Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Does negative marketing work?

I understand marketing and advertising. I know that Realtors leave their signs up, with a sold sign, after they sell a house because it reinforces that they will sell your home or find you one. It is a good way to get clients. Toy companies will create a cartoon with the sole purpose to develop a market for a toy line. It is the best advertising possible for a toy line. Stores always place the candies or other impulse products right by the cash register so you see them as you wait in line. This all makes sense; it all reaches a specific market.

Suddenly I am seeing more negative ads. The ones that tell you, "don’t drink and drive", "don’t smoke it kills you" and "put on a life jacket when boating." I have to wonder how well these work. It is easy to understand positive marketing and advertising because it is targeted to our needs, wants, desires and impulses. How effective is advertising at keeping us from doing something?

I completely understand and support why the Canadian Government is using negative ads and restrictions to reduce cigarette sales. I even use negative conditioning with my kids, young as they are. I tell them cigarettes are yucky; they make your teeth yellow and your breath stinky. I hope it has an impact on them when they are older. I have watched all the changes forced onto the tobacco industry, both to the companies that manufacture and sell cigarettes.

First it was the regulations on what they could show in ads, they could not be targeted to the young anymore. Then they could not advertise or sponsor events and activates any longer. You had to show id to buy cigarettes and can be charged for buying for or selling cigarettes to minors. Soon the negative advertising started with comments and pictures on the actual cigarette packaging. This did not seem to work very well. Though I did like the TV ad that showed teens how smoking changes their appearance, makes their skin shallow and their teeth stained, that it ages them. That one seemed to work by targeting vanity not health. There came kids against smoking ads, famous people against smoking and now people who are dieing of lung cancer or have lost people to lung cancer ads.

The newest negative marketing strategy came as a shock. Behind the counter at a corner store appeared to be at first glance empty shelves where cigarettes had been. Nope it was metal doors hiding the cigarettes. You can still buy them, but you cannot look at them. This is to try and reduce impulse buying I guess, or the out of sight, out of mind idea. It is going to be interesting to see how it works. It is becoming expensive to sell cigarettes with all these restrictions and fines. I wonder if it is still worth it to stores to sell them. I think that eventually it will not be cost effective and they will stop. If stores stop caring them then the Government will have effectively reduced sales of tobacco products with out actually banning it. But is it going to work?

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