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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Fighting Creative Destruction

What do you do if your product is obsolete and demand is shifting rapidly leftward?  The paper industry has a problem: digitization and environmental concerns.  To prevent further declines, the brand of paper our department uses has created a clever slogan (see the picture) — “Because it’s easier to learn on paper.”  I wonder what other examples there are of businesses using the market to maintain the demand for a product that is being displaced by technological change (as opposed to obtaining government protection, the usual route in these instances)?

The Marketing of Dogfish

In New England, cod and haddock are overfished and, according to WBUR, fishermen and restaurant owners are seeking cheaper and more plentiful fish like dogfish. Fish wholesalers are therefore working to promote the dogfish’s image. According to WBUR, dogfish is already used in cafeterias at some local universities and hospitals — and local lawmakers are now pushing the federal government to help by buying dogfish for prisons and military rations. What genius marketing: “Dogfish: Tasty enough for schools, hospitals, C rations, and even prisons.”

If Your Parents Drove a Ford, Do You?

Most adults have vivid memories of the cars of their childhoods — the wood-paneled station wagons (with backwards-facing rear seats, no less) or the boxy minivans in which they were driven to school or church.  But how much do those memories affect people’s car-buying decisions in adulthood?  That’s the question asked in a new paper (draft PDF; abstract) by Soren T. Anderson, Ryan Kellogg, Ashley Langer, and James M. Sallee:

We document a strong correlation in the brand of automobile chosen by parents and their adult children, using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. This correlation could represent transmission of brand preferences across generations, or it could result from correlation in family characteristics that determine brand choice. We present a variety of empirical specifications that lend support to the former interpretation and to a mechanism that relies at least in part on state dependence. We then discuss implications of intergenerational brand preference transmission for automakers’ product-line strategies and for the strategic pricing of vehicles to different age groups.

Martin Lindstrom Answers Your Questions on Brandwashed

Last week we solicited your questions for Martin Lindstrom, a marketing consultant and author of the new book Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

Now, Lindstrom, returns with his answers to a few of them. As always thanks for every one who participated.


Q One more question occurred to me: Marketing is intended to persuade us to buy products, but it also serves another latent function which is to educate us about new products, about differences between products, or about the products themselves. Given this educational benefit, among other benefits, do you think marketing is a net good or a net bad for society on the whole? – NZ

Bring Your Questions for Brandwashed Author Martin Lindstrom

Though the exact percentage is debatable, the fact is that the vast majority of U.S. GDP is made up of personal consumption. The American consumer doesn’t just drive the U.S. economy, for decades he’s been driving the global one as well. Though that dynamic is slowly changing as Americans cut back on just about everything we buy, for the better part of the last 60 years, the U.S. consumer has been king. And from this has sprung a massive marketing and advertising industry coldly focused on a singular goal: getting us to buy as much stuff as they possibly can.

In his new book Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom trains a bright light on his own industry to uncover all the unsavory things that marketers do to subtly, or not so subtly, influence our buying habits. Lindstrom’s agreed to answer your questions, so fire away in the comments section. As always, we’ll post his replies in due course.

What if They'd Just Called it the iPhone 5?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’re probably aware that Apple unveiled a new iPhone yesterday. At what turned out to be a relatively muted Apple product launch, it was new CEO Tim Cook‘s first chance at replacing Steve Jobs as product pitchman. It seems he did just fine.
The new iPhone is loaded with cool new features that the market was anticipating, with one exception: it’s not called the iPhone 5, it’s called the iPhone 4S.
By the time it became obvious that Cook wasn’t going to introduce anything called an iPhone 5, (about 1:50 pm EST yesterday), the stock price began to plummet pretty quickly, as you can see in the chart below. From 12:15 pm to 3:15 pm, the price dropped more than 6%. Also, note the spike in volume at the bottom.

A Subway Ride to the Past — Compliments of Nucky Thompson

This past weekend, I was waiting for the subway when an old, 1920s-era train pulled to a stop on the express line. My first thought was that it was one of those worker trains you sometimes see (especially on weekends) that ferry MTA crews along the line as they make repairs. But passengers were getting on. Guys in MTA gear hauled open the manually sliding doors and did an old-fashioned call-out: Downtown express train. Next stop 72nd Street. Getting on seemed the obvious thing to do. It helped that neither I nor my wife had seen the news that HBO paid the MTA $150,000 to run a 1920s-era vintage subway train up and down the express line, as a way to promote the second season of Boardwalk Empire.
So the effect was as they’d intended: stupefaction, followed by slow realization, followed by total bemused wonderment. It felt like being at an amusement park. I was amazed at how fast it went, how comfortable the seats were (compared to the current plastic ones), and how loud it was with the windows down. Here’s a video:

How Disney Does It

My son visited the Walt Disney World complex in Florida and pointed out the methods used to spread demand temporally. Coupons for 30 percent discounts on restaurant food purchased before noon or between 3PM and 4:30PM are available. Merchandise coupons for 20 percent discounts are given for use between 9AM and noon. Both coupons are offered to shift demand rightward at non-peak times.

Saving the Rain Forest One Glass of Orange Juice at a Time

I was drinking Tropicana orange juice this morning. They’ve got a clever marketing campaign. If you go to their website and type in the code on the Tropicana carton, they will set aside 100 square feet of Rain Forest to preserve on your behalf.

The Great Giveback

Whatever we end up calling this recession/depression, I think we can safely name one small part of it: The Great Giveback. There seems to be a rebate fever among firms trying hard to keep their customers happy, or keep their customers at all. JetBlue just announced it will give full ticket refunds to customers who lose their jobs. A few . . .

Judging Book Covers

The Book Design Review has released its picks for the best-designed book covers of 2008. We’re a little disappointed not to see any economics books on the list. In the category of excellent cover design for an economics book, we’d like to nominate Robert Shiller‘s The Subprime Solution, Michael Heller‘s The Gridlock Economy, and Loretta Napoleoni‘s Rogue Economics. Any other . . .

Does the New iPhone Have Dumping Its GPS Stock?

Mere hours after Apple’s announcement of a new GPS-enabled iPhone, I received this e-mail from Is this in response to the new iPhone? Wouldn’t surprise me. never ceases to amaze me in its responsiveness, flexibility, and willingness to try new things — even if a lot of them fail. Experimentation is so cheap on the web that it’s . . .

The Perils of Free Coffee

As prices go, “free” is an interesting one. Dan Ariely plays with the idea in his book Predictably Irrational, as does Seth Godin — and Chris Andersen has gone so far as to suggest that “$0.00 is the Future of Business.” There are, of course, a lot of different kinds of “free.” Giving away a free razor or a free . . .

FREAK-TV: What Your Band’s 8″-By-10″ Glossy Says About You

Video My first job in journalism was as an editorial assistant at New York magazine, writing up the back-of-the-book culture listings. This meant that I received a lot of promotional mailings from movie studios, PR firms, etc. I was consistently surprised by the 8-by-10 promo pictures sent out for young female classical musicians: they were invariably all sexed-up, as if . . .

Environmentalism Run Amok

An e-mail just turned up in my in-box. It was clearly selling something, and the text ended with the following thoughtful note: Please consider the environment — do you really need to print this e-mail? And what, you ask, was the e-mail selling? Private jet travel. Like the man said: please consider the environment.

Organic Beef Jerky?

I saw some “organic beef jerky” at the grocery store today. Are there actually people who eat beef jerky who care whether it is organic? Next up we’ll have organic chewing tobacco and organic Pringles.

A New Prediction Market for the Masses

For those of you who love prediction markets (a variety of which we’ve written about in the past), there’s a new site that looks to be as vast, inclusive, and user-friendly as anything I’ve seen: Predictify. You can wager on standing bets (who will be the Yankees’ next manager, e.g.) or “tap collective wisdom” (I hope they’re paying Jim Surowiecki . . .

An Earthquake Hits Amazon’s Sales Ranking

Anyone who’s ever written a book — and these days, who hasn’t? — can tell you that watching your sales rank on can be a pretty fun sport. But something happened recently that made it a lot more fun for some people, and a lot less fun for others. I noticed the change the other day when I checked . . .

Is OpenID the Solution to Online Identity Theft?

In March, Dubner and Levitt tackled the realities of identity theft. Now, with phishing scams getting ever cleverer, state government databases leaving sensitive private information accessible to the world, and identity thieves expanding their schemes into Web giants like Facebook, it’s worth asking: how will the problem of identity theft be solved? Technology innovators have been plugging away, of course, . . .

Advice for a Chronically Late Adopter?

I’m a notoriously late adopter of technologies. It is not a conscious decision, and I don’t take any pride in it. I just do not have enough imagination to figure out ahead of time how much I will like things once I actually have them. E-mail is a good example. I couldn’t see how e-mail would be of much use . . .

Should Apple Burn Its Economics Textbooks?

If you ask an economist how to price a new product that is just being introduced, the response you will get is that you should charge a very high price at first and then steadily reduce that price over time. There are two reasons for doing this. First, it generally gets cheaper to produce things over time, so it makes . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Starbucks to take Russia by storm. Now in Travelodge rooms: the Bible and Alastair Campbell’s memoir. (Hat tip: MR.) Clothes beat computers in online sales. Medical Hypotheses journal trapped in the Dark Ages?

Is Vodka Different?

Why do brands of whiskey, rum, and gin stay constant, while new vodkas spring up like weeds? Dubner offers one explanation.

New York Parking Gets Pricier (for Cars) and, Temporarily, Cheaper (for Vespas)

I blogged a while back about parking spaces in New York City, wondering why there aren’t more spaces for sale rather than for lease. An article in yesterday’s New York Times reveals that more new buildings are indeed selling a few parking spaces, including one building in Chelsea whose five spots are selling for $225,000 apiece. This isn’t quite the . . .

Intelligent Errors Are Totally Book

Pardon this brief interruption of contest fever (see three previous entries) but … Here’s a nice observation written by Nicole Tourtelot, who toils away here in the Freakonomics office (maintaining this Web site, fulfilling bookplate requests, etc.): Dubner posted recently about intentionally misspelled domain names, such as, that aim to grab clumsy typists and/or poor spellers. The idea that . . .

Do Book Ads Work?

Book publishing is rife with conventional wisdoms that are vigorously doubted but seldom overturned. That’s partly because book data is treated like some kind of family secret. This is changing a little bit with the recent advent of Bookscan, a subscriber service that provides industry-wide sales figures; in the past, publishers and bookstores and distributors did not feel compelled to . . .