This Old Pledge Week

It’s pledge week for both my local public television stations. And frankly, it’s annoying on many levels.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like public TV. I watch both these channels quite a bit. But here’s the problem.

The shows that they air during “pledge week” are REALLY hard to find on the station during the rest of the year. The rest of the year I have to scan for something good between British non-humour and watching zebras mate. But, for now, every show is really good except when they interrupt it with pleas for money a.k.a. “gifts”.

Ahhh, but they really aren’t gifts. People are buying the CD with their $20 gift. Or you could buy the DVD with your $50 gift. Or you can get the CD, the DVD, and the limited edition hardcover commemorative book with the fold out sleeve and a compass in the stock for your $100 gift.

In reality, these gifts make the station blind to their own ruse. They see the $100 pledges come in and can promote the “fact” that people in the community support public TV. No. People in the community want to buy $100 CDs.

But what annoys me more than anything are the blatant lies. “Only you can keep this type of music on public television”…..”You’re helping to keep Elvis’ music alive with your pledge”….”You’re supporting this traditional gospel music with your donation.”

You’re not supporting anything. You’re giving money to the station who probably won’t broadcast anything like what you’re watching until the next time they need money. And I guess they do need the money. But it’s another example of a business achieving short term gains while killing their long term prospects.

What about the politically conservative little old lady who sent in 20 bucks because she wanted to “support” the gospel music of Bill Gaither? Next week, she’ll tune in and see a show that features things that are the polar opposite of her moral compass.. Or what about the die-hard Elvis fan who sent in 50 bucks to keep rock-n-roll alive (and to get the CD) and tunes in next week only to find musical choices that are anything but rock-n-roll? Are the people you’re tricking this week going to stick with you the rest of the year? Or will they be back next year?

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a tirade against public TV. It’s a tirade against ANY business (your business?) that lies/fudges/puts on a show this week to trick someone into a sale….and then scratches their head next week when their core customer base shrinks.

Are you putting on theatre this week? Are you now offering specials that are REALLY going to be hard to find the rest of the year? Do you think your business model is a success just because people are giving you money…or are they really just trying to get a “gift” that has nothing to do with your business?

Are you killing your own customer base?

Marketing Lessons from PBS

One of my core philosophies that I try to carry over in all my speaking, writing, and consulting is the idea of “non-establishment marketing”. There are too many agencies and gurus who enjoy using buzzwords and wasting money rather than actually marketing. In my “non-establishment” mindset, I try to make marketing simplistic so that anybody who doesn’t know what branding, cume, CPM, or even ROI means…can understand marketing principles.

But I’m a marketer…so I sometimes get caught up in the marketing lingo and “stuff everybody knows” as well. So I was fascinated by a report called “The Persuaders” on Frontline last night on PBS. The program took on the world of advertising/marketing from a truly 3rd person point of view. It was interesting to see the world of marketing dissected by an independent source who didn’t have pre-conceived notions about marketing. You can watch the entire program or read the transcript on the PBS site.

My favorite portion of the program was when a market researcher was asking a subject what emotions he felt while eating white bread. Here’s the interview transcript I copied from PBS….

INTERVIEWER: I’m going to read you some different emotions. I’ve got a whole list of them here. For each one of them, I just want you to tell me yes or no as to whether you think you feel that emotion when you’re eating white bread, OK? The first one is accepting. Do you feel accepting when you’re eating white bread?

INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, I would say yes.

INTERVIEWER: Affectionate?

INTERVIEWEE: No.

INTERVIEWER: Lonely?

INTERVIEWEE: No.

INTERVIEWER: Disappointed?

INTERVIEWEE: No.

INTERVIEWER: Afraid?

INTERVIEWEE: No.

INTERVIEWER: Trusting?

INTERVIEWEE: No, I don’t think that would be an issue.

INTERVIEWER: Would you feel uncertain?

INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, a little uncertain. I’ve got one question. Can I ask a question?The question was, “When you eat bread, do you feel lonely?” Have you found people that say, yes, they feel lonely when they’re eating bread?

INTERVIEWER: Not a lot on this one.

The look on the Interviewee’s face during the interview is priceless. He looks at the Interviewer as if to say…”I can’t believe you’re asking me such stupid questions”. This one example shows how truly absurd most marketing is.

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