Valentine’s Day Guilt and Pleasure

If you are employed in marketing should you care about how sales are made just as long as they are? Are there limits to what is acceptable practice? Of course there are rules about offending people, and making misleading claims, but what I’m really thinking about are the subtle consequences of manipulating people’s sense of inadequacy and playing with their expectations.

Is Valentine’s Day just a bit of harmless fun in a troubled and stressful world? Or is it the delibrate exploitation of superficial material and consuming passions for the mere gain of business? It might seem that the school that banned Valentines cards in Somerset UK was over reacting. I’m not so sure.

Marketing Management exhorts us to think about what the product ‘does’ rather than what it ‘is’. We’re not in the greeting card business we’re in the ‘making people happy’ business. The question is whose happiness are we talking about. Let’s not forget that Valentine’s Day in the modern sense is a retail ploy to get sales going after the Christmas lull. Sure the receiver of cards and gifts will feel happy. We only have to check out Steven Reiss’s work on the 16 basic motivators that define our peronality to see a suggestion that Valentine’s day taps into some fundamental motivations that drive purchases. ‘Lurve’ being one of the strongest motivations to buy things.

But if what our product ‘does’ is play on emotions, confront people with rejection, create a sense of guilt, engender a feeling of inadequacy, fool people into believing that the square footage of the card is directly proportional to the extent of love intended surely this is just as unethical as a misleading product statement and offensive images and language?

What if something more profound for society is going on? The constant drip, drip, drip of messages that pervade the air waves, digital spaces, and public spaces surely sets a social ‘tone’. Everything sincere becomes ‘tokenised’. Buy this gift and it will represent how you truly feel, buy this card to make a statement of your love. In this sense Valentine’s day simply adds another drop of water to the social stalactite of uncritical thinking and irresponsibility.

How many people got up early this morning to belatedly shop for flowers, gifts and cards? Not because they loved their partner any less today, but out of fear that their love was not being overtly demonstrated in the superficially expected way retailers tell us it should be. Makes you wonder if the person you are with has become so beguiled with the ‘retail message’ that they actually believe you don’t love them if a card doesn’t accompany this mornings boiled egg and soldiers.

How many people have Marketing professionals made unhappy today I wonder? Unsure you are in love? check out Am I In Love to find out!

Who Has Time For Social Media?

You only need to look at the date of this post and subtract the date of my last post to see its been a while since I added any content to this blog. The problem? Lack of time. Who has the time for social media? It seems that readers do. They have a seemingly insatiable appetite for content that ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, the informed to the opinionated, the long the short and the tall, the good the bad and ugly of social and business information.

Generating content is another matter altogether. Young bloggers in the USA are Bored With Creating Content. Since 2006 the numbers of US teenagers who post content to blogs has halved. The phenomenon of reducing attention span and reluctance to engage in ‘effortful’ thinking (Eagly and Chaiken) looks fairly common.

The implications are profound for individuals and organisations who are being wooed by the siren song of Social Media and Social Networking. The ‘hurry now whilst stocks last’ mentality of many so called ‘marketing agencies’ to get their clients to participate or risk being left out understates one key fact about Social Media and Networking. It takes time. Not only that how much can you say on a frequent basis that is helpful, insightful and original. (Social Media types reading this post will already be muttering that there’s nothing new in pointing out the existence of the ‘Time Vampires’ that are social media applications.)

Content posting has several purposes. It also needs you ponder (which takes time) on who your audience is. Are you giving knowledge? are you persuading people to approach rather than avoid your organisation? are you generating and managing a reputation? The thing about creating content is that it is a reflective and effortful process whereas most of the consumption of the content is ‘cue’ based and effortless.

How might this all play out? I guess it comes back to the basics of informational need. A continuumm of light and trivial through to deep and meaningful. Go for D&M and you’ll need plenty of time wether you create the content or choose to read it.

Got more time?
Real People Don’t Have Time For Social Media
Social Media Time Management

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