Falling for Marketing Gimmicks
Or How Free Samples + a Smiling Señorita = Me Being a Sucker!
Usually I’m not the one falling for marketing gimmicks, but every now and again, they get me. And this past week, a pretty little marketing agent for an expensive tequila brand played me like a fool.
I Bought Drugs from the State of Alabama
This happened in a store owned and operated by the State of Alabama, and before I tell you the story, let me ask you a tangentially related question: Who is the biggest drug dealer in the state of Alabama?
Answer: the State of Alabama.
How? Well, alcohol is a drug, and they got a chain of dispensaries across the state. Which is fine with me. We’re already living in some weird mashup of Brave New World, 1984, and various Black Mirror episodes, so I’m cool with the government selling me drugs, although I’m still waiting on the Soma. However, I do think it is strange that a state fully invested in fighting the “War on Drugs” should also be selling drugs, but I digress…
A Tequila Marketing Campaign That Pulled Out ALL the Stops!
I went to one of the State of Alabama’s drug stores to buy ethanol — to drink, not for my car. My brother had a birthday recently, and I thought he might appreciate some Irish whiskey, in honor of our five-percent-or-so Irish ancestry — my love of whiskey is about the only relic of my Irish heritage that I feel really connected with. I found a bottle that was nice, but not too expensive, to give him for his birthday; and the Gaelic spirits looked so exquisitely tempting, I decided to get a second bottle for myself.
Then, the shrewd marketing gurus of the Patron tequila brand struck me with both barrels of their marketing shotgun: free samples — and not just any free samples, but free samples of gourmet tequila — ay, yi, yi! — and a beautiful señorita smiling like the Sun, inviting me to partake of her wares. I could resist one of these clever techniques, but not both at the same time.
I Could Resist “Free Samples” and “Free Gifts” By Themselves
If it was only a free sample, with no pretty face pitching it, I would have easily drank the free tequila and then vamoosed with my Irish whiskey, as planned.
The use of apparent gifts is a well-known marketing ploy, meant to trigger our instinct for reciprocity. “Hey, this nice person gave me something for free, out of the goodness of their heart, so I don’t want to be a jerk and just take their generous gift without giving them something in return, like my hard-earned money for their overpriced product, right?”
Wrong! As Robert Cialdini discussed in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, whenever a salesman gives you something, you have to consciously acknowledge that the salesman is not your friend and the gift was not a friendly gesture, but rather it was a “compliance technique” thrust upon you by someone with an agenda that doesn’t involve any consideration of your well-being at all. Not to say that salesmen are evil, or that the products they’re selling may not be worth buying; but they are not your friends, and you can trust them about as far as you can thrown them.
I Could Resist Feminine Charms (to a Point)
If the marketing gimmick had involved only a cute girl pitching the product, but no free samples, I would have feigned interest, just to keep her talking while I basked in the glow of her beauty and charm, and then I would have left without buying the tequila. For men, you have to develop the ability to ignore an attractive woman’s schemes; otherwise, pretty ladies will repeatedly bamboozle you with their foxy wiles until you do. This does get easier, the older you get.
I would imagine that gay men probably tend to have more money than straight men: partially because they tend to have fewer children, and children are notoriously expensive; but also because they probably have greater immunity to the sexy-lady-as-saleswoman-for-bullshit con.
I have gotten better at not falling for the feminine sales strategies. Fortunately, I have never been so gullible that I fell for mere impersonal images of female sexuality, such as those beer commercials that have all these hot chicks all over some guy, and he’s drinking beer, and the message is, “Hey, you can be like this guy, all you got to do is drink this brand of beer, and the bitches will be throwing themselves at you, just like they are doing to that dude in the ad.” Maybe I do enjoy watching the women in the commercial, but I don’t go out afterwards and buy any beer because of the ad.
Now those beer commercials featuring a horse-drawn carriage is a different story: I see those ads and I think to myself, can I really be like the guy driving that team of majestic Clydesdales through the snow, if only I drink a particular brand of beer? Just kidding. Those commercials don’t work on me either. To my knowledge, my favorite beer brand doesn’t even advertise on television.
Enjoying what you’re reading so far! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work! Muchas gracias, amigo!
Free Samples + Smiling Señorita = Me Being a Sucker!
So I could have resisted the wily scheme of either free mini-shots of tequila or a sexy señorita, but not both of them together. I drank that tequila, smiled, and engaged in some very witty and moderately charming banter with la señorita muy bonita y atractiva, and then I went and grabbed a bottle of overpriced tequila from the shelf.
After grabbing some tequila for myself, I looked at the Irish whiskey I was going to get for my brother, and I thought, “Oh, I should get him some tequila, instead, because it’s really good, and drinking just a tiny bit of it made me feel so happy and hopeful all of a sudden!” Of course, my feelings of happy hopefulness were probably caused by the serendipitous combination of free tequila and the sexy aura of the lady giving it to me. When I drank some of the tequila later at home, it was still good, but it did not make me feel quite as happy or hopeful as it did when it was being poured for me gratis by the beautiful Mexican maiden.
Anyway, I put away the Irish whiskey and got another bottle of the magical tequila for my brother. This shameful betrayal of my Gaelic ancestry probably caused my Irish ancestors to roll over in their graves, where they all probably landed at an early age from cirrhosis of the liver.
The Irish whiskey had been nice, but not too expensive. Not so with this gourmet tequila. I guess sexy smiles and fancy packaging cost extra.
Higher Price Tags Do Have a Silver Lining
At least subjectively, a higher price tag somehow corresponds with enhanced enjoyment. A 2008 study involving fancy wine, the drink of choice for pretentious assholes, showed that people really could not reliably tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine in a blind taste test; however, their enjoyment of the wine actually increased when they were told that the wine cost more, even if the wine they drank was actually a low-budget brand — although I don’t know if they tried giving the test subjects any truly real bottom-shelf swill, like Night Train Express (immortalized by Guns ‘N Roses in their song Nightrain); my guess is that Night Train Express would have made at least some of the study’s participants puke their guts out. Even the best marketing techniques can only go so far.
“Nightrain,” a Guns ‘N Roses Song Celebrating Cheap Wine
Anyway, by paying more for the tequila, I probably subjectively enhanced the pleasure I would derive from drinking it; and maybe that will outweigh the negative feelings caused by realizing that I once again fell for another stupid marketing ploy.
Did you enjoy my story about falling for another not-so subtle marketing gimmick? Feel free to share it with others — I really appreciate you spreading the word!
And don’t forget to subscribe to this humor-writing substack, so you don’t miss out on any future fun!
Thanks for reading Tilting at Windmills: Humor Writing by Daniel D! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
If you want to hear my latest episode of The Crazy Comedy, Humor & Satire Podcast, in which I discuss falling for marketing gimmicks and other foolishness, you can listen below to the embedded podcast player from Spotify. This podcast is available on pretty much any podcast app or streaming platform.
And of course, check out my other humor writing here at Tilting at Windmills!