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01 April 2005

Marketing 101

During my final year of college, I had an internship with a group called Hi Frequency Marketing. Hi Frequency "specializes in developing and executing unique and edgy marketing campaigns that utilize under-the-radar approaches, including our street team, online e-teams, guerrilla-style publicity and other methods of connecting directly with today’s media-savvy consumer."

One of my projects was working for a then-unknown Canadian songstress named Avril Lavigne. Hi Frequency came up with an ingenious, if not dishonest, backdoor approach to launch Lavigne’s career. Using guerrilla-style e-teams, Hi Frequency sent marketing reps like myself into chat rooms and onto message boards, where we would casually namedrop Avril Lavigne and her music. We acted as if we had just heard of this great new musical act, and casually suggested that others check her out. Hi Frequency also steered its reps to create dozens of fan Web sites. Of course, these sites weren’t constructed by fans at all, but rather by Web savvy marketing interns. But these "fan sites" made sure that anyone searching for Avril Lavigne would find her.

Exactly how much of her career Lavigne owes to this subtle marketing blitz is probably impossible to say. But word of mouth works far better than any commercial you see on television. When you tell a friend about a good experience that you have had with a product or service, that friend is a lot more likely to use that product or service based on your recommendation. Television, radio and glossy magazine ads have tremendous power. But they don’t have as much power as word of mouth. So it’s not inconceivable that a deceptive word of mouth campaign like this one had an enormous impact on getting Lavigne into both the marketplace and mainstream pop culture.

This type of marketing isn't new at all, nor is it uncommon. I saw a report on the news several months ago (back when I used to watch the news occasionally) about people being paid to go into bars and coffee shops to play a new gaming system. If the marketing plant could casually convince a bystander to play the system for a few moments, then success had been achieved.

This is the advertising and marketing of the future. That’s not to say that television spots or Web ads are going to disappear. Not at all. Direct advertising works. As long as it continues to work, you’ll continue to see it. But you can also expect to see advertising and marketing take a more creative approach to brainwashing you to purchase its products. And by see it, I mean you won't see it. It will be there. But, if the advertisers and market gurus have done their job, you won't know it at all.

Take product placement. Just this week McDonald’s announced that it will pay rappers $5 for each time they use the word Big Mac in a song. Fox has long been placing sponsor products on its television shows. Count all the Ford vehicles the next time you watch an episode of 24. Watch for 20-oz bottles of Coke casually sitting around the next time you watch American Idol. You often consciously don’t notice these things. But your brain does. And your brain will remind you the next time you get hungry or thirsty, or the next time you get car fever.

What’s also interesting is how people have started prostituting themselves on eBay. You’ve undoubtedly heard about a couple of people being paid to have product branding tattooed on their bodies. But the ante has been upped. Recently, a woman in Knoxville placed a bid on eBay to have the auction winner change her name. So Terri’s new name is now that of a Las Vegas casino. Sadly, she only got a little over $15,000 out of the deal, which doesn’t seem like a lot to have to go through the hassle of changing your identity and explaining in your next job interview why your name is Golden Palace Casino. Maybe she’ll get a book deal.

Comments on "Marketing 101"


Blogger Gretchen Ross said ... (4/01/2005 04:43:00 PM) : 

Wow...Avril, eh? She is my little nieces idol. So I guess you were worth what they paid you! :)

There is something so sick and almost evil about the work you just described. But thank you for whistleblowing. You are really going to dig "The Corporation" when you see it...it's all about this kind of thing.

People being hired and paid, for example, to stand around in grocery stores and walk up beside you as if they are a shopper, pick out a specific product and pretend to be really interested about it, talking to your "partner" (co-worker who is with you) about how good it tastes and that you really like it, speaking loud enough so that anyone within ear shot can hear the advertisement disguised as real fucking life!

Ever walk through a busy street and see a couple people with a discman or Ipod or whatever its called these days, and as you pass by you might over hear them mention a band name and an album? Chances are, it was a marketed gimick, but you'd never know because the people are dressed up just like you and me.

This shit is EVERYWHERE, I mean everywhere, its everywhere you go and in more places then you think.


Anonymous zalm said ... (4/01/2005 05:56:00 PM) : 

interesting story, kevin.

but suddenly, the mp3blog doesn't seem so pure... ;)


Blogger Gretchen Ross said ... (4/01/2005 10:01:00 PM) : 

LOL zam :) Kevin you're not selling us Mp3s are you? j/k

Oh btw, very, verrrrrrry weird coincidence tonight. See above where I posted Avril is my nieces idol? Tonight, she phones me (she's four) and tells me she is finally going to get to see Avril in concert! Weird...


Blogger Wasp Jerky said ... (4/04/2005 06:14:00 PM) : 

Nah. The MP3 blog is pure, when I get around to updating it. The only disclosure I need to make is that the lead singer of Mustard was my wife's uncle. I've interviewed some of the bands on there, and reviewed some of the bands' CDs. But I'm not on the payroll or anything. :)


Anonymous Lynn said ... (7/14/2011 01:11:00 PM) : 

Hi THere! I was a Hi-Frequency intern marketing rep that worked on the Avril campaign too. I've been reminiscing about those days and tried to see if Hi Frequency still existed. Doesn't seem like it. What type of work are you doing now?


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