; they would be scripted so there would be no chance for the candidate to slip up and no chance for the Democrats to answer in the last three weeks. Reeves wrote about 20 spots, and had Eisenhower come to the studio for one day.

Eisenhower the old soldier did not like the idea that he was being orchestrated, but reluctantly went along. They didn't want him to look old so he was forced to read off large cards without his glasses. Eisenhower was told to look down to the right when answering and to end by looking directly into the camera. Reeves then went to find the typical Americans who would ask Ike the questions that went with the set responses. The typical Americans were told to ask the question by looking up to the right. The primitive spots were put together. They showed everyday people looking up to Ike the good ordinary American.

The Democrats were furious and complained that the Republicans had, "invented a new kind of campaign--conceived not by men who want us to face the crucial issue of the day, but by the high-power hucksters of Madison Avenue." (George Ball, Democratic speech writer). Others complained that they were selling the president like they would toothpaste.

Although he was a natural speaker, Adelaide Stevenson refused to pay attention to the medium of television. He didn't watch TV. He appealed to the intellectuals and journalists. While Eisenhower obviously had no political experience, he appealed to the common man especially after the work of Rosser Reeves!

Fast forward to 2008 and another cool intellectual Democrat is vying for the White House against an old Republican war hero.

The new medium is no longer TV but the internet. Americans are involved in wars in Afganistan and Iraq and have lived on a diet of fear for 8 years. Would there be a Rosser Reeves who would come in to package a new president? Who would it be?

Obama was criticized by the Republicans for being a “community organizer.” Isn’t it funny that that simple concept of "community" could be at least partially responsible for his win.

There’s little doubt that America was in need of a hero. But wasn’t McCain a war hero? What happened?

Firstly, the Product Life Cycle for the Republican brand was on the down-down downward slope. So whoever was to win was going to have to offer change. The Obama brand started with a change message and ended with a change message. He established his consistent message and maintained it along with his calm-in-crisis demeanor. Obama talked about the all inclusive “we.”

McCain talked about “I” and flipped and flopped from message to message never once staying on a consistent identity or theme. He appeared erratic and his message and choice of Vice President certainly showed it. He had no one unique selling proposition (USP)

What Obama and his campaign realized was that the game had changed. Much like during Rosser Reeves’ time when television was the new medium, the internet and social networking in 2008 lay in wait of a good community organizer.

Yes there were the usual television messages on theme and focused on the issues at hand. But who better to market you than the very people within the group and on the group’s home turf.

The Obama campaign attached themselves to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The campaign money came from so many of the everyday people.

It was a “We the People” movement who mobilized their own many communities. People met on the internet and outside the internet. It was all about community. Community 2008 style- user generated!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Whassup? Change..owning the message

Once upon a time in 1999, Anheuser-Busch bought the rights to use a crazy little idea by Charles Stone III for $37,000. The resulting commercial showcased the male bonding between four "buddies" (Stone and his real life friends) sharing friendship and of course their favourite beer- Budweiser. The commercial rated as Superbowl 2000's most popular went on to win numerous advertising awards.

That success resulted in a series of ads and a series of parodies and sold a ton of Bud. The meme heard round the world! WHASSUP! Frankly, I had hoped I'd never hear it again.

But the boys are back and it's not to sell Bud- but Obama. WASSUP 2008 appeared on YouTube last Friday and has already been seen by 3.7 million viewers.

"Its been eight long years since the boys said whassup to each other. Even with the effects of a down economy and imminent change in the White House, the boys are still able to come together and stay true to what really matters"

Anheuser-Busch and its ad firm Omnicom can't do much to stop the parody because they only purchased the rights to the idea for 5 years. And lawyers say that if if Anheuser-Busch owned the copyright, First Amendment rights might favor the creator's right to parody.
It's likely that Anheuser-Busch supports McCain, but let's face it, it's hard to forget the connection to Budweiser.

The video ends with one more, "Whassup?"
"Change. Change, that's whassup" says another character as he watches TV images of Sen. Obama and his wife.