One of my favorite “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoons shows Calvin explaining to Hobbes how he enjoys writing assignments now that he’s realized that “the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity.” If you’ve ever attempted to bluff your way through a school final essay question, you know what he’s talking about. In fact, it’s my theory that Calvin and BS artists like him eventually become advertising copywriters.
by Chris Shugart
I’ve become increasingly annoyed by the number of consumer establishments who ask me to donate to some cause while I’m standing at the cash register trying to pay for my items. Every time I have to listen to a checkout clerk ask me to donate to whatever charity their store headquarters has deemed worthy, it kind of ticks me off. It’s disingenuous at best. It’s corporate fakery at worst.
Contrived displays of organized generosity have become a commonplace marketing trend. The formula must now be familiar to just about everyone: Find a worthy cause and turn it into a PR campaign. This usually involves forcing company employees to solicit donations from their customers. Hey, call me cynical. But when a Radio Shack clerk who doesn’t know multiple sclerosis from multiple personality disorder asks me to contribute to some charity he could care less about, pardon me if I’m not impressed.
It can get a little embarrassing when you’re standing in line at the grocery store with everyone watching and the checkout clerk asks you if you’d like to contribute to Shoppers Together Fighting Uremia (STFU). Community peer pressure isn’t my idea of a pleasant customer experience.
Nowadays it seems like all of corporate America wants to be recognized as the nice guys with a big heart. And for the most part I think the consumers are buying into it. Personally, I’d be more convinced if just a few pseudo benevolent executives tried doing some of their own footwork for a change. Now that would be a noble gesture.
by Chris Shugart
I think it’s safe to say that the Viral Media Index of the Charlie Sheen meltdown has finally subsided to a non-toxic level with his public antics no longer contagious nor risking further infection. Unfortunately for Sheen, he may now be discovering that being a huge media sensation doesn’t always translate into market viability. Just because you can successfully transform your talents into a traveling freak show, doesn’t automatically make you boffo at the box office.
Following his well publicized firing from the successful CBS TV series “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen has hit the road with a national tour featuring his own brand of, well, whatever it is he does now. He calls the show “My Violent Torpedo of Truth,” if that gives you any clue. Where is he going with this? Not exactly to Mr. Rogers neighborhood, I’m guessing.
The entertainment media was eager to report that Sheen was selling out venues around the country faster than a Lady Gaga Monster Ball concert. The problem was that the only actual ticket sales “figures” that anyone could cite were those coming from Charlie Sheen’s own Twitter page. When you’re a legend in your own mind, the facts are whatever you decide them to be.
Just days ago, a contributing journalist for CNBC, Jane Wells effectively debunked all of the Charliemania hype. As it turns out, there are plenty of unsold tickets, so much so in fact, that secondary ticket outlets such as StubHub are offering tickets at less than face value. So much for the Charlie Sheen Comeback Tour.
There’s an eerie parallel here, from which Charlie might like to take heed. In 1966, the show biz career of comedian Lenny Bruce was deteriorating as a result of drug abuse and an obsession with his legal battles over obscenity charges. During this time his club performances often included details of his encounters with the police, rants about his court battles, and tirades against fascism. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?
On June 25, 1966, at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Lenny Bruce performed his last gig. Concert promoter Bill Graham described Bruce as “whacked out on amphetamines” and thought that Bruce finished his set emotionally disturbed. A week later Lenny Bruce was dead of a morphine overdose.
Let’s hope that Charlie Sheen learns a couple of things while he attempts to reinvent his show biz repertoire. Lesson One: No matter how far over the top you try to take your talent, the audience still has to be willing to buy whatever it is you’re selling. Lesson Two: Achieving success, whether it’s in entertainment or any other professional field, is pointless if you can’t survive the journey.
by Chris Shugart
Whenever I browse or search for websites about online marketing, it’s often reminiscent of an old fashioned carnival midway, surrounded by sideshow tents, game booths, and unhealthy-but-tasty junk food. I can almost hear the barker’s seductive patter, the pitchman’s spiel, and the smell of the grease. And I’ve noticed that in both cases, the marketing strategy is similarly simple: It doesn’t matter who you are; if you have money, you’re a qualified prospect.
Welcome to the world of Multi Level Marketing, also known as Network Marketing, Direct Selling, and Referral Marketing. The concept is based on the dubious notion that anybody will buy anything. Well, at least that makes for an uncomplicated marketing plan. So simple you hardly need a plan at all—just a computer, an ISP and a PayPal account. No experience necessary.
One of the most accurate and succinct descriptions I’ve ever come across on the subject of MLM came from an anonymous article from a website I’d never heard of. Whether you’re a consumer or professionally involved in internet commerce, it’s worth a read.
Most MLM schemes seem more caught up in the method of the sale than the product itself. In this sense, the term “marketing” is somewhat of a misnomer. On the vendor side, there’s no real marketing involved, just a sales gimmick purportedly guaranteed to make you lots of money. And on the customer side, the sales pitch is no more elaborate than, “We’ve got the product you need.” Contrary to MLM hype, the internet is not a magic portal that funnels money to you via your website. Marketing fundamentals still apply even on the web.