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All Marketers...

The doily lie

Every year, millions of Jews celebrate Passover by cleaning out their food cabinets and buying special “kosher for passover” foods. These are items that are made in a rabbi-inspected facility. They can’t contain corn or wheat or various leavening agents (that’s why kosher for passover Coke tastes better–no corn syrup).

This leads to one of my favorite seasonal lies. The supermarkets that sell Passover foods (very high margin, by the way) often line their shelves with doilies or white paper. Now, let’s think about this for a minute–what contamination exactly is the doily protecting the food from? Here’s a sterile, canned item, sitting atop a perforated doily, which is on top of a shelf that is presumably washed every once in a while.

Obviously, it’s not the doily. It’s the story behind the doily. It’s the story of a clean start, of something fresh. The same story that the food itself tells, a story that resonates with the worldview of the person who’s shopping for this.

Most existing organizations don’t spend nearly enough time worrying about this subtle sort of story.

All Marketers...

Salmon is a lie

 Today’s New York Times tested wild salmon, sold for up to $29 a pound, from eight different fish stores in Manhattan. It  reports that less than 25% of all the salmon tested was actually wild. The rest was farm-raised, which goes for half the price when the seller is honest.

That means that the vast majority of people who buy wild salmon in New York get the psychic benefit of believing they are eating something even better than than “ordinary” salmon. But it also means that they’re being deceived out of their money.

PS do you know why farm-raised salmon is such a lovely red? It’s artificially colored. But the color makes us think it’s fresher, and thinking it’s fresher makes us thing it tastes better. So it does.

PPS yes, I know that’s an Atlantic not a Pacific salmon to the left. Just testing your fish skills.

All Marketers...

Quite an LED

 The Brookstone catalog describes the new Panasonic nose cleaner this way:

“Panasonic’s trimmer uses bright white LED light to precisely cut unwanted nose and ear hair.”

For all the people who have been holding back on hair trimming because they didn’t want to deal with blades, this, apparently, is the nose hair trimmer for you.

Of course, LEDs can’t cut hair. What the LEDs do, we find out after the headline, is “illuminates grooming area.” So this is just like the ordinary $19 trimmers, except for $50, you get to see the hair in your ears better.

What’s the point of a gratuitous lie like this? There’s no way it’s going to make the product experience better. It’s even a silly way to trick people. Are there that many people who have a worldview of gadget-lust that they’ll grab ahold of this? Even to a neophyte, an LED cutting your hair smells sort of fishy.

All Marketers...

Snap, Crackle, Lie

Have you ever been disappointed with a bowl of cereal? Every been bummed out that every flake wasn’t perfect, or that there were no perfect strawberries in the bowl?

They write “serving suggestion” on the picture on the box because they’re required to by law, but why primp it at all?

David Paull points us to Right Brain Left Field  were a purported food stylist confesses the secrets of how they take the photos on the box. Here’s a juicy tidbit:
1. Dump several boxes of cereal out onto flat baking sheets.
2. Using tweezers so one doesn’t damage any pieces, root through finding the most perfectly shaped flakes (about 50-60)
3. Fill the prop bowl about 2/3 with Crisco, creating a dome at the top
4. Again using tweezers, embed the perfect flakes into the Crisco to create a pleasing arrangement and realistic volume of cereal
5. Fill in gaps and edges with Wild Root Hair Tonic to simulate milk.

I for one believe that the great pictures help tell the story of consumer satisfaction, a story that makes me like the cereal even more. And when the “real” cereal doesn’t precisely match, I don’t give it a second thought. Is that a lie? A fib?

All Marketers...

Worldview test #1

Is this:
a. someone in real need of help
b. someone you should give money to
c. someone who will take whatever money you give and go buy a substance that makes his problem worse
d. someone you should cross the street to avoid

Hint: there is no right answer.

What’s true is this: everyone looks at the world with a different lens. Everyone has had experiences and an upbringing that makes them believe (or disbelieve) the stories they are told. Surprisingly, the worldviews that are out there are lumpy–most people fall into just a few categories for any given story.

The challenge to anyone hoping to spread an idea is this: Are there enough people with the right worldview out there? And can you reach them with your story?

All Marketers...

Geeks don’t buy expensive wine

Four of us visited a fancy restaurant on Saturday. Imagine our geeky surprise when they brought out a Microsoft tablet instead  of a wine list.

It makes perfect sense, of course. You could sort by year or by price, you could see the inventory and they could remove a wine instantly once it was sold out.

So what could be bad?

What’s bad is that the person who’s going to spend $100 or $1,000 on a bottle of wine isn’t a hyper-rational geek in search of the optimum solution (hint: we bought the cheap stuff but it was still 5x the cost of of the wine in a store). Instead, we’re looking for a buying experience (courting the sommelier, sniffing the cork) that adds a huge percentage of the value to the purchase.

In short: a cool story, but told in the wrong place to the wrong people.

All Marketers...

Hearty, charbroiled, grilled au gratin

The National Restaurant Association has you pegged. Or at least pegged into one of four categories. It turns out that people who go to restaurants have one of four worldviews, divided equally among “Adventurous, Health-Conscious, Carefree and Tradtional”. And each group wants to hear a different story.

One group looks at strawberry baked alaska and wants to hear more because they’ve never had it before. The next person at the table would never ever consider ordering it for exactly the same reason.

Unscientific research published by the group goes as far as talking about which words work best with each group. Today’s quiz: match the four words below to the group that’ll go for it:


That one was easy (they were flipped, first to last).

Let’s try one that’s a little subtle:


Still not so hard (they were in the order of the groups). What’s salient here is that the very same dish could have been described with any of these four words.

All Marketers...

Different audiences demand different lies

We spent March talking about stories. Stories are repeatable shorthands–ways to make it easy for your audience to understand your idea and share it.

In April, we’re going to shift gears a little bit. We start with this question:

Why are Republicans several times more likely than Democrats to drive Ford 150 pick up trucks? And why are Democrats dramatically more likely to drive Hondas?

The Times reports the story today in detail, but they don’t get at the useful construct.

What we do know is that politics should have nothing to do with what you drive. But it does. The reason it does is that politics affects your worldview. Your worldview is the set of assumptions and biases and instincts you bring whenever you examine something new. And if your worldview doesn’t match a story that a marketer is telling you, you ignore it.

All Marketers...

Your brain is lying… but to who?

People have a funny reaction to the placebo effect. It seems unfair, almost, that a medicine or treatment that “doesn’t really do anything” should work. Take the Respirate blood pressure trainer, pictured at left. All it does is help you become conscious of your breathing. It’s clinically proven to reduce blood pressure.

“You mean,” the skeptics say, “that all the device does is trick you into breathing differently?”

Actually, there’s more to it than that. It works because it helps you focus on your mechanics and takes your mind away from other things that are having the opposite impact on your blood pressure. It works because it allows you tell yourself a story about getting better, about living slower, about breathing.

The placebo effect works, and it’s proof that stories are at least as powerful as the real stuff.

All Marketers...

A most expensive lie

I just got back from the New York International Auto Show. They’ve scaled way back on the buxom blondes, but there’s still plenty of lying going on.

A car, after all, is an extremely expensive device with a fair amount of utility. But that’s not what they sell at the show. The going price for utility is $15,000 or maybe $20,000. Figure $25,000 if you want a Prius. What they sell at the show are cars that cost many times that, or cars (like the one being hawked at left) that are totally cool but not particularly useful.

Unless you define “useful” to mean, “useful at making me feel sexy and young and filled with energy.” Because that’s what they’re selling and that’s what we’re buying. The fact that it can also get us somewhere is slightly irrelevant.