When Marketing Attacks, or How to Sell Shamelessly

I have a rocky relationship with marketing.

I love and hate being a consumer, playing with new, high-tech toys that allow me to express myself, yet also draw me further inward, away from the natural world and other human beings face to face. I love and hate the way materialism and youth are valued, idolized, over contentness, making use with what you have, and loving the things that make you different from everyone else. How we seek instant gratification, rather than hard work and just rewards. I love and hate so thoroughly trying to understand people, getting inside their heads, only to then exploit their weaknesses, insecurities, and wants, telling them that your product is the holy grail; the answer to all of their problems.

I hate the power money has over everyone and everything, but I accept it and try to look at the bright side.

It’s not black and white, but let’s be real here: however fun it can be at times, we live in a culture of want. It’s just the way it is.

Sometimes the best way to live with it is to look away and think of other things. Like which new smart phone I’ll get when my contract expires soon. But other times, you come across trends that you can’t ignore. You try and you try to pass over it, or laugh it off, but it just won’t work.

BTW, support Allie's blog. She is hilarious.
BTW, support Allie’s blog. She is hilarious.

 

So what’s worse: being phony upfront, or lying to your face? And how about when you can tell that it’s a lie?

Christmas showing up early in stores annoys me. Not because I have something against the holiday or anyone who wants to keep the spirit of the season in their hearts all or part year round, but because it’s so obviously a marketing gimmick. A lie.

“Spend money now!” the retailers shout out with glee. “You can never start too early!”

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Ever heard of the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness”? Or that Christmas is (at least meant to be) about peace, joy, giving, and goodwill towards men? Lining stores with decorations isn’t meant for the benefit, or happiness, of people. It’s hoping to trick them out of a couple of extra bucks, using something they love or are obligated to celebrate. And how about those people who don’t celebrate, now forced to endure the holiday months before it even gets here?

This is as blatant as “sneaky tactics” get.

The music and decorations displays speak to your brain, trying to set you in a mood. Thankfully, if only through shear repetition and irritation, some folks are catching on and tuning out.

I guess there isn’t much wrong with that in our capitalist society, but Christmas stuff out as early as August this year? For shame, you Sam’s Clubs of the world!

I know our economy is still in the crapper, but why couldn’t we stick to marketing Christmas beginning on Halloween night? That was…tolerable, at least.

Poor Thanksgiving. It’s a nice holiday, but only really valuable to those who sell turkey, gravy, and potatoes. And food goes bad, so it can’t sit on shelves for months and months.

On a similar note, I’m getting irritated with how many movies these days, sagas or not, are being turned into multiple-parters. To me, that’s just as blatantly a money grab; almost identical in its deceptive charms.

With Harry Potter, the idea made some sense; book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is jammed-packed. Could we argue that it wasn’t necessary? Sure, but we could also argue that the book turned two movies split the content up nicely. Deathly Hallows Part 1 was running and exposition, setting the stage and displaying the passage of time as they meander about looking for clues, while Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the action-packed climax. The tactic may not have been completely innocent, yes, but it served a purpose to a good, acceptably long series. And there are some arguments for artistic merit in this splitting process, after all.

But now, I can’t help but think that if Harry Potter was just coming out today, every book would get at least two parts. Because there is so much to tell!

Twilight: Breaking Dawn? Marshmallow fluff. The Hobbit? Fluff-apolooza. And now, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay? FLUFF! FLUFF AND NONSENSE, I SAY!

And it’s a safe bet that Not Hunger Games (a.k.a Divergent) will be getting this treatment in the future.

Here’s the thing: no one really uses the 2-3 parting of movies to add more content that might have been cut out from the original source material (The Hobbit doesn’t count because the appendices of LOTR and The Silmarillion have little to do with the original hobbit story, and were each written many years afterward). Did The Deathly Hallows films bring up Peeves, or Hermione’s little S.P.E.W. project? No. They kept in all that was needed to carry the plot. We saw other ghosts in the films who affected things, and learned enough about Hermione’s character to know that she is smart, resourceful, and compassionate.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, on the other hand, was full of padding; dragging out every single minute with repetitious scenes and drama that, like the next and final segment, was rendered completely pointless by the end. Perhaps more faithful to the book, but equally, if not more so, lacking in substance.

Whether you’re adding in things that don’t need to be there, or stretching out concepts to fit a movie with a ridiculous run time, you’re padding it. Too much of that, and it’ll fall over and be stuck. Or stretch it to its breaking point.

Marketing serves a purpose and has benefits for makers, marketers, and audiences. This is true. But this process isn’t being done to bring people (book fans and general audience members alike) quantity and quality content. It’s not even really to keep a series from ending for just a wee bit longer. I see it as being blatantly, unashamedly about the money, whether it’s warranted or makes sense in the slightest.

And while that isn’t a shocking notion, and shouldn’t really bother me at this point, it does.

They are encouraging you to shop for Christmas over 100 days early. For things you won’t display for at least another month or two (if you’re sane). They want you to pay an extra 15 dollars to see the next part of the movie, rather than making one whole with an extended edition that comes out on DVD, and buy the food, merch, and hype that goes along with it.

At best, that’s annoying, and at worst, it’s insidious.

Movie-makers, if I could ask one thing of you this Christmas, it’s this: please worry about how to market your films last, and just focus on making/adapting good stories. Trust me, you’ll still make a ton of money. And marketing gurus, I wish for you to stop with the splitting of movies into parts to drag out the franchise. Endings are inevitable, and sometimes it’s better to kill off your series while you’re riding high.

Money doesn’t have to be everything.

*As usual, the video and images don’t belong to me. “Clean all the things!” is from Hyperbole and A Half, a damn good blog. 

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