Fortune cookie slogans

There is a danger in using fortune cookie approaches. There is always a danger, but some come from unexpected sides. I was walking in the mall a week ago and I was confronted with some eager girl (no negativity implied) who threw at me “Help us sponsor 1000 girls”, my deadpan answer was “I do not have a brothel that big”, she was takes aback in shock (I know I am a bit of a bastard at times). Now this was not her fault (to some degree not mine either) The poster (as displayed) is decently clear. But the mistake (as I see it) was made by not briefing the young lady correctly, or completely. You see, she is working with her hands tied to her back. And when you dissect the poster it will be about protecting these girl from harm, to give them a better future and there lies the rub, slogans do not do the job. Slogans are dangerous to say the least. 

If you doubt me, try reading the red book of Mao Tse Tung and you might get it. Slogans are great for reinforcement, but they are downright dangerous in a place where you want to start a conversation with someone who does not have the time, or the interest to be swayed from their current objective. I get it, it is hard to get something started in that situation, her job was hard to begin with and getting into a stage with dopey the dwarf (me) did not help. To see some part we need to go to the Harvard Business Review. A piece by Juliano Laran, Amy N. Dalton, and Eduardo B. Andrade  ‘Why Consumers Rebel Against Slogans, 2011’ gives you “After they were exposed to brands associated with saving money (such as Dollar Store and Kmart), they decided to spend 37% less than after they were exposed to neutral brands. The brands had the intended “priming” effect”, which is interesting, but it is followed by “when it came to slogans, the same participants exhibited the opposite of the desired behaviour”, as such slogans had a “reverse priming” effect. And that is what we face here, but the situation changes. There is no priming, the speaker becomes the primer, so that person needs to be very well trained/educated and made aware of the issues that these girls face. Yes, we have seen it, there are plenty of women with bouncy bouncy boobs to get the attention of man, there are plenty of well groomed man who get the attention of women, and that starts the conversation. That person had taken attention from the task that the person was facing, but what now?

Now, we see a new direction and the paper gives us “Our studies suggest that reverse priming occurs because consumers recognise that slogans deliberately attempt to persuade them, whereas (in their perception) brands do not”, which is interesting as I kinda realised this but it is nice to see it in writing and that is the whole ballgame. And now the following makes a lot more sense “slogans can exert a positive influence, we believe, if the consumer is led to focus on something other than the effort to persuade” change the focal point and that is good, but how can anyone change focus? It is hard, really hard to do this in a conversation. I am not saying that this is impossible, but in this day and age where people struggle to pay bills asking them to surrender dollars of their hard earned money to make payments meet for a worthy cause is difficult. There are places that rely on pensioners and retired people to hand over some dollars. Consider (I think) 4 years ago when the news was given that these people would lose $300 a month because of budget changes, how much revenue did charities lose? A direct impact and that is what we face now, but in this case it is reverse priming by a slogan. How could it be done better? That is the operative word and I do not have all the answers, yet consider would it help if there was a small table and 2-3 chairs? When the person sits down that person has accepted that this will take some minutes. That person now has time, the one element that failed of the bat. Now that person gets directly introduced to the matter at hand, perhaps a leaflet (I hate them), but what happens when the table is a QR code? Something the person can scan with their mobile? The poster could have had a QR code as well, something the person could read later, something that the person can take with them. What happens when the person bringing the cause gets that level of support and do not tell me how ‘hard’ it is, it is a simple page that is linked to a QR code, it is done every day. The slogan might still exist, but now there is something to reinforce the message, the message is at hand, something the girl did not have. And the dangers of slogans remain, but the additional information also has another part, that message will be read at home, but more likely on a bus or in a train and now the person’s mind is at rest and the message seeps through, or so I believe. 

The article end perfect, it ends with “More research is needed to understand why consumers perceive certain tactics as efforts to persuade. In the meantime, marketers should be aware that messages seen even subconsciously as manipulative can cause significant backlash.” Yes, that is definite and we do not have all the answers, but the dangers of fortune cookie slogans needs to be brought to the front, if only to make work easier for certain ladies (men also) who surrender their time to bring forward worthy causes. 

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