I regularly hear folks rant and rage about an insidious evil that has permeated modern culture, a huge and unstoppable force bent on undermining the willpower of innocent people in order to feed its own bald-faced greed.
The heinous enemy of the people I’m speaking of? “Marketing.” According to the simple summary, marketing tells whatever lies it has to tell to get people to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need. Marketing is a branch of The Corporation, staffed by soulless scumbags who shouldn’t be able to sleep at night because of their sins on humanity – and if they do sleep, they dream up new ways to take advantage of people.
That might be true for easy villains like tobacco and oil companies, but most marketing involves benign efforts to spread the word about a product. (And yes, sell the product.) And sometimes it’s better than benign: keep in mind that The Red Cross relies on marketing to encourage people to donate life-saving blood, platelets, and plasma. (Creepy Red Cross, using marketing to literally suck the blood from our veins. Shame on them.)
Yet now and then I encounter an ad that reminds me why people think of marketers as liars. Last night I heard a radio ad from CenturyLink, a Louisiana-based company that recently purchased Qwest here in the Northwest. The ad touted the usual attributes that make one broadband provider better than another, but the line that caught my attention was the reassurance that they were not just a big corporation. It included:
“…and because we’re locally-operated, you can count on…”
The line continued with a standard list of reasons to praise shopping locally, which demonstrated good market research because I know here in the PacNW care about such things.
“Locally-operated.” Think about that phrase: unless you’re in the mail order business, what company isn’t locally operated? Starbucks is a locally-operated coffee shop; McDonald’s is a locally-operated restaurant; Chase is a locally-operated bank. The phrase means nothing, yet it provides an opportunity to include the word “local,” and because people don’t listen closely to radio ads, it might just leave them with the impression that CenturyLink is a local company, not the third-largest telecommunications company in America.
The ad didn’t lie – the company simply polished the copy to appeal to the local market and create a good image for itself. But it essentially used a very careful choice of words to give the impression that a lion is actually a kitten – because who doesn’t like kittens? That’s the duplicity that gets under the skin of the anti-marketers – the double-speak, the deception. And in this circumstance, I completely agree.
Tangent: While looking for info on the company, I ran across this blog post from Daughter Number Three, which makes an interesting point about CenturyLink’s use of Slinky™ toys in their print and video ads, and whether a 70-year-old toy is the best mascot for technological advancement. Good point, and a good, quick read.