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March Man Blog

Upper management and I have spent the last month talking about marketing. We both admit that neither one of us is a marketing genius. We have had a good run by being friendly, writing cards, and including free samples. The samples, of course, are full-sized. (Our train of thought on this practice is no one ever passes up a house at Halloween that gives full-sized candy bars.)  The cards were an idea that we borrowed from a former employer who would always send a handwritten birthday card. When that birthday card arrived in the mail, there hadn't been a feeling like that since a childhood Christmas. I was always impressed by this personal touch and genuine thoughtfulness. Steve Jackson was a class act.

Until this past month, I never once thought about marketing. I am not a shopper or consumer of any sort. If I need a part for a piece of equipment, I needed it yesterday, and the fastest delivery usually wins. I only hear commercials telling me what I need to buy through Spotify. I am also cheap and refuse to upgrade to premium/commercial free radio. If the commercials are too much, FM radio is still free. Recently, I have been listening to the messages in the commercials and thinking that what they are saying isn't what they mean.

Frozen lasagna, for example, is a great one. They chant and carry on throughout the entire commercial, saying how it is meaty and cheesy. While even the best-frozen lasagna contains what technically passes as meat and cheese, no soul on earth would chant for it, let alone be tickled to feast on it. How about the slogan: The last time you labored over the meal, they didn't help with the dishes. Even better, try the honest slogan: Feed them our frozen lasagna and make them miss your cooking. While there are advantages of having something fast with minimal effort, trying to sell it like it is looked forward to or enjoyed is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. When the girls go out, and I cook for myself, I do not make many dishes. Frozen lasagna would be better than a hotdog microwaved in a glass of water. I can't say I have the most particular tastebuds on the planet. Most days, if I am in a rush, I would eat an old sock with gravy. Frozen lasagna is better than a gravy-soaked sock and as easy as microwaving a hotdog. That seems forthright and honest and hits the nail on the head.

I love cheap frozen pizza. It is so honest. No matter how much the higher-end contestants try to make it seem like there had to be a delivery made for that delicious frozen pizza, the mystery is non-existent. It may be slightly better, but it isn't on Unsolved Mysteries. Our local mom-and-pop grocery store will have good old Tony's Pizza on special for $3. There has not been a deal like that since McDonald's had 49-cent hamburgers on Sunday. Is it good? Well, it isn't terrible. It's quick, easy and cheap. Hell, I'm not putting a ring on it, so that is the perfect combination in my book. They recommend cooking it right on the oven rack. If you cut the box so the bottom doubles as a lifter and a holder, the only dish you have is a knife or a pizza cutter. Three dollars, one dish, and you are full. That point needs to be the slogan. Or perhaps, quick, easy, cheap, it is a frozen pizza, not marriage material. The fact that Tony, or Anthony as I like to refer to my dear friend, is capable of making a product and having it delivered to a store for three dollars makes me think he should win a Noble Prize.

Another great ad constantly playing before the holidays was for non-alcoholic beer. They had the pitch that it would make the holidays better. In what scenario would that ever make the holidays better? Perhaps if they addressed the fact that your guests would be more likely to leave early, that would be a plus. Instead, they wanted to make it seem that all that was missing from your holiday happiness was beer, but not beer. My first thought was to say next year is an election year. There is zero chance to argue with anyone if they don't come back to your event the following year because you served crappy tasting alcohol-free grown-up drinks. Even better, find a top-of-the-line beer and mysteriously only have it appear in your hand for your consumption. The chances of not being bad-mouthed for years after you enjoy Innis & Gunn while handing out alcohol-free Pabst would be slim to none, with Slim just hopping a bus out of town. If you are still speaking, you might even luck out and be invited to their place the following year because you went out of your way to make your gathering even worse. They would be sure to show you up with some imported fancy beer for everyone to enjoy. 

My favorite ad is the bike simulator. They brag about personal coaches, different trails, races, etc. I am sure there are biking enthusiasts who love all of those bells and whistles. There is the majority of the biking market that would love one thing. They would love to cause a virtual traffic jam. They could ride with friends, four abreast on the virtual road. The screen could show the blood pressure of all the drivers behind them starting to rise. They could get more points for being more of a nuisance. They would never have to worry about bodily harm, have the virtual experience of passive-aggressive dip shittery. It would be like a fancy race car simulator that you could make everyone else late instead of trying to be first. There could be different levels of the game. City driving, bonus points for avoiding the bike lane. They could get triple points for using absolutely no signals in traffic. The final round would be riding on and off the sidewalk.

Country driving would include acting helpful on blind curves, riding in the ditch, swerving, and being on the left side of the lane where it would otherwise be safe to pass. Both versions could be leveled up with goofy attire. Perhaps they could target a larger audience and just be honest. You will overspend on this high-tech stationary bike to the point that you will use it more than you did the thigh master, elliptical, treadmill, bow-flex, and gym membership. When it is all said and done, it will collect dust, and then laundry, and then you will put it in a yard sale. At the very least, you can leave it in a room where everyone can see it, and they will comment that you are getting serious about working out. 

The marketing spin on almost every product out there seems to be saying one thing but meaning another. For Pete's sake, the sea turtle that gets killed with a water bottle that has 25% less plastic than the competitor is just as dead. Why do we not focus on the ever-increasing number of discarded water bottles because they break before they can be used? Thus causing an uptick in dead sea turtles. Let us be honest: water companies. You are moving a product that is a convenience. To lessen the guilt about choosing convenience and cutting down on your materials to produce, you put an environmental spin on it. I think that the small coffee industry needs to take a stand and start the rumor that those damn little single-brew cups are getting stuck in the blowholes of dolphins. That would certainly cut down on plastic use. Those dolphins destroyed the tuna industry when they put their minds to it.

Until next month, upper management and I will continue brainstorming about marketing. It is a rather challenging road for two introverts. I have started to master the art of being critical of big companies' marketing, but that seems to be the limit of my talents. In the meantime, we will keep doing what has worked for us so far: word of mouth. If you have the time to spread a good word about any small business you are a fan of, please do. We probably aren't the only ones wearing too many hats without marketing knowledge. Until next month, stay safe and wash on.

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Speaking of marketing…I’m positive the agency responsible for ‘get milk’ has entered the treadmill market. There is a whole line of treadmills sold on Amazon that are lightweight (so they can be shipped through Amazon) and “conveniently” fold flat to slide under a bed or coffee table. This makes it easy to forget and it’s cheap enough to not make a huge impact on your budget. It’s a win all around.

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