It’s black Friday today, and I was somehow reminded of Ron Popeil, of Chop-o-Matic fame, inventor of many well-known household products. He has sold more than a billion dollars worth of rotisseries. I noticed that many of Popeil’s infomercials are available on YouTube, including this one featuring his food dehydrator:
Popeil, who was quite successful as an inventor, was equally impressive as a marketer. He explains his approach to inventing and marketing here.
Tonight it occurred to me that even though I saw Popeil’s commercials decades ago, I remembered much of Popeil’s shtick. I especially remember the audiences applauding on cue. It was somehow effective even though I knew that these people had been paid to applaud on cue. What I didn’t know was how the audience members were paid, and it was not with money, as you’ll read here. As you can read in the same article, Popeil is now getting ready to market what he characterizes as his final invention, a deep fryer.
I’ve repeatedly written about Geoffrey Miller based on the many provocative ideas presented in his earlier book, The Mating Mind. (e.g., see my earlier post, “Killer High Heels“). A gifted and entertaining writer, Miller is also an evolutionary psychologist. His forte is hauling his scientific theories out into the real world in order to persuade us that we didn’t really understand some of the things that seemed most familiar to us.
In his new book, Spent, Miller asks why we continuously buy all that stuff that we don’t really need? Miller’s answer is twofold. Yes, human animals have been physically and psychologically honed over the eons this to crave certain types of things over others to further their chances at survival and reproduction. That’s only half the answer, however. We must also consider “marketing,” which is
The most important invention of the past two millennia because it is the only revolution that has ever succeeded in bringing real economic power to the people. . . . it is the power to make our means of production transform the natural world into a playground for human passions.
Is the modern version of marketing a good thing or a bad thing? The answer is yes.
On the upside it promises a golden age in which social institutions and markets are systematically organized on the basis of strong purple research to maximize human happiness. What science did for perception, marketing promises to do for production: it tests intuition and insight against empirical fact area market research uses mostly the same empirical tools as experimental psychology, but with larger research budgets, better-defined questions, more representative samples of people, and more social impact.
Here is a July 2009 interview of Geoffrey Miller by Geraldyne Doogue of the Australian Broadcast Network:
Most of us are quite familiar with the downside of marketing. It encourages us to buy things we don’t really need. But marketing doesn’t merely clutter up our houses and garages; it corrupts our souls:
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood recently revamped its website. One of the new features includes a fact sheet that provides the following information regarding modern marketing aimed at children (with citations to primary sources): Marketing directly to children is a factor in the childhood obesity epidemic. Marketing also encourages eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth [...]
On June 7, 2008, I had the opportunity to discuss the commercialization of American children with Josh Golin, the Associate Director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
Josh’s two-part interview was sponsored by—no one. Isn’t this total lack of commercial sponsorship a pleasant change of pace?
People who warn about the commercialization of our children sound quaint or even shrill to most other Americans. After all, how could it possibly be a bad thing to buy lots and lots of things for our children, to “spoil” them?
As Josh indicates in this interview, there is now scientific data substantiating that buying children more things is harming them. More stuff (and the anticipation of yet more stuff) leads to a warped set of attitudes and priorities, as well as obesity and attention disorders.
I enjoy talking with Josh because he makes his case clearly and enthusiastically. You can see this for yourself by clicking on the two videos of his interview. What CCFC offers in place of a chokingly endless stream of products is common sense: children can thrive without owning the toys hawked by merchandisers. Instead of more toys, children need more creative play and more time developing real life relationships with other children and adults in their communities.
Part I – Interview of Josh Golin
We all know that American middle class children don’t need most of possessions they have (they are a lot like their parents in this regard). Because there is a limited number of hours in a child’s life, giving children more of what they don’t need leaves them with less time and energy for the sorts of things they do need, such as physical fitness, healthy relationships and creative play.
Today’s topic is high heeled shoes. Why do women wear the damned things, I sometimes wonder. Those women wobble around, they take longer to get from here to there, they often trip on small sidewalk imperfections, and they regularly fall and get hurt. I will confess: my gut reaction is that a woman’s IQ relates inversely [...]