Max Johns - Briefly relocated transient marketer, Hamilton/Auckland/Huntly

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

New ways for a new millenium!

Two new ways to get what you want when you want it, brought to you exclusively by FightingTalk:

1. How to get everybody to listen to you: Promoting the budget
I'm a marketer. I have a degree in marketing and I work in marketing. If the Labour Government wants a few pointers on saving almost all of the $21 million it wants to spend on promoting the budget, it should get in touch with me. Or, indeed, anyone who knows the following two truths of promotion:

1. The best form of marketing is direct marketing. For example, sending letters to your existing customers. Then you only spend money communicating with people you want to, rather than blindly hoping the right people see your TV ads. If you know the names and addresses of the right people, use them.
2. The easiest thing to promote will have an obvious, immediate positive effect on people. Giving people money, for example, is not a particularly difficult 'sell'.
$21 million is a whole lot of money, even in advertising. For perspective, FMCG Magazine is produced for onsellers of "fast moving consumer goods", which pretty much means "groceries". Producers of groceries place ads in FMCG boasting about how great their latest promotions are, including how much they cost. The figures in the magazine were big and impressive, until the Government trumped them all several times over. Cadbury's 'Wouldn't it be nice?' campaign, the Friskies Whiskas cat food relaunch, and New Zealand's Vanilla Coke launch – and, in fact, every other marketing campaign of this sort - each cost less than $10 million. Most cost less than $5 million (Cadbury’s come in somewhere around the $2-4 million mark). In fact, a $2 million campaign is a massive deal in New Zealand. And, remember, these campaigns have to be hugely noticeable because of a little something known as competition. Not that the Government would have had competition in mind when it gave itself such a huge advertising budget. Right?

$21 million for a single campaign is essentially unheard of in NZ, is patently ridiculous, and is more like the whole annual promotional budget of The Warehouse. It's $5 per New Zealander! And unlike the Government, Cadbury's and co. don’t know the names and addresses of every person they want to advertise to, so they’re going for blanket coverage. If Friskie’s had the opportunity to send a pamphlet to every NZ cat owner, and reason to expect that every single one of them would appreciate receiving it and modify their consumption behaviour as a direct result of reading it, I’m sure this would be the option they would have taken before they threw millions at TV and print ads, instore promo material, and giveaways. Maybe someone should let someone in the Beehive know that postage isn't expensive, and that 2,000,000 brouchures, even double-sided glossy ones, won't cost $10 each.

On top of that, none of those above major campaigns had the sort of media launch coverage given to something like, say, the Government’s budget.

2. How to be a terrorist and get noticed
The Beslan massacre has managed to get to me more than other news stories mis-labeled as "tragic" (yes, that's the old classics student in me coming out to play). There's something about the involvement of so many children, for sure. But the fact that the gunmen didn’t really try that hard to get any particular result out of the hostage situation other than hundreds of deaths is possibly even worse.

Remember before September 2001, when hijacked planes always landed and were met by negotiators? When the whole purpose of hostages was that they were bargaining chips, and gave the dissidents a rare upper hand so long as they played their cards right? Remember how, on the first three 9/11 planes, no-one thought to fight back because the automatic assumption was that the whole point of being a hijacked passenger was to shut up, hope that you weren't one of the token killings "to prove we're serious", and wait for your eventual release? Boy, has that theory ever gone out the window and down the inflatable slides. In Russia it was evident that the captured people weren’t really that important to the terrorists. No food or water, and no access to first aid, equals no value placed on keeping people alive. And this equals a brand new way of trying to get what you want.

Where were the clearly iterated demands, some which actually had a chance of happening? Where was the showpiece speech to the cameras? The insistance that someone with the ability to make things happen be brought immediately to speak with the head nut? Turns out that these sorts of things never really worked. They were good at getting small gains - released prisoners, a soundbite on the news, that sort of thing - but never really caused much lasting change. No-one remembers the dates of successful hijacking negotitations, or how many people didn't die. Now is the time to stop playing tiddlywinks and set your sights where they should be. Adding just a percentage point or two to your fear rating is worth thousands of released prisoners and hours of primetime coverage. This is a battle for hearts and minds, stupid: If you want to get noticed in today's increasingly crowded terrorism market, you've got to hit 'em where it hurts - in the population count.

Market research reveals that in just three years, Al-Qaeda has gone from being one of many obscure players in the lucrative American fear market to the undisputed leader. 98% of American survey respondents aged 13+ recall the Al-Qaeda brand instantly when asked to name terrorist organisations. A further 1.9% recall with promting, or at least recognise the name when they hear it. Neither well-established family favoutites like Coca-Cola, or even longstanding megabrands like God himself, enjoy figures like that. And Al-Qaeda didn't get that sort of incredible penetration by using outdated, death-free, discussion-oriented methods. With their smart recognition of this fact and adoption of the 'kill now, speak later' methods learnt in 2001, the Chechnyans are well on their way to replicating these sorts of results.

Remember when it was the good guys who had the option of refusing to negotiate? We thought we were so tough when we did that.