Drowning in marketing

Alicia and I went shopping at the big Opry Mills Mall here in Nashville over the weekend. It’s a crowded place, but it has a lot of southern charm and great prices, so we enjoy shopping there. Our enjoyment, however, was constantly interrupted by sales people from those little merchant kiosks that dot the center lane of most malls. In a complaint letter to the management, I likened the experience to running the gauntlet of barkers at a carnival. Customers, I wrote, shouldn’t have to avoid eye contact while walking through a mall. One guy even called us out because we were wearing University of Tennessee sweatshirts (we’re fans). How rude!

The next day, we went to the Tennessee Titans game against Houston. We had great seats, thanks to the kindness of a client. The game was awful, but we had fun, and I came away with two observations. One, from the time you walk into an NFL stadium, marketing is constant and everywhere. From the Jumbotron to the halftime contests, everything inside the stadium is sell, sell, sell. Hell, it’s worse than paying for movie tickets and sitting in front of commercials! And speaking of commercials, you don’t realize how often a game is interrupted for commercials until you’re sitting there in the stadium. Pointing to the players standing around during the breaks, Alicia noted, “I wonder what they talk about during all this time.”

Severe weather rumbled through out neck of the woods Monday during the Fox broadcast of game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Great game, although it ran in the background while the local Fox affiliate crowded the screen with radar images, warning crawls and the ridiculous color guide for warnings (yellow is a severe thunderstorm warning, orange is…). When the network added their obnoxious animated “pop-up” promos, over half the screen was covered, and the game was, well, in the background.

I used to be in business with some folks from Canada. Driving along the highways in Ontario, I was immediately struck by the lack of billboards. Canadians, it seems, don’t share our penchant for marketing, and you don’t realize how used to the message bombardment we are until it’s not there.

America is drowning in marketing, and it’s what’s fueling a lot of the media changes I talk about here. People KNOW they’re drowning in this stuff, and they’re trying to get the hell away from it. The Internet offers them relief, and it’s one of the big reasons it’s the BOMB today. Those who are trying to turn it into just another piece of America are the ones having difficulty. If you haven’t read The Cluetrain Manifesto, do yourself a favor and go buy it today (or read it online for free). There will always be a need for buying and selling, but we don’t need the little demon on our shoulder and its constant refrain of “buy, buy, buy.”

The mistake modern marketing makes is the assumption that people don’t know what’s going on. Rather than address the real issue — that people don’t want this constant assault — the industry rewards those who find new ways of sneaking marketing into every walk of life. That is its Achilles’ Heel.

Comments

  1. I had a similar mall experience recently. It seems for many malls, the bottom line (kiosk rental adds to the profits) totally obscures the more important bottom line goal of a positive shopping experience — ya know, so people will enjoy going there! Maybe that’s why I don’t go to malls unless I absolutely have to.

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