Sunday, November 7, 2010

Selling to the Masses

Oh how we love to think we're smarter than the companies selling us our goods! Whether we do this out of some deep-seated iconoclastic beliefs or simply because we feel intellectually superior is not the point. We simply don't like to believe that we're falling for the advertising. Sadly (or happily, depending on your views), this may not be all that true. As I was reading an article on motherjones.com, I was led to another article on wired.com about the same subject.

To summarize, there was a taste test held by two researchers, Samuel McClure and Read Montague. The results of their tests showed that when Pepsi and Coke were drunk from unmarked bottles, brain patterns showed no distinction between the two. When the bottles were labeled, people almost always chose the soda in the Coke bottle, regardless of what soda ACTUALLY was in the bottle. Draw whatever conclusions you want from this test, but the one that is most startlingly clear to me is that Coke has done a very, very good job advertising. It is after all "the most widely recognized consumer product in the world," as the wired.com article claims.

A personal favorite example of mine involved Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. PBR has become the emblematic beer for our hipster generation. It's cheap, kind of shitty tasting (but not too much so!), and has been praised by the likes of Dennis Hopper (Heineken! Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!). But there's more to the story than meets the eye. In the early 2000's PBR rose from the dead on the taste-buds of 20 year olds. Why? They cut back on advertising, put their beer in cult movies, and they have user submitted photography on their website mostly featuring hipsters and their beer. None of this is on accident. So, the next time your good buddy goes around wearing a crushed PBR can around his neck, declaring his rebelliousness to the world, remind him that it took a very clever marketing guru to get him to do that.

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