Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Deceptive Marketing

It's a sad reality that the success of a business often depends upon a certain degree of deception. Have you ever bought a new pair of shoes that felt good when you tried them on, only to find that when you wore those shoes out in the real world, they weren't so comfortable after all? A few days ago, I stumbled quite by accident upon the reason behind this conundrum when I wandered into the shoe section of a department store, and my tired feet immediately felt a sense of relief. For the first time ever, I became aware that beneath the bland industrial carpet of the shoe department, there was an extra-thick layer of foam padding that wasn't present in other parts of the store. It's a clever marketing ploy, giving an illusion of comfort that has nothing to do with the quality or design of the shoes offered for sale. (Maybe this is common knowledge to others, but I had never been aware of this clever deception until now.)

Some department stores have been accused of utilizing distorting mirrors in their dressing rooms that make customers appear taller and slimmer than they actually are. No doubt this has increased clothing sales in stores that engage in this misleading practice.

Casinos are huge purveyors of deceptive marketing techniques. Slot machines emit an exaggerated sound of clinking coins to announce even the smallest winnings, but no such sound accompanies the much more frequent losing pulls of the handle. The gaudy repetitive pattern of casino carpeting is deliberately designed to instill a sense of excitement in gamblers and to fend off fatigue, so that patrons will continue to feed the one-armed bandits long after the winnings have run out and fatigue (and common sense) should have set in.

We've all seen items for sale which bear an absurd amount of overpackaging, designed to give the illusion that customers are getting more than they actually are. This presents a nuisance to consumers who have to fight their way through unnecessary layers of shrink wrap and cardboard to get to the product, and it contributes to the waste in our landfills. Yet some manufacturers continue the irresponsible practice because it has the desired psychological effect of subconsciously suggesting that we're getting more for our money.

So what does any of this have to do with bluegrass music? Pretty much nothing, and that is the point of this column. At bluegrass festivals, you will find no smoke-and-mirrors, no hype, no attempt to lure patrons into a false sense of anything. What we see is what we get, and that's usually enough enticement to result in repeat “customers.” Like any business, bluegrass organizations such as the CBA need to turn a profit in order to be successful, but unlike so many other enterprises, there is no need to deceive the public in order to do so. Keeping it real is a hallmark of bluegrass events; quality entertainment and good friends are all that is needed to keep most bluegrass aficionados returning year after year. Then again, when jamming into the wee hours of the morning, a swatch of that eye-popping, fatigue-fighting casino carpeting over a thick layer of foam padding just might not be a bad idea...

Posted:  8/5/2010

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