Thursday, February 21, 2008

Why Do We Miss What's Bad for Us?

This year, I had to give up cheese burgers. I miss them, especially when I'm on the road. I travel across the country giving talks on the RenGen, and I've discovered that burgers can tell you a lot about a place. Does this town insist on fresh lettuce? With hot fries or cold chips? (Fries rule, okay.) Do they serve them with pride?

So many of us are letting go of bad habits these days, still others are acquiring them. I was interested to learn that Altria is taking more than 80 percent of its marketing dollars overseas to places like Turkey, where it's still cool to smoke.

Mind you, I don't judge smoking. I'm a reformed social smoker myself. But what I'll really miss is the exportation of Altria's brave, visionary sponsorship portfolio. They sponsored everything from BAM Next Festival to stock car racing, the latter proved fatal for both. It's crazy when people hate you and your product and your brand, but still buy your product--there is a tremendous freedom in that. It gives you the liberty to go out and take marketing risks that manufacturers of cotton swabs, let's say, would never take. Cotton swabs are jim dandy, people just don't crave them.

Consider also that scientists at the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center have learned that smokers have billions more of the receptors in areas of the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward. Altria's use of event sponsorship, which is far more sensorial than outdoor or print, helped reinforce their customers loyalties in more ways than one.

Do certain brands, products, experiences, even people have the power to seduce us and make us lonesome when they go?


The PowerHouse said...

Ideas also have the power to seduce us and yours have mesmerized me. You have caught my PINGing imagination.

In answer to your question, I would say yes. Things and those who have left do make us lonesome, a.k.a. nostalgic, and give birth to a new venue of interaction. Does the Ren Gen attachment to its past spring from nostalgia or a desire for roots?

Patricia Martin said...

Great question. I'd say the human need for roots or the feeling of attachment runs deeper than nostalgia. Roots define who we are in relation to others and connects us to all that has come before. I have a friend who moved to Rome for a year after finishing architecture school. He said it was the year in his life when he came to understand that we are all one, all connected. I think nostalgia makes us feel good about our own particular life experience. (I realize I sound a little like a sociologist, here, which is not my specialty.) Other opinions?

Alice said...

We were just talking about smoking last night, after seeing teenager after teenager outside their mall jobs, puffing away.

It's more well-documented than ever than smoking is totally bad for you. I think it's the flirting with badness itself that appeals to the human inquisitiveness. Maybe it goes something like, "Okay I have drawn the line at hard drugs, but I can smoke and flirt with the "bad boy"/renegade label and still be essentially, "a Good Kid?"

The pleasure receptors research is interesting. I wonder when that happens, or if it's not cause and effct but more happenstance...the way flossing and heart attacks are related, but not necessarily as a one-to-one.

Patricia Martin said...

I was struck by the pleasure receptor thing, too. I will never forget hearing a women from Philip Morris, now ALTRIA, talk about her consumer group at a sponsorship marketing conference. She managed the Merit brand. Okay,smoking is terrible, deadly, I get that. But never have I witnessed a more deep understanding of the customer.
It's no wonder tobbacco succeeded, they spent tons of time and money understanding their customers on a deep emotional level. Gotta respect that.

So, did they get a handle on rebellious youth and the psychodynamics of that? I have to guess they did.