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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Oh. My. God.... can't live without it! You must have it! Your life will be So. Much. Better. if you have this product. And your children will be safer too!

Seriously. Trash marketing at its finest, right? Infomercials, telemarketers, and spam. They all engage in some sort of reactive marketing in one form or another. And people respond to it. I was reading Dear Abby yesterday and she was running letters about romantic men in response to a woman whose husband was disgusted with the diamond and jewelry commercials out there (my DH hates those too) and didn't think that there were men out there like that. Well, there are, as Abby said if the "amount of consumer debt being carried by U.S. households" can be considered an indication of success.

But then there are those schlocky marketing techniques that come back to visit from time to time. Like newsletters in the regular mail that promote penny stocks or other cheap gimmicks. I'm sure some of you remember those - that's what used to litter the mailbox before email was invented.

I don't normally get these sorts of things in the mail, so I was surprised when DH was telling me that I had one in yesterday's mail. I laughed at it, briefly wondered how one managed to get to me, and then looked at it while he was reviewing it before we junked it.

This one was interesting - put a GPS chip in a *shoe* and always know where your children are. Put a GPS chip in anything and it will always be traceable. I looked at DH and joked "oh gee, I wore my OTHER shoes, now you can't find me today." The fun part was the missing children posters they had on the flier with banners that stated "No More" - meaning, as long as your children have GPS tags in their shoes they will never go missing again.

Well, as long as the abductors don't take off their shoes and toss them away. So I could see them trying throughout the flier to tug at heartstrings and get the "wow" reaction for the other so-called practical applications of this company's ideas. I was ready to toss it until DH showed me the back page (where our address was, so I hadn't noticed it because he started by showing me the front page). That's when the real reactionary marketing kicked in.

In big bold black lettering: "Every parent fears for his or her child's safety in a world of predators, perverts and psychos." A picture of an empty playground swing seat and a blurb about how one company has spent years and millions of dollars in order to put a parent's worst nightmares to rest round out the rest of the eyeline. Excuse me? Must you really play to the fears and paranoia that some overprotective parents have for their children and do something like that?

Oh yes, yes they must. Because reactive marketing actually works. Guilt and fear are powerful motivators to action and you can get people to fall for scams by playing on those emotions. That's exactly how they even start on the letter by opening with "It's heartbreaking...but a fact. Children disappear every day." And later they go into the "What If" scenario. What if Elizabeth Smart was wearing these, or Jon Benet Ramsey, or Jessica Lunsford? All heartbreaking stories, yes?

And all stories where this doesn't apply. Two of the girls were taken out of their bedrooms in the middle of the night - I doubt their kidnappers took the time to make sure they had shoes. And one was killed in her own house, so that doesn't apply either. But yet, they prey on the fear and the guilt.

It's not that it's a bad idea, it's just the way they're going about "selling" the idea. GPS is valuable - we have it turned on in our cell phones in case of an accident. Perhaps the next application to microchipping pets should involve a GPS chip too. Maybe putting a GPC chip under your skin behind your ear instead of in your shoe is a better way for your to track where your children are (and for the government to know where you are too, at all times). But this company decided to market using the worst possible things that could happen...

...effective, yes, but what would be worse is falling for the scam.