Monday, April 28, 2008

Pranks, Gags, and Other Such Tom-Foolery

Is it ever "O.K." to fool one's customers?

Well, well, well. It appears that the lads at Google® have colored me Tom. Their April Fool's Day announcement of an expedition to Mars caught me and took me in, both hook, line, and sinker (as it were!). Perhaps you saw my entry on my "blog" on the internet regarding my expected departure for the "red" planet . (Please note that I have left that entry there as a testament to our open-book policy here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC.) The only defense I can offer is that I came across it on April 3rd, and was (justifiably!) no longer in "that's an April Fool's Gag" mode. Ah well.
Still, one wonders (or at least one ought to wonder) about the long term (or shorter!) effects that such pranks, gags, and tom-foolery may have on the brand under whose rubric they are perpetrated. (viz - might I now use Yahoo!® whenever I google something on the internet, being reminded of my folly each time I see that multi-hued Google® logo?)

Pranks and Gags have been the topic of conversation here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC over the last fortnight or so, largely due to my having been taken-in by the “Virgle” announcement, and my associates' glee at seeing one usually so perspicacious falling victim to what ought, in their view, to have been a fairly obvious prank. Sam opined that, as humor is often based on an unexpected outcome to a seemingly simple narrative, corporate pranks and gags might well be considered simply having a joke with one's customers.

While I see the appeal of that line of logic, I couldn't help thinking of some of my favorite old comedy films – viz. The Three Stooges, and their hilarious blend of slapstick and political pastiche. In many of these, a seemingly innocent action ends up with someone's nose in a large pair of scissors, or a hot iron to the nether regions, or a saw “accidentally” shaving a reverse MohawkTM into someone's head, or ... well, I'm sure you get the picture. I believe, however, that it was the staff's general reaction to an accidental meeting with a banana peel on the lunch-room floor that brought Sam to my line of thinking. To wit: “Pranking your customer is generally not a good idea.”

Consider this “thought experiment” (or Gedankenexperiment, as Hans Christian ├śrsted might have said) in this regard. Your consumer durable goods firm has completed a contract to subsidize the mortgage payments of consumers who agree to buy a certain number of your appliances over a five-year period. In the first of these appliances (perhaps a new top-loading washing machine!), there is one of those great spring-loaded snakes that used to come in boxes so that when you open them it jumps out at you. This is all meant in good fun, as is only clear based on the coupon for 20% off the purchase of a package of a co-promoted laundry detergent attached to the hind-end of the snake.

Your new customer opens the washing machine (perhaps with a double arm-load of dirty clothes - or unmentionables!) only to have a huge snake leap out, trailing a 20%-off coupon for laundry detergent. There is little in the literature to suggest that you will now have made a customer for life – in fact, your legal department may find itself defending the no-cancellation clause of the mortgage subsidy contract!

No, my friends and readers, it seems clear that one ought never to fool one's customers, let alone Mother Nature!

In a belated nod to "Earth" Day, we ask you to enjoy another helping of Classic Jay, this time from April 20, 2007 -

Mother Nature Taking Over?
Is your marketing aligned with the seismic shift in consumer attitudes?

Who would have thought Home Depot® would be leading the way? Who indeed? Still, it comes as no surprise that there would be a savvy marketer ready to capitalize on the current greening of the world, does it?
Regular readers of this newsletter know that we here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC are nothing if not savvy, and with our commitment to various "out-of-doors" activities (including bi-athlon and rock racing!) we are also committed to maintaining an environment around us.
Lest the reader think this is nothing but pre-Earth Day pandering to the masses of environmental lobbyists, crack-pots, and ne'er do wells. We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC have put our collective money where my mouth is - so to speak! - and are working on making the space flights mentioned in last week's newsletter something more than a marketing boon-doggle. Indeed, Lee (from our R&D group) is hard at work (as are we all!) calculating the relative costs and benefits of carrying toxic and other forms of difficult-to-dispose-of wastes on these space flights - with the proposition being that said waste be dumped, not on the Earth, but rather tossed into decaying orbits around the Moon or (perhaps too ambitiously) the Sun itself.
Imagine, if you will, a next-generation Space Shuttle - in full NASA regalia - bedecked NASCAR-like with logos of sponsoring entities (perhaps your product? your clients' product?) along with a payload, also logo-bedecked, of dangerous waste products, bound for extra-Terrestrial disposal. Who might be interested in such a scheme? How about Waste Management®? How about the InSinkErator® folks? How about just about anyone wishing to make a statement that we know better than to mess up our own house? As they say, animals don't defecate where they habitate (a catchy rendition or that sentiment, don't you think?) - neither should people.
What marketer wants to be known as one who poisons his (or her!) own customers? We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC believe the answer is clear and unambiguous: nobody we know!
Once Lee's work (along with the fabulous Jay Standish, Inc. LLC R&D staff) is done, we will be shopping around the first potential sponsorships of this concept. We're still working on names for this service, and we'd appreciate feed-back from our readers on these possibilities, as well as any suggestions you might care to make. Imagine seeing your own neo-logism boldly pasted on a proud (American!) spacecraft as it quivers with excitement on the launch pad in Florida, waiting for the thrust to send it hurtling into space - perhaps into Trans-Lunar Injection!
At any rate, our first list of rough possibilities await your comments:

  • Star Trash
  • Garbage to the Stars
  • Wasted Space
  • Take Out The Trash - Way Out!
  • Ad Astra Per Trashpera

Last time, Jay wrote about amateur hubris:
Ima W. Esome responded:
"I don't know where you come off saying that my public access show isn't as good as Mad TV! You've probably never even seen my brilliant impersonations of Beverly Garland or Alice Ghostley...."

I think someone's pulling my leg here. Still, you didn't make any good points, and there's no point in annoying the host.
-- Jay


Anonymous said...

I don't like to admit anything, but I'll admit I'm surprised by your post.
I would think anyone who was dumb enough to fall for that Google / Virgin trip to Mars deal must be a completely brain dead oldster, munching his way to retirement, but then you included that idea from last year about shipping trash into space and I had to reconsider.
Maybe you're not a total bum, but wake up, Jay - the internet is full of people who tell you one thing but do another.

Jay Standish said...

Thanks, I think.

I believe you've posted "witty" commentary about me elsewhere, so know this, Mr. Gearloose, I'll be watching your behavior here.
Granted, I fell for the prank, but that's no reason to kick a dead horse when he's down, now is it?