Friday, May 1, 2015

Born Yesterday?

I was not born yesterday and I’m sure you weren’t either, yet some advertisers treat us as if we were.

Having a landline telephone we get a call or two a day that we screen using caller ID.  If we don’t recognize the number, we don’t answer.  Later we check the voicemail and find no messages.  I have given up on the idea of answering and asking to be removed from the list and reporting them to the government’s do-not-call website because it seems the sanctions, if there are any at all, are insufficient to discourage the behavior.  Ignoring them saves time and effort that can be applied to more beneficial activities.  But they do persist, perhaps expecting an answer some day.

The real head-scratchers, though, are some of the pieces of postal mail.  A few samples will give you an idea of how simple-minded they must think we are.

One arrived addressed to me – or Current Resident.  Inside it said that I am approved for a special offer.  It must be pretty special if Current Resident has also been approved.  It includes a “Non-Transferable Code Number” which I presume can be used by only me (or Current Resident).  If I act before the expiration date, about 50 days later, I can get in on this special deal for a home protection alarm system.  I think if I put it off too long I may face the consequences of receiving another special offer that is limited to only special people like myself (or Current Resident).

Yesterday I received more personal mail, this time from a local car dealer telling me that there was a sudden surge in demand for the 2006 Chrysler Sebring parked in my garage.  If I hurried down to the dealership, they would give me several hundred dollars over book value for my 2006 Chrysler Sebring!  Needless to say the car stayed put, and the dealer will have to look elsewhere to satisfy this sudden, mysterious popularity of cars that are coincidentally just like mine.

A different dealer occasionally invites me to an exclusive sale that is by invitation only.  The invitation is addressed to me (with no mention of Current Resident).  Then a few days later I received a reminder e-mail – I have to give them credit; their research is pretty good to know what car I drive and scout out my e-mail address for follow up.  The e-mail tells me not to forget about the exclusive sale, but at the bottom it prompts me to forward it to my friends.  Somehow the exclusiveness of the sale and message about how special I was to them kind of gets deflated when my friends or anyone else I decide to forward the information to will be equally welcome to participate.

Sorting through these phony sales pitches is child’s play for anyone with a smidgeon of critical thinking, but they continue.  They don't use any sophisticated psychological persuasive techniques.  A logical conclusion is either that these people will not be in business very long because they throw away money on stupid, even insulting, advertising; or that this sort of advertising really does work.  If it is the latter, it’s a sad commentary on the state of our society.

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