I just cancelled my newspaper subscription. I’m sure you have two questions:
1. Wysz reads the newspaper?
2. What does this have to do with that controversial headline?
The headline is arguably an example of a sometimes effective, but still undesirable form of marketing, which I call idiot marketing. Idiot marketing is marketing any strategy involving simple tricks covered in Psychology 101 that are designed to get distracted, fatigued, or stupid people to do something. You can find plenty of examples of this on late-night “but wait, there’s more!” infomercials.
I don’t like to buy something when I feel like it’s being marketed towards idiots. because then I’d feel like an idiot.
- Sending me a check that when cashed, enrolls me in a service I don’t want or need.
- Sending me a fake credit card, or otherwise marking an envelope as “urgent,” “open immediately,” or “postmaster: please deliver by…”
Charities unfortunately often use idiot marketing as well. This is really a shame, because for people who consider themselves to be non-idiots, it can actually have the opposite effect. Here’s how they use idiot marketing:
- Trying to make me feel guilty. I once got a “personal” (photocopied signature!) letter from a genuine Important Person with language making it sound like he was personally upset that I hadn’t yet made a second donation to his charity. And then there’s the guy who sits at the entrance of my local grocery store with the accusatory “Don’t you care about our veterans?” sign.
- Bringing me into a commitment or relationship I don’t want. Can’t I just give them the money, and then maybe they ask for another donation in a year? Don’t make me a “member” or “partner” in your organization unless I opt into that.
- Coming to my door. There, they are just going to use traveling salesperson techniques and make me feel like a jerk if I refuse or ask for a URL. The worst is sending a kid to my door, claiming that if I sign up for a newspaper subscription, he will get money for college. and there’s “no obligation” and “the check won’t even be cashed” and “you don’t even have to cancel; it is cancelled automatically.” Because that simply isn’t true. My check was cashed, and I had to call to get the money back, after speaking to a supervisor. And don’t tell me I’m a jerk for ordering a newspaper with no intent of keeping it. The way they sell it, they expect and even encourage people to do this. The only people who get newspapers are those too lazy to cancel, and old people who don’t like computers. Idiot marketing gets poor results. And if they want to help those kids go to college, there are plenty of other options.
So what do I want charities to do? Just give me the URL, let me donate, and then leave me alone.
They don’t have to make everyone participate this way, but I, like many people, prefer to donate online. So don’t make me donate, sign up, or otherwise commit on the street. That way, I can easily confirm the legitimacy of the organization (not that I don’t trust people…), and I don’t have to deal with a paper receipt. I’m also willing to donate more money, and have my employer match it, if I can easily do this online. And, if I want to become more involved and not just do a drive-by donation, I can find more information right there, without being forced into it.
Possibly worth another blog entry: I don’t like tips.