May 3, 2009
Marketing Trumps Science
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
In 1951, the year I graduated high-school, our government launched into war in Korea, a
country I did not feel a strong compulsion to visit.
After successfully completing two years of college, I was obliged to choose a major
subject if I intended to continue as a full-time student pursuing a degree, and stay out of the US Army.
Full-time college students enjoyed a 2-S draft deferment. Since enlisting in
the US Naval Air Reserves at the age of seventeen, my patriotic fervor had abated (more of that another time).
Vaguely aware that my choice of a major subject ought to somehow bear on a future career, I took a career-preference test to determine what (if anything) I was suited for. My test's proctor was as surprised as I to find that my test results showed a high correlation with that of medical psychiatrists!
Given my deplorable financial status, such an education was completely beyond my
options. The test results had merely discovered the fact that a love of reading had expanded my own psyche beyond experiences gained from a couple of years of college.
My instincts regarding education would be validated, only years later, by grasping
Albert Jay Nock's distinction between "formative" and "instrumental" education.
That they tended strongly to the former would have been highly unlikely to impress
my local draft board, even had I been able, at the time, to express them.
By the time I graduated, the Korean War had ended. Within ten months I was able to repay a college loan through employment, within walking distance of the campus, as a senior laboratory technician. Given a "Q" security-clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission, I participated in developing an alloy that, a few years later, would provide heat shielding during atmospheric re-entry of the space shuttle.
My father had been a brilliant self-educated research chemist and, at an early age, he gave me an appreciation for science. However, the idea of spending my life in confining and methodical laboratory work, as a career, left me cold.
What I really wanted was to earn more money, as independently as possible, as a salesman.
Because of an obvious lack of natural talent and charisma, combined with no sales experience, nobody would hire me as a salesman. Again and again, I heard the words "over-qualified", "over-educated", and "science type". After unsuccessully applying for a few sales jobs, I decided that it was necessary to learn how to market myself beyond the academic world.
I got a job driving a truck loaded with tons of steel around the eastern U.S. After a couple of months in training, accompanied by another driver, I was on my own. During daytime stops, I hobnobbed with other drivers at places that had signs reading "eats",
"eatery", and "truckers welcomed".
That life was a refreshing change from academic poverty and, even after becoming bored with driving, I decided to remain with the truck for a full year. Exactly one year from the day I started, I quit the truck to again apply for sales jobs.
I had saved some money and, with the added stipend of teaching as a graduate-assistant, I bought a car and temporarily returned to college, sending out dozens of sales employment applications to major corporations.
Finally, I got lucky. A major consumer products company gave me two years of top-notch field sales training. Over a period of six years with the firm I acquired invaluable sales and marketing experience.
Advertising, packaging and branding combine to create an all-important image for sales purposes. For example, thousands of combinations of chemical detergent, water, industrial coloring and scent will wash clothes or dishes.
Put a dozen plastic bottles of this concoction in a cardboard case and try to sell them at a roadside stand or a flea market. Good luck!
Increase the price ten-fold, create a cute brand name related to a clever image, package it appealingly (think about color), invent a catchy slogan or two, buy widespread TV exposure, get shelf space in branded stores, and you will probably capture a significant share of market. This works for most products purchased by the public.
Marketing has also been found to be very effective in politics. Witness our new president. His election was obviously helped by having political opposition that was hugely unpopular.
Even you or I might have have been elected, given the same amount of promotional money, running against successors to Bush, Cheney, and the rest of that mob.
What is really admirable is the professionalism and expertise of the advertising men who branded, packaged, and sold Barack Obama.
A growing popular antiwar movement has not only been dismantled but is now supporting wars Obama feels to be important. The very men known to have been responsible for fraud and the disintegration of banks and financial markets are now at the helm of our economic ship of state. They are supported because of Obama's confidence in them.
Either of these situations might be viewed as irrational unless one contemplates the power and value of marketing and image-branding.
There doesn't seem to be any way to turn back the clock in the heads of my good-hearted friends to viewpoints and goals they held prior to our last presidential election. They simply deny, rationalize, compromise, or avoid such thoughts. We refer to that phenomenon as "brand-loyalty".
The most obvious example of brand-loyalty is that of sports fans who personally identify
with a specific team, referring to it proudly as "my team". The team usually bears the name and image of an animal of some ferocity or war-like aggressiveness. Its fans loyally "root" for their team despite the fact that individual athletes change. Frequently, it's home location is not related to them geographically. Nonetheless, they insist upon it being their team. When asked how they happened to become fans of a specific team, they often
come up with a non-directive response such as, "I've been a (Lions, Tigers) fan for ten years!"
It is curious to note that our two political parties have bland names and images of relatively non-ferocious animals (donkey and elephant). If ever a viable third party should arise, it might be wise for it to assume the name of an aggressive beast or image.
I might suggest names such as "Avenger Party", "Commandos", "Thunderers", and the like for the sake of creating even greater party loyalty than that which exists today. A ferocious image would also provide a subliminal psychological force to further dismantle non-macho peace movements and thwart disruptive non-violent protests.
This psychological behavior puzzles me. Perhaps I should have more seriously considered the results of that career-preference test more than a half-century ago.
Buying Brand Obama by Chris Hedges
The Madmen Did Well - John Pilger
Mar. 19, 2009:
Preparing for Civil Unrest in America
Is it over for the USA? - Can this be true?
Posted 12/13/09: A Stability Police Force for the United States