Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marketing, Self-Promotion, Advertising

So I’ve been told to look at what attitudes I may have about marketing and advertising. My mother HATED telephone sales people and resented them interrupting her activities. She further resented that often when she tried to say, “No thanks,” to salespeople, they didn’t take no for an answer, but instead continued to badger her. I remember her hanging up the phone and muttering about what a nuisance they were and that next time she was going to say, “Sorry my baby just fell in the toilet, gotta go!” Clearly no one who called on the phone to sell something had anything useful to offer.

And of course what did we call the advertisements that arrived in the mail? “JUNK mail.”

Similarly the door-to-door salesman were also quite unwelcome at our house. My mother would say she already had enough of such-and-such thank you and that she really preferred to buy at a store. Don’t call us, we’ll call you, or a variation of that theme, was pretty much a guaranteed response.

So it still stands out in my mind that one day when I was in late elementary school (I’m going to date myself here), I answered the door and found a stranger in a suit who asked if my father or mother was home. I was old enough to know that the suit, the fact that I’d never seen the guy and that I was supposed to fetch a parent without knowing why, all spelled S-A-L-E-S-M-A-N. I trotted off to find my father, smug with the knowledge that the salesman was doomed. My dad could dismiss salespeople without breaking a sweat, as opposed to my mother who always seemed to be put into a bad mood by the experience.

You can imagine my shock, when I heard the salesman say that he had something he wanted to offer my father AND MY FATHER INVITED HIM IN!!! This had NEVER happened before.

What I later learned was that particular door-to-door salesman was selling cable service in our neighborhood where cable had never been available before. He actually had a service to offer that my father was interested in and that my father could not get anywhere else. Wow.

While I remember that one exception, the overriding attitude of salesmen = pest, is engrained in my mental makeup and I know that it’s an attitude that holds me back. I once had a college professor who I greatly admired who had a poster of a horse’s backside. The tail was lifted and the pile of horse manure getting deposited on the ground was labeled advertising. The professor made many references in lecture to our material wants and even what we consider material “needs” are created by the world of advertisement. Damn those New York advertisers for convincing us that we need stuff that we don’t and making us forget that the best things in life are free. Advertisers produced shit, as the poster made clear.

Okay, those are my thoughts for the day. My task was to identify attitudes that we know we have that hold us back. So there is mine. Task done for the day. Tomorrow I’m supposed to think of a more useful mental model.

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