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Communication and community

Editorial | January 1, 2019 | By:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.” ~Dr. Seuss

Pillsbury, known for dough, has been piping the smells of freshly baked cinnamon rolls into selected theaters across the country—a campaign designed to get movie-goers to purchase cinnamon rolls during the holidays. The scent is released during a Pillsbury advertisement that plays before “The Grinch” and other family movies. This campaign may falter due to public protests from people sensitive to fragrances, but I haven’t yet seen any letters to the editor citing privacy concerns or demanding freedom from marketing. As I write this, it’s December; as you read this in January, perhaps the odors have already dissipated. Or maybe tacos are next.

Years ago, I discussed a scene in John Varley’s 1992 SF novel “Steel Beach,” in which the protagonist is walking down the street, preoccupied and not noticing a colored, sparkling cloud of vapor in his path, which instilled a chemical craving in his brain for a particular brand of beverage. This was perfectly legal, since the vapor was visible, and he could have avoided it had he chosen to—opting out, as it were.

Maybe this is just my science-fiction-inspired paranoia surfacing again, but I’ve also recently read about AI-managed marketing campaigns in which people are tracked by their smart phones, and since their purchasing preferences are already recorded, are sent messages about particular products as they are approaching that section of a store. I haven’t read much about whether this is considered a convenience or an invasion—but I know which I consider it to be, unregenerate boomer that I am.

Marketing is often a challenge for small businesses, even those that are well-versed in current technologies. In our industry, the current need is to educate potential customers, not to bombard them with sales messages, however the messages are delivered. Isaac Newton’s third law of motion tells us that for every reaction there will be an equal, and opposite, reaction; already, people are starting to discount those supposedly all-powerful social media posts about products, because it’s now common knowledge that they’re often paid for.

The most important marketing tactic is to build a relationship of trust with customers. Albert Einstein once said: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” As NOMAR owner Kate Mitchell tells us in “Women’s Work”:  “I slowly discovered how much I enjoyed the business of creating usable things and being part of a community.”

Yesterday, I thoroughly annoyed a younger colleague by telling her that when that global electromagnetic pulse destroys all electronic communication on earth, she and her friends will be looking to me and my brother’s old slide rule for guidance. If you’ve got a slide rule of your own for business–I’d like to hear your story.

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