Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the marketing of anti-life

apologies, all, for the gaping hole left in the blogosphere by the absence of monica-generated drivel over the last couple of weeks. i was officially on vacation... or, as i like to think of it ... the "anti-life." that's because the type of vacation i typically select, when given a choice, is the kind that involves basting in a delicious broth of one's own juices combined with SPF30 (anything over 30 is marketing) and the last dribbles of that umbrella drink that never quite made it to its proper and final destination.

i've been going to negril beach, located on the western tip of jamaica, for roughly the last 2 decades, because it provides a highly enjoyable and consistent brand experience which is mostly about that anti-life. the anti-life is, by definition, the opposite of real life (meaning my life, for the most part). for example, in real life, one generally must be prompt -- but in jamaica, everything runs on "jamaica time," which is anywhere between 5 minutes and 45 minutes late, and if you're on time for something, you look (and feel) silly. in real life, one generally only sings in public if one is either a performer, or silly enough to think that s/he is as good as a performer. but in jamaica, everybody sings, pretty much about everything, and they don't seem to care whether anyone's listening (and somehow, even non-performer jamaicans sound much better than non-perfomer americans, though i've never been able to figure out why this is so). and in real life, one finds it generally most productive to be awake during the day and asleep at night ... but in jamaica this portion of the time-space continuum is stood on its beautifully tanned head, and the place doesn't even really get going until midnight or so.

when i first started vacationing there, they didn't have either telephones or tv sets in the rooms (remember, it was 1989 and the internet was not even a twinkle in al gore's eye) and that was just fine by me, since, in real life, i was on the phone and paying attention to the television pretty much all day. a mcpaper cost $5 (and that was before they were doing the special weekend editions). if you wanted to know something about what was going on in the u.s., the best way was to locate someone who'd just arrived and ask what the headlines were in the last day or so. like playing "telephone," the children's game, the news was not always told in the most accurate fashion ... but then again, when one has had enough umbrella drinks, sometimes one is willing to make allowances for that.

but i thought (and still think) the oddest thing is that, rather than marketing all this as "anti-life," which was the whole reason i -- and others, too, i think -- were going there, they were busy trying to promote the experience for its "real life" qualities... the great beachfront, the great food, the great hotel amenities, etc. and there's no doubt those things were (and are) great .... but the truth is, those things are pretty much the same in ANY vacation place. my point -- and i do have one, trust me -- is that the things which were truly the best and most meaningful differentiators of the experience were ignored in favor of some things that were not really differentiators at all. i hate to admit i'd ever pay more for anything, but truth is, if they'd proclaimed something like: "come to jamaica, where you'll never hear a ringing telephone," i would have been inclined to spend twice the money to go there.

remember jolt cola? as i recall, this product evolved in the mid-80s at a time when diet and caffeine-free drinks were all the rage. rather than take on coke and pepsi, wet planet beverages brought out jolt with 2x the caffeine and 2x the sugar of regular soda -- and charged more for it!

net net: the best brands fight carefully on chosen turf. they don't necessarily seek to appeal to everyone -- in fact, it's hard to be a strong brand with a large, diffuse target because you end up trying to be everything to everybody.... which means, in the end, you're often nothing to nobody. if what you're marketing is, in some ways, inferior to your competitors, you're better off figuring out how those shortcomings might be turned into unique advantages vs. attempting to come-from-behind in the areas where others are already ahead.

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