The Expatriated Consumer

Imagining life without debt. Working to make it reality.

Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

These posts encapsulate my observations and opinions of marketing in today’s consumer culture. Bottom line – Buyer Beware!

Zippity Doo Dah Day!

Posted by Max Finkle on June 15, 2008

Fathers Day is here, and just in case there was a chance anybody would forget, the newspaper has been packed to the gills with sales fliers from all of the usual suspects declaring, “It’s here! If you love Dad, get him something good! …And remember, we have the best prices for Fathers Day gifts!

Well, I took a look at the calender, wondering when we’d have a break from it all. Next month is Independence Day, and then, August. Wait! Do mine eyes deceive me? Is there no national celebration or marketing extravaganza excuse scheduled? Those poor, poor retailers. Whatever shall they do? There certainly must be something they can do to stimulate sales in the forgotten month in the dog days of summer.

Well, there is the “Just Because Day” on August 27, “Race Your Mouse Day” on August 28, & “More Herbs, Less Salt Day” on August 29 if you’re really searching for an excuse to celebrate. Yes, someone has actually delegated those dates as days of celebration. I’m not sure how marketers, in general, can devise effective sales slogans around “More Herbs, Less Salt Day.” There’s just no ring to it. There’s no significant history behind it, no emotional attachment. And the name certainly doesn’t stop you in your tracks and grab your attention.

So to help out those hapless retailers, and to do my part to help save the faltering economy, I propose that we celebrate a new holiday in August, the new national celebration sensation. Zippity Doo Dah Day. It’s got “zip” in it, it’ll grab people’s attention, and kids especially, will love just saying it.

Retailers rejoice! Another excuse to push out glorious sales fliers chock full of amazing deals & television spots showcasing the best ways to celebrate the stifling heat of the summer. To get those consumers to part with their money perhaps we bill it as the new patriotic holiday. Developed for the sole purpose encouraging spending, they could market the idea that it’s your patriotic duty to keep the economy flowing by buying good junk to fill your spare closet space and empty drawers with. So spend, spend spend!!!

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What’s in YOUR bottle?

Posted by Max Finkle on June 4, 2008

One of the keys to achieving financial success is knowing what you’re buying. Name brands are not always better, the most expensive is not always better. Oftentimes, price is the marketing point. It’s expensive, so it must be good, right? Not necessarily. Case in point:

I worked in a liquor store for many years not so long ago. Being interested in all things beer at the time, I stumbled onto an article in the local industry beverage journal regarding Rolling Rock beer. I had not-so-fond memories of hairy next-morning experiences in relation to that beer brand, given that it was the beer of choice as a fresh 21 year old on a limited budget.

For those who may not remember, Rolling Rock was infamous for their longneck import bottles. They came in reusable flip top case boxes that could be purchased for as little as $10 a case. In addition there was a $1.50 deposit to ensure safe return of the empties so they could be reused by the brewer. It was always a glorious weekend when the stack of empties was large enough to net us a “free” case of beer after bottle redemption.

There was a slight ache in my heart when suddenly the price of Rolling Rock sky-rocketed to close to $20 a case, and they started to phase out those glorious longneck import bottles. They had upgraded their packaging, now retailing the beer in boxes and six pack racks featuring crisp images of Rolling Rock bottles sporting beads of sweat, indicating they were ice-cold and ready for the thirsty. The old packaging was a dull green, with the most interesting feature being the “33” on the back of the bottle, that everyone saw, but no one wondered about.

At the time the article was written, Rolling Rock was running full tilt with their ad campaign “Same as it ever was.” Little did I understand when the commercials started airing that it was a bit of a tongue in cheek statement. What was really going on was pure marketing genius.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the brewer was on the verge of going under. Sales were dropping precipitously, and corporate knew something had to happen, and fast. They decided to bring in a new marketing exec.

He came along, looked at numbers, reviewed their promotional history, and furrowed his brow. “You need to raise the price,” he finally decided.

“You’re nuts,” corporate retorted, “We can’t sell the beer now, at the current prices.” And they prepared to tar and feather him for wasting their time. They were expecting recommendations for prize promotions or a new recipe.

“Hold your horses,” he replied, “Consider this: Budweiser is the standard by which all beer is held in this country. Folks see Rolling Rock at budget prices, and think: Cheap. Cheap = not as good as Bud. Raise the price to a tier just above Bud, put on your Galoshes and watch the cash flow tidal wave.”

Corporate considered the logic, and without changing a thing in the recipe, took the leap, raised prices, launched the “Same As It Ever Was” campaign, and suddenly Rolling Rock went from being the darling of the college frat houses to the bell of the ball for the yuppie crowd. Sales skyrocketed, and they found themselves rolling in piles and piles of cash.

Many consumers actually believe that Rolling Rock is a better beer today than it was yesterday simply because the price went up. I have an occasional one just to reminisce about the old days, but I don’t buy it simply because it’s a “Premium” beer now.

Every time you make a purchase consider why you chose that particular product. Price is a consideration, but should not be the only criteria by which you make a particular buying decision. Oftentimes, the less expensive options can be as good or sometimes even better than the more expensive ones. Let the marketers spend their money, keep as much of yours in your pocket as you can by seeing past their schemes.

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Cat & Mouse Game…

Posted by Max Finkle on May 29, 2008

I just recently began blogging as a way to chronicle my trials and tribulations in my quest to become debt-free. I’m in the infancy of both my blogging and my commitment to my new lifestyle, and honestly never considered that someone else would actually read my blog… Truthfully, I started with a free WordPress blog, so I could cut my chops and learn a thing or two before I considered paying for a host and all that jazz.

So imagine my surprise when I checked in the other day to discover that I had two comments left on one of my posts! I actually caught someone’s attention. Imagine my further surprise when I discovered that both of them were involved in business & marketing!

I pondered why this would be so. I never considered the idea that a marketer would want to follow someone who’s blog title indicates that buying just isn’t his thing. I want to consume less, not more. Then it occurred to me. They want to know what I’m thinking. By reading my work, they don’t have to scratch their heads and wonder. I’m laying it out for them. I’ve made myself easy pickin’s…

As much as I intend to rant and rave at the marketing industry over the life of this blog, marketers can delve into the brains of like-minded folks by reading my work. They want to know what makes me tick, so they can work that into their planning, and figure out how to successfully market to me. Living in this society makes it impossible to avoid consumerism and marketing, so despite my best efforts, I am still confronted with it, and have to adjust to it.

After reading a substantial amount about marketing plans such as the CVS coupon game, I realized that marketers have our number, in those of us dedicated to buying more for less. They’ve figured out how to get their products into our homes by giving us what we want: cheaper costs. Oh, they make us work for it, like making us clip coupons and leaf through sale fliers; playing coupon games can take hours, and I only do it now because I want to practice and perfect so I won’t always spend so much time on it. Then we hop online and broadcast to our friends about how well we did with the latest sales! Bloggers post photos of the products they got cheap, and discuss how they stock up on said items so they never run out of them by following the sales and shrewdly compounding the savings by utilizing store coupons and sales and cash back offers and rebates. (Sorry about the run-on sentence!) I know that when I do particularly well on a shopping trip (read: got lots for cheap!) I get home and brag to the wife. She doesn’t really care how much I spent as long as we got what we need. But, there is a tremendous amount of pride, and satisfaction believing I got a great bargain, and I like to brag. If only the Joneses next door would listen to me, I’d get a lot more satisfaction!

It’s a win-win situation, I guess. The frugal take home more for their dollar, the marketers win because they get their products sold, and they get free advertising as well, what with all those bloggers flaunting their loot in photos along with their posts. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. KNOW YOUR ENEMY!

At least one of commenters indicated that he subscribed to my feed, and after taking a gander at his work, I’m subscribing to his. Not only can I learn a thing or two about marketing, but they offer some good advice on other subjects as well. Perhaps I’ll stumble on some good advice about how to market my blog, while learning how to defend myself against their onslaught!

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120 MPH!!!

Posted by Max Finkle on May 17, 2008

A question in Click & Clack, the automotive Q & A syndication column, caught my attention this morning. A seven year old wrote in to ask why his parents’ car speedometer went up to 120 mph, when they can only legally drive at maximum 65 mph.

Ray, one of the columnists stated it was a good question. I’m inclined to agree. The answer was simple. Marketing. Auto manufacturers are savvy enough not to encourage people to break the law, so they don’t advertise their cars as having the ability to go that fast.

They promote horsepower, sporty looks, aerodynamics, and even brand of engine. The easiest way to validate all that advertising is simply to drop a speedometer in the car that displays a large number, since no one can really test the limits of the equipment for themselves. Speed is equated with power, so a buyer just has to look at the speedometer to know that car’s got power! They don’t need to drive it, it’s right there, printed on the dashboard display. It’s called advertising by implication.

Now, I grew up on a farm. I’ve driven tractors that couldn’t top 15 mph on a downhill slope, if you were pushing it along, to boot. I guarantee that tractor had more power than any truck advertised on t.v. If they were trying to sell true power, they’d be selling tractors, but they’re trying to sell speed – because as we all know life is fast, and you gotta keep up. Not to mention the glamour, and the girls! (Or guys!)

So go ahead, smell that new car smell they sprayed in the car yesterday (yes, it’s actually a scent), Ooh & Ahh over the look and style, admire the power, but look at the finer details, too. Take a look at estimated mileage per gallon in the type of driving you normally do. Consider the cost of replacing those expensive low profile tires, and even the cost of insuring such an impressive vehicle. How much are your payments going to be, and how much interest over the life of the loan are you going to pay? What’s the resale value of the vehicle going to be after you drive it off the lot?

Evaluate everything related to the car purchase. Make sure it’s as good as it seems. Negotiate for free floor mats and mud flaps. I twisted them for 3 years worth of oil changes, a free lifetime warrantee on tires and a couple of other things. Sounds great until I moved 1500 miles away and no other dealer will honor all the side deals I got. So much for value added bonuses on my purchase. My move whittled away a considerable portion of my purchase savings because I was banking on saving money over the life of the vehicle on maintenance, it wasn’t money in my pocket right now, or taken off the sticker price. It was marketing genius. They hedged their bets that I wouldn’t be able to utilize all the freebies I had negotiated, and they made out in the end.

I’m paying about $5,400 in interest alone on my minivan purchase, which is about 20% of the total amount we financed at 6.99% annually. I would have saved arguably an additional $1000 over the life of the vehicle in maintenance had I stayed put, but that’s money that flew out the window somewhere between Tennessee and Texas. Sounded good at the time, I guess. Now I’m not so sure. I’m sure if we hunted around a bit more, we could have found something a bit more modest used & saved an arm and a leg.

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