Have you heard about Chrysler's latest advertising gimmick? They are now offering a $2.99-a-gallon gas guarantee for purchasers of new Chrysler vehicles. This guarantee lasts for three years, and though I checked out the fine print, I couldn't find any catches or hidden fees. It's pretty straightforward: for the next three years, no matter how high fuel prices rocket, you're guaranteed "cheap" fuel. The only limitation is a reasonable 12,000 miles per year maximum.
This promotion got my attention. How much money, I wondered, will be saved by the average guy who takes advantage of this offer? A little math revealed that at 28 MPG and $4.00 per gallon gas, the savings will amount to approximately $450 a year. Definitely nice pocket change, but is this promotion a bigger money saver than other ongoing promotions, such as lower APR or cash-back incentives? (According to the program's fine print: "This program is an alternative to traditional incentive programs. Consumers who select this offer will not be eligible for the traditional consumer/lease cash, sub-vented APR rates...")
Maybe not. But we are currently understandably obsessed with gas prices; for many of us, stopping at the gas station for a refill puts us at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. As such, three years of fixed gas prices is a calming and reassuring thought. It matters not that other available incentives might actually save us more money. $2500 cash-back doesn't sound nearly as alluring as $2.99 gas...
To me this is an example of brilliant marketing. It's based on the recognition that, for the most part, what drives people isn't logic and mathematical equations, but certain underlying -- and often subconscious -- fears and aspirations. If advertising was predicated on persuasive logic, marketers would consult with a group of PhD's. But it isn't. Hence the enlistment of focus groups in the interest of creating successful ad campaigns.
This theory is also successfully employed during political campaigns -- all too often for negative campaigning. Instead of arguing policy, candidates merely associate their opponent with an entrenched societal fear. This practice continues, despite universal condemnation and revulsion, and despite every candidate's assurance that he/she will not "stoop" to such levels. Because it works...
Perhaps one of the first instances of such negative advertising is recorded in the Torah in the Book of Numbers. The Israelites sent scouts to Canaan to reconnoiter the land in preparation for its conquest.
The spies returned and reported: "The people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant. And the Amalekites dwell in the south..."
Amalekites? How did they make their way into the report? Their land was not scheduled for Israelite invasion. The biblical commentator Rashi explains that this was a red herring: "Since they had already been 'burnt' by Amalek, the spies mentioned it in order to frighten them." Logically it would have been difficult to argue that even the strongest of humans could prevent the divinely-assisted Israelites from conquering the Holy Land. So instead, evoke traumatic memories of a nation that had brazenly attacked the Israelites years earlier. Unfortunately, it worked: "The entire community raised their voices and shouted, and the people wept on that night..."
Specific strategies aside, the idea of marketing itself is quite remarkable. It's predicated on the reality that merchandise -- no matter its quality or usefulness -- does not sell itself, and certainly not en masse. An important lesson to us all, because to a certain degree we are all marketers. We wish to market ethics and values to our children and acquaintances, and as Jews, we wish to influence fellow Jews to "buy into" a life enriched by the teachings of the Torah.
So we must all be salespeople. Doing so requires us to search out the emotional needs and fears of our prospective clients. Logical debates rarely does the job. Have you ever purchased an item because the salesperson argued you into the sale? Understand what the person craves and needs and develop your sales pitch accordingly.
And the deepest desire and need of every Jew is to connect with G‑d. So how does this marketing line sound?
"G‑d loves you and desires a relationship with you. His 'pick-up line' was delivered some 3,000 years ago -- it is the Torah. He has 613 open lines, and He's waiting for your call anytime of the day or night."