Monday, September 17, 2007

Advertising Genius

Warning to strict-interpreters of this blog's title: the following post has nothing to do with Annapolis or Politics.

I am fascinated by good advertising, but not the kind would be typically studied in business schools. Every once in a while, I find myself thinking "this is the most ridiculous product I have ever seen, and the person who invented it is an evil genius."

So, here is my list of the top 5 greatest marketing feats in the history of ever, listed in reverse order for added drama.

#5. Pet Rock
This, folks, is a classic. I am actually too young to know exactly how pet rocks came about, but if it involves anything resembling people paying for common roadside debris--and I'm pretty sure it does--than the marketing is genius. I do know that my grandfather had the coolest looking machine that I have ever seen for the precise purpose of polishing rocks, which suggests that pet rocks spun off even more incredible supporting industries. Where do we go from here: Pet leaves. Patent pending.

#4. Bottled Water
Before, you just drank water. If you thought it tasted a little funny, you boiled it, then waited a little bit, then drank it. I just looked at the freekin' Wikipedia page for bottled water, and look at all this crap:

Artesian Water - This type of water that originates from a confined aquifer that has been tapped. The distinguishing feature of water from an artesian aquifer is that it flows from the tap due to gravity; the subterranian water level is at a height greater than that of the location of the tap.

Fluoridated Water - This type of water contains fluoride added within the limitations established in the FDA Code of Federal Regulations. This category includes water classified as "For Infants" or "Nursery."

Ground Water - This type of water is from an underground source that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure.

Mineral Water - This type of water contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS). It comes from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or spring, and originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.

Purified water - This type of water has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as "demineralized water." It meets the definition of "purified water" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Sparkling Water - This type of water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. The carbon dioxide may be removed and replenished after treatment.

Spring Water - This type of water comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth's surface.

Sterile Water - This type of water meets the requirements under "sterility tests" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Well Water - This type of water is taken from a well.

There are marketing geniuses out there who are paid to convince us that bottled water is more 'watery' than regular water. And we believe it--to the tune of $11 billion per year. Where do we go from here? Canned air. What? We already have that??!!!

#3. Diamonds
Diamonds--what a great story. The De Beers Company basically conglomerated 90% of all diamond mines in the world, the used their monopoly power to keep diamond prices ridiculously high by controlling the supply. And that's not even the best part! Some advertising phenom came up with the idea that a diamond is the only appropriate engagement ring, and that 2 months' salary was the appropriate amount to spend. Think about that! You can either put a down payment on a house, which allows you to create real wealth by owning a home, or you can make your future wife slightly happier than she otherwise would have been by giving her a luxury asset that creates no return on investment. Looks like we're renting for another year! Where do we go from here: Pet Rock engagement rings.

#2. Greeting Cards
Here is the business plan for greeting cards:

Step 1: Hype up every legitimate and less legitimate holiday, birthday, event, occasion, or other. Also, hype up every-day occurrences such as "just thinking about you" and "for being a great friend".

Step 2: Think of something that anybody else could think of and write it on a piece of paper.

Step 3: Make lazy, uncreative people come to your store and pay you for things they already know how to say.

Step 4: Smoke cigars poolside in the Caribbean while fanning yourself with $100 bills.

Where to we go from here: voting by greeting card. Fall of the human race.

#1. Cranberry Juice
Whoever was in charge of marketing cranberry juice should go in the Hall of Fame for Awesomeness. I challenge you to walk through the juice aisle in a grocery store and find a juice that has not been bullied and pushed around by cranberry juice. It's everywhere, and its influence is impressive. You've got cranberry, cranberry light, cran-apple, cran-mango, white cranberry, cran-grape--my head is spinning! Absolutely incredible. Cranberries don't even taste that good. Where we go from here: cran-tomato.

Where I go from here: to bed.

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