Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Decoy Effect, Mondays and Marketing

I'm not feeling very inspired today.  I've promised a blog entry every Tuesday and today's post is work.

I meandered around, trying to write something intelligent.  Trying to find something I knew to share with other people who might not know it.  I had about five or six, stumpy, inadequate little sentences that added up to a bunch of nothing when I started scrolling through Facebook.

Inspiration came from a video shared by a friend who is studying at university.  The Decoy Effect, an irreverent youtube offering that compares marketing to anal rape.

I'd never really heard of the decoy effect before, but I recognized it immediately.  Essentially, you have three products offered for sale.  The cheap, "Economy" model which works but offers the lowest variety or quality acceptable.  It is the one day, one park Disney pass or the smallest memory iPhone.  Then you have the high quality item.  It is the one you really want.  It is the most memory, the biggest screen, the Disney all park pass where you can switch parks mid-day as many times as you would like. In between those two, you have the Decoy.

The Decoy is a middle model.  It has more than the cheap model, but not as much as the top model and yet the cost is closer to the top by comparison.  The Decoy's job is to convince you what a bargain the top model really is.  Except one of the examples used was buckets of popcorn at the theater.  That got my mind wandering.

First, I think (the) youtube(r) got it wrong.  The middle size of popcorn is NOT a decoy for the large size.  With theater food, generally the individual item prices are the decoy and the economy pack is what they're trying to sell.  Rather than just popcorn, you get a soda in a "collector" plastic cup, along with a hotdog or red vines or french fries or chips.  You get a whole lot of food, but hey, you're paying less than you would have if you had only purchased that same size of popcorn by itself.

For an instant I realized, we could construct an argument and blame the Decoy Effect for single handedly force feeding Americans into obesity.  Of course, that would be considering an entire population to be nothing more than mindless victims.

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.  Source: Wikipedia

Now, right here, I need to interrupt myself and admit I have been instructed before in the humor of jokes about Mondays, Fridays, weekends, vacations, hair loss, weight gain and aging.  BTW, nothing will make you feel like you are quite as humorless as someone explaining why something is funny to you.  And yet .....

Let me explain.

We create our own worlds.

Back in photography classes, we would go on "shooting" field trips.  The first time or two, I would worry about originality.  How could we each get unique, individualized work, if our cameras are all aimed at the same square mile of material?  Yet we always did.  Oh sure, go to Notre Dame, and probably every camera will have the prerequisite "gargoyle" shot.  There is something about seeing an image you've seen in photos a million times before.  It is hard to avoid shooting your own clone version.  But other than a handful of "must shoot" shots, the variety was astounding.  I always saw some images of things I hadn't even noticed as having been at the location.

We create our own worlds by what we see, what we notice, and how we perceive it.

Let's go to back to the jokes about Mondays.  (Here's a simple one:  I've heard of history repeating itself, but this Monday thing has got to stop.)

We all experience Mondays.  A Monday is simply 24 hours that falls before the 24 hours we have labeled Tuesday and after the 24 hours we have labeled Sunday.  One seventh of your life will be spent on Mondays.  Monday is frequently the day you have to go back to work, school, or jury duty.  The jokes depend on the notion that nobody wants to do any of those things.  But ... I grew up an only child.  Not only an only child, but at an early age, one who lived in the country nowhere near any other kids.

Monday was my favorite day of the week.  It was the day I got to visit with my friends rather than hang out with my mother.

Lemme ask you.  Picture someone who owns their own business and who seems to love their work.  Maybe picture Steve Jobs?

How many awful Monday morning jokes do you suppose he told?

Now for that other "m" word.  Marketing.

Nobody likes marketers, even if their first name isn't "tele."  I've found people in business dislike them because they are said to promise impossibilities simply to make the sale and, frequently, they have actually underbid those impossibilities should engineering and production actually achieve them.    Meanwhile, the public eyes marketing like a half dead possum spies a vulture.

Now that's a joke I've always enjoyed.  (Two vultures watching a long empty highway vacant of road kill.  "To hell with patience, I'm going to kill something.")

I suppose there is a lot of similarity between marketers and impatient vultures, both are hungry and have families to feed and are sick of waiting for things to happen.  Just like everybody else, they want to control their world.

Lemme ask you, though, there is a big difference between "I was dying anyway" and a vulture killing you, but is there really that much difference between "I'm at the movies and I want to buy some popcorn" and "I'm at the movies and they sold me the "Blockbuster Movie du jour Collector's Pack?"  They sold you exactly what they advertised, even if it does mean more food than you could eat while watching five movies.  You wanted more "bang for your buck" and you got it.

While I was watching The Decoy Effect, I couldn't help but think of all the times I had noticed the attempt and laughed while I purchased whichever model I actually wanted and had intended to purchase in the first place.  You see, if you subtract all the emotion and drama, every transaction becomes very simple.

What is it that I want to purchase?

How much popcorn do I want?

How much popcorn do I need?

How much popcorn can I eat or, in other words, how hungry am I?

It may not be as funny as a "the salesman should have told me to bend over and spread 'em" jokes, but perhaps it is a little bit more useful.

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