Psychology of Consumer Behaviour |

Saturday, December 27, 2008

John Lennon Speaks -One Laptop

Even from the grave Lennon and a little controversy for a good cause

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Merry: Playing for change!

Connecting the world through music is the mission of The Playing for Change Foundation. They provide facilities, supplies and educational programs to musicians and communities around the world.

Here is one of the videos from their upcoming documentary.

Read more, hear some great music and support the movement at
Thanks to my friend Shirley who sent me this link.

Merry Music

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fisher-Price Toys- They're hot!

From San Jose Mercury News:
"Some customers calling the consumer-relations hot line on a Fisher-Price DVD are getting an invitation for relations of a different sort.

Mattel's Fisher-Price unit apologized today for including an incorrect telephone number for customer service on the back of a DVD sleeve that is actually the number for an adults-only hot line."

No wonder Elmo is dancing

Daffy Duck wants more, more more

In keeping with the season a song from the honourable Daffy Duck

'nuff said
What say you Mr Scrooge?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

KickButt- Make one of my students have a happy new year!

Here is my plea.
I'm part of a group of GTA college and university people who have been working on an anti-smoking initiative with Toronto Health. We came up with the idea of a YouTube contest where GTA college and university students produce anti-smoking messages and submit them to the KICKBUTT contest. They could win a MacBook, an iPod Touch or a gift certificate.

Naturally, I want one of my students to win. After the final exam I talked one of my students into promising to create something- and he did. I think he did a great job. So please see the video and rate it, and make everyone you know see it and rate it, and make one of my students have a very merry new year!

Peace and Love

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Doghouse- Presents vs Presence

What happens when a man buys his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas?

Oh there is so much one can say about this. What does it say about the advertisers who made it? What does it say about how men and women are portrayed? What does it say if we laugh at it? What does it say if we don't?

All I know is that a piece of jewellery from JC Penny is about the last thing on earth I would want. In reality a snazzy vacuum cleaner isn't half bad. But I do recall getting a dog hair clipper for my birthday once, and that kind a put a damper on things although the dog had a lovely hair cut. For me the guy in the dog house who had given his girlfriend extra ram with a note saying, "Thanks for the memories" was a doll. Less is more and sweet is sweet.

Maybe it is more simple than we all think; maybe what we all we need is fewer presents and more presence.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ode to Toronto Transportation-What's going on on the TTC

Today's post is mostly a musical interlude

First came the Shuffle Demons 22 years ago with their "Spadina Bus"

Now comes a rap ode shot by a Humber grad and starring a grad of Centennial. Love those college students!

But that's not all that goes on on the TTC. There has also been Random Acts of Violins!

and even a little Improv dance on the TTC subway


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Baby it's Cold Outside- When ad guys do good- TAXI !

I have a little exercise I use in one of my classes to try to get the class to put themselves in the place of early Canadian settlers who lived in remote places across Canada. For many of those settlers the most exciting event might have been receiving the Eaton’s catalogue.

The catalogue was about sell, sell, sell, but it connected people and told about life and most certainly had a life that lived longer than its yearly issue. I ask the students to get into groups and write down all the ways those settlers may have used those catalogues. They usually come up with things like learning the language, making paper dolls, wallpaper, outhouse necessity and some have even come with hockey shin pads.

The idea of using the pages as insulation is usually one of the first ideas they think of. Am I alone in ripping down a wall and finding old girly magazines and newspapers? Probably not.

Understanding that newsprint is one of the best insulators is one of those things we take for granted. But last year some ad people at Canadian agency Taxi decided to think about newspaper as insulation and have done something that will more than warm the heart of a few homeless people.

Last year was Taxi’s 15th anniversary; they wanted to give back to the community with a big idea. What they came up with is the 15 Below Jacket- a jacket with multiple pockets that can be stuffed with crumpled newspapers to withstand temperatures to 15 below.

Waterproof and windproof, it can be worn as a raincoat when the stuffing is removed. And yes, the jackets were tested at 15 below in meat lockers for eight hours to ensure their durability.

See the testing

3000 of the 15 below jackets have been distributed to the homeless in big cities across Canada. This past November, Taxi auctioned fifteen of the 15 below Jackets on eBay for The Salvation Army. The jackets were signed by celebrities like Kim Cattrall, Nelly Furtado, Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" cast, Robert Plant, Kid Rock, and R.E.M. and Sir Elton John.

Taxi is looking for corporate sponsors to keep the project up and running. See the website 15 Below Project

It is estimated that 300,000 people in Canada and 744,313 in the U.S. live on the streets.
We can rant against the ad people but there are some who do make a difference. It's a low cost-high concept solution. It's kind of heart warming!

Friday, December 5, 2008

I've got me some "Truman Syndrome"

If you blinked last week, you might have missed a small news story talking about something that is being called “Truman Syndrome.”

A little history knowledge and the temper of the times might make you wonder if it refers to Harry S. Truman who famously said, “It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own.”

But alas the reference here is a tad more current. It refers to a syndrome named for the character portrayed by Jim Carrey in the 1998 film The Truman Show who discovers that his entire life is being staged and filmed for a 24-hour-a-day reality TV show.

Apparently psychiatrists are reporting a number of patients who suffer from this “Truman Syndrome,” a delusion that they are secretly part of a reality TV show. One patient believed his every move was being filmed for a reality contest; another went to a federal building and demanded he be released from a reality show being made about his life. Others believe that the doctors who treat them are merely actors in their reality show.

Truman Syndrome has divided experts with some critics pointing out that delusional patients believing that friends or relatives have been replaced by impostors is nothing new. However, Dr. Joel Gold, a psychiatrist affiliated with New York's Bellevue Hospital, believes the “Truman” delusions are more pervasive involving, not just a few associates as impostors but society at large. His brother, Ian Gold, a professor at McGill University in Montreal suggests that reality TV and the Web's ability to make strangers into intimates may be compounding the psychological pressure on people with underlying problems dealing with others. Reports suggest the disorder underscores the influence pop culture can have on mental conditions.

According to a 1997 Learning and Skills Council study, one in seven UK teenagers hopes to gain fame by appearing on reality television. So called reality shows have become a kind of lottery ticket, a quick way to fame even if it is only Andy’s famous 15 minutes. Television is full of this manufactured reality. Many assume that it is a recent phenomenon, when in fact it has a long history. We have always been a little nutty.

Debuting in 1948, Allen Funt's Candid Camera was based on his previous 1947 radio show, Candid Microphone, and showed unsuspecting ordinary people reacting to candid camera pranks. One of my favorite clips features comedian Fanny Flagg as the first female airline pilot.

As horrible and shocking as many of today’s reality TV shows are, is there any that could be as bad as Queen for a Day which ran between 1956-1962 on NBC. The game show featured contestants, poor bedraggled women telling their tales of woe. The applause-o-meter signaled the winner - the most pathetic- who was trotted up to a throne, wrapped in a queenly robe and crowned Queen for a Day. The advertiser's prizes were introduced one by one usually ending with the cherished refrigerator, what every woman who had lost everything wanted.

Queen For a Day - And the winner is..

Some claim that reality television’s success is due to its ability to provide schadenfreude, the “largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another.” In these financially difficult times will this kind of programming continue to thrill?

There is hope on the horizon. New York-based ad company Horizon Media analyzed Nielsen Media Research data for broadcast series during the first two months of the TV season, compared with the same period last year and found that established reality-competition shows and game shows are suffering a slump. Scott Collins of the Los Angeles Times suggests, “hard times may not have any direct effect on what people choose to watch. But there's little doubt that during times of upheaval, viewers' tastes can shift. As the Dow continues to spiral down and jobs dry up, viewers may have decided that their everyday lives already contain more reality than they can bear.” But as I read this report, I also read that plans are afoot to supersize the Donald’s Celebrity Apprentice to two hours.

In the movie The Truman Show, we cheer our hero Truman as he escapes the island and the illusions that the media have created.

Can we do the same?

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.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Engage Kids 6-11- Things I'd like to unknow

The email newsletter had been sitting in my inbox for a couple of days. The subject: Engage kids 6-11. I had been away. Is that why it had been sitting unopened? Probably not. I’ve worked in advertising. I’ve seen a lot and known a lot.

There are things I’d much rather unknow. Maybe the targeting of children is one of those things. And now I’m going to get a weekly newsletter on just this subject alone- how to “get” the kids 6-11.

The subject of this first Engage Kids 6-11 newsletter is one that could be good- marketing nutritional food to kids. We all know that kids are eating too much bad food and not getting enough exercise, so how bad could this be?

It starts out by telling us that the “Better For You” products are one of the hottest market battlegrounds. The newsletter is about to tell us a seven point strategy to sell your “Better For You.” First, determine the family type. Is it “restrictive” where the parents dictate the foods; is it “balanced” where kid and parent decide or is it “anything goes” where kids rule?

Now how can the marketer get all three? Well, point two tells us you have to infuse the nutritional anchor (whatever may be healthy about the product) with kid appeal. “While the nutritional anchor will appeal to mom, it's essential to "Kidify" the product and make it appealing to kids, while leaving the nutritional anchor clearly evident. Ways to infuse kid appeal can be to attach a cool spokescharacter or to give it a fun "kid friendly" name. Try to make the product look or feel like an invitation to a party a kid would not want to miss.”

Next, delight the kid and therefore the mom. Make sure it tastes good and the package says so too. Don’t worry, your product doesn’t have to be really really good for you, just fit between indulgent and nutritional. And for Pete’s sake, sell the kids on something other than nutrition.

Is this all new?

In television's infancy Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob told their young audience, "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper." Mom bought it and Howdy said it was good.

Change anyone?

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

Friday, October 17, 2008

I want my Anarchy with Butter!

Yesterday in class I was talking about credibility. Who is credible? Who can sell your brand? We also talked about how shock advertising can put a brand on the map. Shock may alienate some but usually the angry are not the target audience and they in fact create more buzz with their outrage.

Can a raging punk anarchist sell butter?

In the late 70s Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols created a stir when they stormed Britain with songs like God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the UK. It was all about shock. I can't say I totally disagree with some of those punk sentiments. I even had a brother who played at being one for awhile.

Have a look back at Mr. Rotten in about 1977. Listen for the embedded messages- "credibility from Nothing. Develop this as a story you can sell."..ha, ha!

Just what becomes of a punk rocker who turns 50?

Well apparently he sells butter in the guise of an English Country Gentleman. Cue the outrage!
The song English Country Garden has never sounded better.

Is Mr. Rotten credible? Probably not, but shocking he still is. The ad is getting buzz.
Would I ever have heard of Country Life British Butter if it hadn't been for the Sex Pistols?
I know Johnny Rotten as Country Gentleman is supposed to be all ironic, but doesn't he kind of look a lot like any other slightly eccentric English guy? Shocking!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There's an elephant in my bed. Don't Vote!

In 1969 Pierre Trudeau said quite rightly that living next door to the United States was, "like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

Yesterday Canada voted. We are a little bit closer to the elephant.

There was talk during the last US election that a surge in the youth vote could change things. It didn’t happen.

Can it happen this time?

Last week Borders Perrin Norrander and Pollinate Media released an interesting campaign and website in hopes of motivating that young audience. Basically the campaign asks the question, “Are things fine just the way they are?”

However, the ads ask no question at all. Rather, they create a cognitive dissonance between the striking images and the simple phrase, “Don’t Vote: Things are fine just the way they are.”

The website encourages the download of posters, banners and flash video. The campaign is getting buzz in the blogosphere, but will it actually get that youthful voter in the voting booth?

By the way, it may be hard to see in the image to the left, but Lady Liberty is giving us the finger!

Monday, October 13, 2008

We may be lost, but we're making good time!

An article I read recently talked about obesity, but it wasn’t just the fact that North Americans are eating themselves into an unhealthy state but that we are buying ourselves into an unhealthy state. Down, down goes the stuffing and down, down, down goes the market.

No doubt about it, most of us have too much stuff. Our lives are obese even if sometimes we walk or run or exercise and take the vitamins.

We need to de-stuff.

It could well be that we are going to “Hell in a Handbasket.” Since we may be going that way, I thought I should look up exactly what that phrase might mean. Apparently, it’s a mocking reference to the Guillotine which often used a lined basket to catch the severed head.

! There, now I feel better. And there’s even a song!

All this Hell in a Handbasket talk reminded me of the David Byrne song, "Road to Nowhere." A little YouTube search turned up this version from my favorite movie last year: Young @ Heart.

Yes, de-stuffing is a must. Just the same, I'm glad I bought those Frye boots because it appears I'll be needing a sturdy pair on the rest of that road to Nowhere.

My Love Affair with the TTC and a Man with a Mop

Something pretty magical happened yesterday. I was on my way to meet a friend to see a movie. The streetcar ride and the short subway ride were quick and uneventful, but as I entered the train at the Scarborough RT, I noticed a complete cup of coffee had been spilled and was running down the entire length of the car. Gingerly, we all tried to walk around the puddles. Carefully I sat on the side that seemed to be mostly coffee free. As we awaited the driver to walk from one end of the train to the other, a gentleman appeared with mop in hand and began mopping up the coffee.

“Wow,” I said, “Thank You! The TTC sure is efficient.”
Looking amazed, he smiled and said,” Thank you. We try!”

It was as if no one had ever complimented him. I wondered about that on a day so near to Thanksgiving. Everybody complains when any little thing goes wrong on public transit, but who thanks the everyday people for the everyday things they do?

In my classes I talk about consumer behaviour and marketers and companies and communication. As consumers how responsible are we for the service we get?
If we said thanks more often, would we get better service? Maybe.

All I know is that I have a little bit of a love affair going with the TTC. It’s a bit more reliable than at least a few of the men I’ve known. It picks me up and takes me places in rain, and sun, and snow. I can daydream, listen to my music, tune into strange conversations, watch a scene or two that would rival the best sitcom, and arrive at my destination relaxed. OK, sometimes there’s a really smelly person or someone clipping their toenails or someone eating a three course meal. But they are all the customers!

How much does a word of thanks cost? What does it say and what does it mean?
As for me, I love a good man with a mop!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Follow the leader or follow the follower? Kool-Aid, anyone?

In the 50's Solomon Asch created an interesting experiment that showed that people would deny what they see and possibly know and conform to the group. Only one person was the real subject; the others were confederates who lied about what they saw on the instructions of Asch.

The task was simple. You have 3 lines of different lengths on the right. Which line matches the line on the left. There's no trick to it. To any normal person there is a clear answer, yet when everyone else is picking the wrong answer, how confident are you to say something different? 75% of the participants gave at least one wrong answer. Clearly subjects were influenced by the group even though it's quite possible they knew the group was wrong.

Now if you happened to watch the debate the other night between Obama and McCain on CNN. Exactly what were you watching?
Were you watching the candidates or were you transfixed by the immediate squiggly line at the bottom of the screen that was moving in reaction to what a select audience felt about what the candidates were saying?
It was hard to ignore that little line.

In our world today we have the luxury of seeing a live debate, watching an instant by instant poll of what others are thinking or feeling, or receiving twitter comments of what is going on from the debate itself.

What exactly does that mean?

Well, if we listen to Solomon Asch what we see may not actually be what we see. If we happen to be for a particular candidate, we are probably watching to see that he or she is getting a positive spike; but if we happen to be undecided are we going to follow the spikes? As long as the spikes are trending to the one least likely to blow up the world, maybe we are safe.

But what if they aren't?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's what's Up Front that counts

In the 50's Ernst Dichter described as appearing like, "the archetypical European shrink" founded the Institute of Motivational Research. Dichter called himself a doctor. But from what I've read, the truth to those credentials are more than quite uncertain. Drawing from the Freudian playbook, he did questionable research and concluded that humans are, "immature, with irrational insecurities and insatiable erotic desires."
According to Dichter you could get rid of all your bad feelings, immorality and even sins just by buying a bar of Ivory soap. Yes a lot of things were all about sex from his point of view.
This possibly brings us to the Winston ad "It's what's up front that counts." I showed this to a class of my Psychology of Consumer Behaviour students today. We had quite a laugh. I told them that ads were pretty much 2 things: What they say and What they mean.

It occurred to me that a lot of life is not unlike that simple two sided concept. Thus I begin my blog of the same name -maybe to investigate the difference or maybe not. I'm not entirely certain that I want to be "upfront" and I must admit to having always considered myself to be an "ivory girl." Though I question Dichter's methods and thesis, can I honestly say that I am not immature? Damn I put a wind up girl robot with an apron on my blog- and egads insecurities- I have known a few- Oh dear and insatiable erotic desires- we shall not speak! And now if size matters, methinks I should follow the KISS rule. But before I go. if you have ever wondered why Barbie has such big boobs or why Betty Crocker put an egg in "her" pancake mix, you can thank the good Doctor for that!

Check out that certain look of excitement on the woman's face at the end of the video!