Sunday, January 27, 2013

The power of assocation

As you may have assessed from the little ‘about’ section on the right of this page, I am a terrible saleswoman. And I’m not so sure I should want to improve on my marketing skills. I know masking self-doubt with contempt is a very lowly thing to do, and God knows I try not to, but… Well, would you look at that, it’s a ‘well-known personality’ making a ‘bold stand’ to stop over-fishing!

For a second there I thought it was a naked celebrity rubbing a dead squid – or something that looks like the remains of it – over her boobs in a slightly manic matter. Luckily Fishlove set me straight about the matter. Hahaaa! Silly old me! Why would anyone do such a thing? Health benefits? A silky soft skin with Octo-oil? Ridiculous indeed. Completely unsuited for the public eye. But ‘well-known personalities’ getting naked with dead fish to stop over-fishing… how did I not think of that? What better way to raise awareness among the public about the risks of over-exploitation, than warning for the alarming prospect that we soon may hardly have any fish (dead or alive) left to lovingly rub against our naked bodies! Unless we do something now, our children’s children may never have the life-enriching experience of getting intimate with the deceased creatures of the sea! We are on the verge of doom! Human civilisation is deteriorating as we speak! We must safe our beautiful tradition of fishlove!

Joking aside, necropisciphilia (read: sexual arousal to dead fish) is in fact so much of a non-tradition, that I apparently made it up. It isn’t even mentioned on the Wikipedia List of Paraphilias – and let me tell you, a fetish needs to be pretty obscure for it not to end up on there. In my experience many people don’t even like to approach fish near enough to be able to smell them, so it’s probably safe to assume that Lizzy Jagger is quite unusual in experiencing irrepressible tuna-rape cravings.

That said, what exactly were the people from the marketing department thinking when they came up with this campaign? Before anyone starts mumbling the obvious, I do know ‘sex sells’. Although I’m certainly no expert, it appears to me that advertisement messages usually contain a standard set of elements, together comprising an argument that has little to do with rational logic, yet still turns out effective due to the implementation of a manipulative force that I like to call ‘the power of association’. It goes something like this: 

Pssst, pssst… Hey you! 
Hey, I thought you may be a person looking for A? 
We don’t have A for sale, unfortunately. 
Wait a minute though, you should know that A goes with B! And you can go and buy B instead! Then you’ll surely get A too! No guarantees or anything. Correlation does not imply causation, especially when I arranged the correla…
Oh well, yada yada, look at me boring you with stuff you don’t want to hear!
Just remember A goes with B! 

See you in one of our stores!

Of course, in the above, B refers to a commodity, while A stands for one of those basic things that all human beings desire – like love, friendship, happiness, and of course sex, or anything that even just implies its possibility. We can see the power of association in action in Heineken’s Jillz commercial, which apparently tries to convince the beer-shunning woman that ordering (B) Jillz will somehow trigger (A) handsome men to show a sexual interest in her. Indeed, faced with a boy band-worthy bartender, she needs only to buy a bottle of ‘sparkling cider’ and he will suddenly take of his shirt to reveal his supposedly alluring abs and subsequently exclaim that her choice of drink is fresh, just like her. Why exactly this would happen is beyond anyone, but that’s no matter at all, since the human mind hardly ever requires an explanation for the stories it likes to believe in.

One thing that’s tricky about the power of association, is choosing the right A. Choose the wrong A, and you risk losing potential customers for B. For example, someone like me may be a little turned-off by men who feel the need to parade their eight-pack in the public arena and evaluate my ‘freshness’ based on my choice of drink in any manner devoid of irony. Not wishing to attract such men, I may choose to avoid ‘sparkling cider’ in fear of signalling the opposite. Or I may choose not to drink Jillz because I subconsciously feel negatively towards Heineken for belittling women’s intelligence with a commercial so unapologetically retarded. All of this due to the wrong A. I never really thought B was a bad idea in the first place, you know. Considering Jillz marketing narrative has been quite consistent over the years, it’s apparently successful. Amazingly. Somehow. But if the PR department does ever feel like taking a ‘fresh’ turn, I suggest a more straight-forward slogan. Something like: Jillz, it can’t taste worse than beer.

Anyhow, if the overwhelming amount of marketing campaigns implementing the sex-association points out anything, it’s that sex is a particularly effective A in general. So yes, it certainly sells. I’m just not entirely sure that ‘fishlove’ ever will. I’m thinking some A’s and B’s may not work together. Like fish. And sex. Together. Especially when it involves Ben Kingsley. Unless of course he’s trying to say he’s so worried about the fate of our oceans that he is actually willing to get in the nude and hug dead fish in front of a camera if that’s seriously the only thing that’s going to drill the urgency to stop over-fishing into people’s thick little heads. As in: “Hello world, you do understand that no one would actually do something like this, unless they believed it to be REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT?” 

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