Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

I couldn’t put the book down and finished reading it within a day.  It’s the New York Times bestseller Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy Is Wrong, by Martin Lindstrom.   Lindstrom is one of the world’s most respected marketing gurus, and he has been traveling around the world advising the biggest Fortune 500 companies, at least 300 days of a year.  Most of us believe that we are smart shoppers, and that we are careful with how we make our buying choices through conscious thinking.  In fact, we are far from there.  And as Lindstrom points out, we are actually getting worse and worse.

The better we think we are, the more we let our guards down, and the more vulnerable we are for everything happening around us.  One example, a supermarket with a whole stack of canned soups priced at $1.95 receives no customers.  The next day, the store puts up a giant sign saying “Maximum 6 cans per customer”, and the soups are flying off the shelf at the same $1.95 price tag.  Mind games working, huh?

On the book’s back cover, Lindstrom lists out a few intriguing questions:

  • Why did so many people who took the “Pepsi challenge” say they preferred Pepsi, only to carry on buying Coca-Cola?
  • Why do the majority of anti-smoking campaigns inadvertently encourage people to smoke?
  • Why does the scent of melons help sell electronic products?

Lindstrom addresses all these questions with his main theme of neuromarketing.  We used to rely on old school questionnaires and focus groups to study what customers want.  The fact that more and more of these traditional studies failed miserably has led to the widespread effectiveness and popularity of neuromarketing.  It is very well a science for subjects’ brains to be scanned when shown various advertisements and marketing programs.  The results are startling, and in many cases, contradicts completely with what we would admit, on paper.

I find the topic of product placement and the American Idol example fascinating.  With Idol’s 3 main sponsors, Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ford, who do you think gets the most of their advertising money’s worth?  Who fails miserably?  Why do some product placements fail?  Do you remember Elliott places pieces of Reese’ Pieces candy to lure E.T. out of his hiding 19 years ago?  Tom Cruise with his Ray-Ban sunglasses in 1983’s Risky Business, Top Gun and the later Will Smith in Men in Black II?

In the next chapter, Lindstrom describes how mirror neurons are responsible for why we often unwittingly imitate other people’s behavior.  Apple and its iPod sensation.  Abercrombie & Fitch with their all gorgeous American popular teens image that is ever so irresistible for 14 year-olds.

Do subliminal messages exist?  Yes, but its power has little to do with the product itself.  Instead, it lies in our own brains.  Tobacco companies spend huge percentage of their marketing budget into subliminal brand exposure.  “…Philip Morris, for example, offers bar owners financial incentives to fill their venues with color schemes, specifically designed furniture, ashtrays, suggestive tiles designed in captivating shapes similar to parts of the Marlboro logo, and other subtle symbols that, when combined, convey the very essence of Marlboro – without even the mention of the brand name or the sight of an actual logo.”  It’s an irony that because of government bans, tobacco companies have been forced to develop a whole new set of marketing skills, a set that is now vastly copied by many other industries.  Don’t let yourself fall prey to them.

Other topics of ritual, superstition, faith, religion, our somatic markers, senses, and sex are expressly covered.  Does sex really sell, or are consumers too distracted from the steamy images that they have forgotten entirely about the product?  Is it the sex that is selling or is it the controversy?  Well the latter is actually the more potent factor, though mirror neurons explain why sex and beauty continues to be popular in advertising everywhere around the world.

I highly recommend Lindstrom’s book and it’s one of the best investments I had made, considering the subliminal messages I was put through from his various appearances on CNBC prior to my purchase.   We will continue to shop for sure, but if we can all at least remember bits and pieces of this mind-provoking book and pause for a while before we take out our credit cards, we can at least delay the unavoidably path of becoming worse and worse shoppers, as Lindstrom predicted.

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Swipe Baby, Swipe!

Trying to take advantage of all the bargains and promotional offers in town is not an easy task.  It takes efforts to do the necessary homework to hopefully save a few bucks.  Lately I have been following closely to all the promotional cash back deals offered by virtually every other credit card issuing bank in the city, and I have to admit it is much harder than it looks.

A couple of years ago cash back promotions were less common.  The banks were more focused on acquisitions and to grow their card holder base as quickly as possible.  Most deals were focused on flat screen TV, Sony Playstation, or the latest mobile phone model as welcome gifts.  It seems that most cardholders nowadays own enough cards that the acquisition base is getting smaller.  The issuers need to now focus on initiating spend value on cards.  If we don’t swipe, they will not make merchant fees. 

So you now have all the major supermarkets, electronics stores, department stores and pharmacies linked up with different card issuers, offering cash back to induce spend on cards.  The catch is that they make it so complicated that it requires diligence, preparation and photographic memory to figure all this out.

1. Get the mailings

First you need to know what deals there are available for your card(s).  Some issuers send you direct mailing, but usually by the time you receive them, a few days have passed since the limited promotional period begins.  For those issuers who have a huge card base, they advertise on newspapers instead since direct mailings are relatively more expensive.  The digitally inclined may get to hear about the offers via e-mail. 

2. Remember the promotional period

Each offer is valid only through limited time.  Most concentrate around the holiday season when we do most of our purchases.  Some however limit the offers only from Fridays to Sundays. 

3. Know the qualification spending threshold

Each offer requires a minimum spending amount per transaction in order to qualify for the cash back.  It’s not entirely out of reach, but it means you should accumulate your purchases to a particular day during the weekend to meet the threshold.

4. Register

I don’t know why they cannot let everyone just enjoy the offer provided the above criteria is met.  No no, they need you to register for it by dialling their hotline, or online via their website.  If you don’t, you have no cash back.

5. Figure out how much cash back you are entitled

They make it so tempting on the flyers that your cash back entitlement can go as high as 50% of your purchase amount.   So when you register, you will get into a draw and realize how much percentage cash back you will get for the entire promotional period.  You register once and the same percentage stays on throughout the whole period.  Of course, I presume most cardholders get the lowest cash back entitlement, which is normally around 8%.

6. Understand the maximum cash back you can get

Even if you are satisfied with the 8% cash back (a penny is a penny), they also tell you what maximum cash back amount you can ever get within the period.  So no point of making any advance purchase if you have already met your rebate ceiling.

7. When will I see the cash?

Finally, you will be pleased to find out the rebate will be credited back into your account 6 months after the promotional period ends.  Remember to check your account, and hopefully you wouldn’t have forgotten about the whole thing or terminated your card for whatever reason.

Alright, multiply the above steps by 3 or 4 times for the total participating issuers and I guarantee you will be as lost as I am.  Now when I need to make a purchase, I have lost count as to what else I should buy, which card I should use, what day today is, and most likely, why I am seduced to spend more by the illusionary savings programs. 

Bravo on the marketers!

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