Recently we were at Safeway and waiting in line to exchange money for the various digestible goods that had made their way into our cart. As we were waiting I saw an older woman looking at a movie display for the latest Tom Cruise film. She picked it off the display while he was stacking food onto the conveyor and she said to him “Can we get this?”
He asked her what it was and she said “I don’t know but it’s a movie.” I was stunned because I had never seen this breed of person out in the wild before. I mean I’ve at least never noticed them. When you are looking at moronic commercials or terrible layout designs in stores the general rational is that “these tactics work”. When you speak with marketers or business people they tend to brag about how “if you don’t think it works its doing its job”.
Naturally this is bonkers. There is almost nothing I purchase that is on advertisements anywhere that I frequent. When we went to buy toothpaste we even purchased the competitor to the toothpaste brand that had the obnoxious commercials on
crunchy roll hulu (I forgot Crunchy Roll doesn’t suck).
I love Old Spice commercials but I don’t buy Old spice. I loathe basically all other commercials. What it got me thinking about was the source of this belief. I don’t believe that marketers have any idea what they are actually doing. Not most of them at least. My reasoning for this is that a lot of money is spent to get any kind of return. Successful marketing pushes end up costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and it is only by the sheer brute force that it seems to move units.
Then on the other spectrum of things you have people like maddox who just make (made? I don’t frequent there anymore.) quality content and had people flood into them without marketing. Minecraft was also word of mouth. I could name a lot of things across a lot of different kinds of things but this isn’t the central point.
That habit of purchasing from a silly/stupid business model only reinforces the bad habit to keep happening. The reason that business is so negative is that there is a subsection of people it works on. This group is large enough that it is the First Order Optimal Strategy for profits. You appeal to the group with the largest returns relative to the cost. It’s not that this works universally but that of the easiest possible options it is the most profitable one.
It’s not that marketers are geniuses but that someone figured it out and everyone is just copying them. There are likely many far more effective marketing strategies out there (and indeed I think they are already in play by people less disconnected from reality).
This got me thinking about Gold Buyers. Currently my wife is dealing with a huge problem of Gold Buyers in one of her titles. The Gold Sellers are only selling the gold because users are buying it. The users are only buying it because the economy got screwed up by gold buyers. Basically somewhere in the beginning someone “figured it out” and created a closed loop where everyone copies them ad nauseum. The problem then just gets worse and worse over time.
In this way the bad habits of a small group ends up negatively influencing the experience of everybody. I don’t really have a solution for this other than maybe thinking a little harder about what your actions might snowball into. It’s a bit like the running faucet.
One person running their faucet the entire time they brush their teeth is not a big problem. But it is never just one person. You can always assume that there are hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of other people doing exactly what you are doing either at that exact moment or within a time frame of 10-20 minutes. In this way it is not the flow of a single faucet but of a million faucets and suddenly you have a large amount of water being sent into the recycling system for no better reason than apathy and ignorance.