Friday, August 11, 2017

Over the Top Advertising

A Walmart recently got in trouble for putting a sign on a case of guns that said, Own the School Year Like a Hero.

The company had to apologize for putting the sign on the gun case, but the store had that sign because that's the theme of Walmart's back to school sale this year. Which makes me wonder.

Signs just went up on a half-finished apartment building in DC about early leasing, and they say Be a Legend in Your Own Time.

And these are amateur bits of boasting compared to the shirts they sell at SoulCycle, which if I am remembering right say
Does this work? If so, what does that say about the people targeted by these ads? Does it work (if it works) because it is meant to be taken as half ironic, or at least with the irony providing cover for any underlying egotism? Or is it like an affirmation for depressed, anxious people?

I don't know, but I find the whole business peculiar.


Michael said...

Peculiar indeed. Like tying balloons to cars on the lot in order to entice buyers.....

Thomas said...

I'd say "Trump effect," but I'd guess this is a long-term trend, and Trump's election is a symptom.

Shadow said...

I like them, except the "Be a Legend in Your Own Time," which I don't understand, unless the apartments are named "The Legends." (Michaels made me laugh. I had forgotten about those balloons.) And I like the "Own the School Year, Be a Hero" slogan sans the gun case, which is like DUH!!!

G. Verloren said...

Marketers spend millions of dollars and countless man hours researching how to exploit flaws and failings in human psychology to manipulate people into buying things. The tricks they find actually do work - they wouldn't waste time on them if they didn't - and help them to exploit people and squeeze more profits out of things like stress, irrationality, and human suffering.

It's why so many prices end in 99 cents, it's why restaurants list their menu prices without dollar signs, it's why they stick overpriced candy and drinks right in front of the cash registers, and on, and on, and on.

This thinking extends into every aspect of our society that can possibly be commercialized, and absolutely our media and our consumer industries profit off things like violence and school shootings.

Behavioral scientists have spent decades begging the media to stop reporting on mass shootings, because the science clearly shows that the non-stop media coverage in the wake of these tragedies contributes massively to copy-cat attacks. But in our diseased society, the profitability of increased ratings for news outlets outweighs the cost in human lives from inspiring further violence. We sensationalize the attackers, we obsess over them, we turn them into notorious celebrities and touchstone cultural icons.

Now, did Wal-Mart purposefully try to sell guns by alluding to school shootings? No, absolutely not. Corporate told the store to put up a bunch of signs, and the overworked retail drones just put them up wherever, probably directed by their incompetant managers, and it never occured to anyone to think "Hey, maybe putting this particular sign in this particular spot could unintentionally be problematic".

But there are plenty of people out there who will and routinely do purposefully try to sell things in this sort of deplorable manner. Go to any gun show. Go to any security industry recruitment fair. Go to far tamer and more innocuous places, like music stores, urban fashion outlets, or the local movie theatre.

Violence sells. The lone angry rebel with a gun resonates with people. We worship and fetishize toxic masculinity, and we portray soldiers and criminals alike as "legends", because in our culture they take on a legendary status. Al Capone is far more famous than Eliot Ness. Che Guevara sells T-shirts, and Guy Fawkes sells movie tickets and novelty masks. Everyone remembers The Alamo, but no one knows what Cinco de Mayo is actually a celebration of, even as they use it as an excuse to get drunk and reinforce racist stereotypes.

Advertizers well sell their products by any means that works. If people respond to being told that buying this or that brand of cologne will make them into a "warrior", an "athlete", a "rockstar", or a "legend", then marketing will exploit that response. We sell lifestyles, not products.

Want to be happy? Want to be successful? What to be "a real man"? Then you need our pickup truck! You need our acid washed jeans! You need our alcohol! You need our cigarettes! You need our deoderant! You need all our various products designed with a macho aesthetic formulated to appeal to your desires and fantasies for power, dominance, sexual gratification, and more! Buy now! Only four easy payments of $99.99! What are you waiting for? Join the revolution! Be the legend! Conform! Consume! Obey!