Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In the Name of Good Fun

According to Stuart Hall, the term popular has many definitions. The “most common-sense meaning” he states includes the things people most commonly buy, read, consume or enjoy. Wrote Hall of this definition:  “It is quite rightly associated with the manipulation and debasement of the culture of the people.”

Interestingly, Hall exerts the opinion that consumption of popular cultural products results in manipulation to the point where consumers do not even recognize that they are being given thoughts to think, opinions to harbor, and ideas so unoriginal that they meld into a giant singular school of thought. They become what Hall calls “cultural dopes.”

As a public relations practitioner, I get the distinct feeling that Hall would be unsupportive of the concept of message strategy, integrated communications plans, and target marketing. These tools of the trade essentially capitalize on the concept of popular culture and rely on the consumption of media by the masses to effectively convey messages, push products, or sell ideas.

Georgefest first Friday draws crowds by the thousands each month

For example, the Georgefest first Friday nightlife event in St. George, Utah, utilizes and integrated marketing strategy designed to build its event brand through repetition of key messages. Each month, marketing tactics include press releases, radio promotions, and advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Monthly messages offer details about performers and vendors, and include key messages that reinforce an overall brand strategy. Stationary marketing pieces that offer the same key messages can be found on event billboards, digital signs, television appearances, bus transit ads, posters, and event brochures.

Consider driving down St. George Boulevard and hearing this radio ad (click here). Then walking into Even Stevens to see a poster promoting the same event. When you pick up a copy of the Independent, you turn to the live music section and see an article about live bands performing at the St. Patty's Day version of Georgefest. 

Each of these impressions reminds you of the good times you have had attending Georgefest on first Friday nights. In fact, you really enjoyed the Country George event in September. You are glad to remember the event is just a few days away and decide to text a friend to see if he'd like to attend with you. 

Key messages used by Georgefest marketers to reinforce the brand throughout all efforts include three key messages. These messages are relayed either formally or informally:
·      Georgefest is nightlife you can get excited about
·      Follow the searchlight to Historic Downtown St. George
·      This kind of fun is good for you

Where Hall may critically claim that Georgefest event marketers are capitalizing on the concept that the southern Utah community blindly consumes information, event strategists are banking on it. In fact, the reason for repeating key messages in all of its marketing messages is to offer repetition and reinforcement in effort to help community members remember the event, its brand, location, and time of the month.

Question:  Do marketers take advantage of the masses when planning repetition of messages and mediums to deliver information.

Question:  Would you rather argue that communicators have figured it out? Perhaps pop culture is going to happen no matter what, and marketers are justified in managing messages to accomplish their tasks. In this case, Georgefest is a fun event and many community members enjoy attending. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melynda! I think I might happily join the "cultural dope" faction of thinking, instead of the condescending elitist group that continually looks for ways to prove their imagined cultural superiority. I've not been to St. George, but in 1:00 minute I was able to understand what First Fridays are all about. I have neither been duped nor manipulated. I have been informed, and what I choose to do with that information is up to me.


    I do think that some greedy advertisers try to push their ideas and/or products on consumers that are not always able to use good judgment. For example, the tobacco industry did not hesitate to lure children and teens. Through cartoon camels and sexy stars, the marketers did take advantage of a vulnerable population. That crosses a clear moral line, but the lines are not as defined in some industries.

    In the olden days of Saturday morning cartoons, children were bombarded with commercials about yummy cereal and amazing toys. A huge number of kids were given ammunition to use during an attack in the aisles of a store: "Mom! Pllleeeeaaassee! I have to have that cereal! It's not fair that you don't give us the things other kids have! Please!" In that case, manipulation is used by the advertisers so the kids will do likewise - manipulate parents into buying more expensive (and generally more sugary) items. That's a blurry line. Theoretically, adults are the shield between questionable marketing campaigns and the vulnerable population, but the kids are experts at wearing down tired and frustrated parents to get what they want, and companies know it.

    Are adults in perceived or real desperate financial need a vulnerable population? Because of their circumstances, are they incapable of using sound judgment because money is a need and not a want? Do pay-pay loan companies capitalize on a person’s unfortunate circumstance to dupe them into signing a lopsided contract?

    Perhaps that answer to your posed question, and my examples in thinking, can be answered by looking for the underlying root and/or motivation of the companies’ advertisers. Perhaps naïve, the ideal marketing campaign would present its harmless wares, in an effective way, to a clientele that can discern properly.