With digital technology growing cheaper by the day and becoming widely available for marketing purposes, companies are going into overdrive to fill every bit of ad space they can find. Following are a few articles covering this phenomenon.

“What all marketers are dealing with is an absolute sensory overload,” said Gretchen Hofmann, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Universal Orlando Resort. The landscape is “overly saturated” as companies press harder to make their products stand out, she said.

Media and tech companies are falling over themselves trying to get more and more media content onto more and more platforms. Web video on your TV! Music and games on your cellphone! Downloaded movies on your home-office PC hard drive transmitted to your living room home entertainment system!

As I am sure advertising will become part of these platforms, the IPod case brought to you by Google in conjunction with BASF and so forth and amid the growing utilization of technology to press brand management I wanted to focus on a tried yet true method of product marketing, the in-store sample. Due to some recent weather issues I was unable to gather my weekly groceries on my regular schedule, when the least possible amount of annoyances are present. Instead I hit my local Target at noon on Saturday. At the head of every aisle was an employee pushing a sample of juice, granola or frozen organic pizza. As I tried vehemently to proceed down each aisle I was halted by two to three people surrounding the sample cart.

This week I also made it to Target on Saturday, witnessed the same sample carts and decided to stop off for some coffee at the Starbucks and observe. Several times I witnessed a patron coming around the corner of an aisle, stopping to check out the offering, exactly what the store and it’s suppliers want. Meanwhile, there are two to three people stopped behind the sample consumer, slowly getting irritated. By the time this happens four or five times, everyone is in a mad dash for the registers already fed up with the shopping trip. By the time I am finished, there are typically three or four items I have forgotten because I am tired of being in the store, purchases that go to the grocery store up the street.

There has recently been a viral marketing backlash.

Videos such as “Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out” and those posted by Lonelygirl15 on You Tube may help sell products or kick-start a budding actor’s career. But they also have a more pernicious effect on our tendency to trust what seems genuine.

“I can’t see how they don’t make people more cynical,” says Gillian Watson, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

As business and other pursuits take more of our time, can we expect this same backlash against traditional marketing techniques that interupt our schedules? Are markets that over-utilize the in-store sample loosing sales at the expense of increased purchases of a few items?  Regardless, I probably need to take a few deep breaths before my next trip to the store.


I refrained from writing any articles analyzing the numerous Superbowl commercials this year. With all the buzz around the big game and the commercials anyway I figured it would just be useless clutter. I did however want to draw attention a NY Times article that attempts to follow along the same lines as my regular Commercial Culture posts. They explore the idea that the level of violence in this years commercials, “cartoonish” as it may be, could reflect the toll the Iraq War is having on the American psyche.

No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year’s commercials.

More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous.

For instance, in a commercial for Bud Light beer, sold by Anheuser-Busch, one man beat the other at a game of rock, paper, scissors by throwing a rock at his opponent’s head.

In another Bud Light spot, face-slapping replaced fist-bumping as the cool way for people to show affection for one another. In a FedEx commercial, set on the moon, an astronaut was wiped out by a meteor. In a spot for Snickers candy, sold by Mars, two co-workers sought to prove their masculinity by tearing off patches of chest hair.

While I agree that it is likely that the images of war we see daily manifest themselves in ways we cannot immediately explain in our everyday lives; I think men ripping the hair from their chest after having accidentally kissed may be linked to other psychological issues rather than the current state of our foreign policy.

My personal favorite from last night and it appears was a big winner: Blockbuster’s Total Access Mouse

Related Posts:

Superbowl’s Appeal to the Younger Viewer?

The not so hidden costs of the Superbowl

Following the exploits of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake at the Superbowl in 2004 a new wave of American Puritanism began, resulting in the over-enthusiastic FCC to label everything obscene, regardless, the show must go on. In early January I posted an article under my Commercial Culture tag comparing the popularity of beer and wine as a distribution of football viewers.

Although I did not have access to a great deal of market information, it appeared that as with many institutions in our society, the average football viewer is aging, meaning that not as many younger people are becoming football fans or playing youth football; certainly not at a rate to replace the aging boomers.

Earlier tonight I watched the Superbowl (on a personal note, I hate the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning). If it is truly the goal of the NFL to start drawing a younger fan base, let me ask, does it make sense to have Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, and Prince be the highlighted performers? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mac (Prince, not so much), but I don’t see the logic here. The commercial spots surrounding the performers were as such:

Billy Joel
Before – CBS: CSI Miami,
After – Movie: Norbit

Before – NFL: Walter Peyton Man of the Year
After – Pepsi*

* In all fairness, Pepsi was the sponsor of the halftime show, so it makes sense they would have one of the sandwich spots. I do on the other hand find it ironic that they were once “The Choice of a New Generation.”

Gloria Estefan & Cirque du Soleil
Before – CBS: Survivor
After – Combos Pretzel Snacks

By and large, it would seem these commercials appeal to the opposite crowd based on the relative popularity of the artists.

Related Articles:

The not so hidden costs of the Superbowl 

There is a plethora of energy related news this week. ExxonMobil once again broke the record for quarterly profits, eclipsing the record they set last year a day before the UN conference on climate change where human beings are to be implicated as the direct causal factor of global warming.

Remember about a month ago, ExxonMobil was implicated in attempting to distort facts on global warming in a public communication campaign.

“ExxonMobil has, in a cynical and manipulative strategy, helped create a kind of echo chamber to amplify the views of a carefully selected group of spokespeople whose work has been largely discredited by the scientific community,” said Seth Schulman, the report’s primary author, in a conference call today with reporters. The strategy is built on the notion, the report found, that “public opinion can be easily manipulated because science is complex, because people tend not to notice where their information comes from, and because the effects of global warming are just beginning to become visible.”

Today it has become known that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil funded thinktank with close ties to the Bush Administration, offered select scientists and economists $10,000 each to undermine the climate change report.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

Once again why we need to understand the concept of complexity and systems thinking in world affairs.

Related Articles:

Why we need to understand complexity

Global Warming is ‘very likely’ man-made

Exxon linked to climate change payout

I received a special notice from Careerbuilder today, that Disney running a contest to provide people with a one-day “Dream Job” from the following list:

Honorary Disney Pirate

Honorary Disney Princess-in-Waiting

Honorary Disney Jungle Cruise Skipper

Honorary Disney Park Parade Performer

Honorary Disney Haunted Mansion Butler or Maid

As a kid, I had fallen in love with DisneyWorld for obvious reasons. From the moment you arrive at one of the parks, it is one of the happiest places on earth, for children anyway. During my summer internship search at Purdue University, I had the opportunity to interview with Disney for an engineering position (a job which went to my roommate, Jeremy). Following his summer, I found out more about the general summer jobs.

Most summer employees are housed at a central apartment complex, have one of the most stringent dress code policies including a guide of acceptable haircuts, and a sizable portion return having spent more money than was made (largely due to rent). Is it any wonder that Tigger is smacking people around?

Now while I can’t comment on the current status of Disney’s human resources, a 2001 story regarding the cleanliness of approved shared undergarments comes to mind.

Each night, they hand in the underwear with the rest of their costume before going home, and pick up a new set the next day.

Many of the characters have to wear Disney-issued jock-straps, tights or cycling shorts underneath their costumes because normal underwear bunches up and can be seen.

Some workers complained about receiving undergarments that were stained or smelly and Mr Steverson said there have been three cases of costumed workers at the Magic Kingdom getting pubic lice or scabies during the past two years.

Given the difficulty in changing corporate culture, particularly treatment of workers lower in the hierarchy, I can’t imagine things have significantly improved; definitely not enough to qualify the Pirate position as a “Dream Job.” Now taking CEO Robert Iger’s job for a day given his 2006 compensation of $22 million wouldn’t be all that bad.

On a side note, I heard an interesting Disney related rumor, one that has been circulating around the DFW area and web for a few years now, that will be disclosed on Superbowl Sunday. Disney is going to build a fourth US theme park in Frisco, TX.   Of course it could always be a ploy to get dejected Cowboys fans to tune into the big game.

I love football, this coming Sunday is the last game of the season and I’m a Bears fan. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out I will be front and center on my couch. Let’s take a look at some of the not so hidden costs surrounding the big game.

Superbowl Tickets (2)

Face Value: $800+
eBay: $6000+

It hard to imagine that the first few championship games to be played did not sell out completely. I would truly love to be at this game, since if history repeats itself it I will be in my 50’s before another Bears teams makes it this far. I wonder periodically if the price tag doesn’t hurt the sport, but then again, every October to early February I’m in front of the tube.

Commercial Spot

Prime 30-second spot: $2.6 million

The commercials are the reason some tune into the big game and depending on the quality of play, may generate more buzz around the water cooler the next day. If only the products advertised were worth the money spent. Just imagine what else you could buy with that money:

In the half-hour it could take for a party to drink one six pack of Budweiser, you could buy over 9 million of them, at current ad prices, Debo found.

That same $2.6 million could also…


  • Purchase entire blocks of East Aurora or Starin Avenue in Buffalo, Holcberg says.
  • Buy 69 Lexus RX series sedans, at just released 2008 model prices
  • Lost Productivity

    Cost to business: $162 million

    That’s right, we are even measuring the lost productivity to business due to the Superbowl. This figure only accounts for distractions and delays leading up to and after the game by workers who show up. Not included are the post-Bowl “illnesses.” Not to mention the psychological counseling I will need should the Bears loose to the Colts, but that isn’t likely to happen since my Madden 2007 assures me the game will be 66-35 with Manning going down in the second quarter after a sack by Urlacher. Go Bears!

    A posting on Slashdot ask the posed the following scenario:

    “I have been lamenting with friends in the industry about interviewing woes and the candidates that we find. Consider a hypothetical job candidate comes in after some how making it through screening. In the team technical interview they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is he (or she) not as adequate as he thinks he is, but has demonstrated that he is a danger to any code base. Do you tell them? Quietly step away, usher them out and say nothing? Play with them on the whiteboard the way your cat plays with injured mice? Should you leave them as their own warning to others? Is there any obligation to guide them to gaining real experience? Can you give them any advice or is it all liability?”

    – Some Entertainment –

    Going back almost 10 years to one of my first job interviews with an electronics supplier, I received a functional interview. I was taken through a sample case and given a written test with two sections, one specific to their technician roles the other engineers. Long story short, the technician section I answered completely with 100% correct, the engineering portion on the other hand was a different matter. Not having worked on those specific problems in some months, I was only able to list the relevant equations but not the procedure for solving them. After turning in the test, the next person through the door asked, “What! You think you’re too smart to have to answer all the questions?” I was then given about two minutes to explain before I was escorted from the building.

    Now compare the previous story to that of a peer of mine. After completing his MBA program he was applying for marketing positions. He managed to network his way into an interview with a local shipping company. The interview consisted of meeting with several people culminating with a case study. The only problem, he was never provided the case materials. Turns out the HR manager never had any intent to hire him, she just wanted his friend off her back. Needless to say, he did not get the job.

    – Poor Hiring, Bad Culture or Both? –

    The point of these two stories is this, just as your marketing program gives your company a voice so does your hiring process. Just as customers spread your brand by word of mouth, so do your employees and those you interview. By giving potential new hires advice, regardless of whether you hire them, and/or taking the time to give them a legitimate opportunity you provide them with a favorable image of your company and perhaps they will correct their shortcomings to become a future asset.

    A regional VP at a company I used to work for, who started out as a janitor, was always saying “Be careful how you treat people, you never know who they may be someday.” The old rule is that a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 other people about their experience. In the new Web 2.0 world in which we live, that is no longer the case. Remember the story of Radio Shack laying people off via email. I have certainly not forgotten the names of the two companies in the stories above and should our business paths cross in the future, how do you think they will be perceived?

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