Sunday, April 5, 2015

The New Marketing - 3

Marketing techniques are changing rapidly. According to the Thought Leaders in the field, it’s no longer sufficient to read a story; the audience should now be “immersed” in it. We’re told that individuals now want to be part of  the story.

One possible reaction to this would be the old admonition, “Get a life.” You’ll never be more immersed in anything than the reality you’re living. You can try to change that -- there are chemical compounds that can give you the illusion for some period of time -- but even that’s happening within the larger framework of real life, and unless you’re careless you’ll wake up in it sooner or later.

Immersing oneself in someone else’s experience seems like a an odd proposition, even a scary one, although certain professions might make good use of the technique: guidance counselors and psychics come to mind. But what is the process supposed to be like? Do you retain your own opinions and moral code, or are you expected to take on the views offered in the story?

Reading something, you can retain your power of skepticism. (Ever had the experience of laughing out loud at a bit of writing patently slanted toward someone’s agenda?) At least you’re in your own world, surrounded by familiar things. But immersed in the story, you give that up. Do you now take on the sponsor’s views? This isn’t the old “willing suspension of disbelief.” That would end when you walked out of the movie theater. Marketers today want to get at you at a deeper level. Think Mein Kampf, an early success in which a lot of people immersed themselves, with remarkable results.

Somewhere back in the 1950s or 60s there was a flurry of excitement in the marketing world about “subliminal advertising.” Companies were supposedly going to be able to influence consumers by flashing messages to them as  they looked at movie and television screens. The message to get up and buy the product would  appear and disappear too quickly to register consciously, but would lodge in the brain, presumably in the part that controls buying, anesthetizing the caveatus emptoris nerve. The marketing industry was immersed in that for a while, but it, too, turned out to be a fraud.