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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Interesting ways to "sell" something

Selling a concept or a product is all the rage these days. That's why people seem to go in for advertising jobs and most of what I've heard here in Bangalore has to do with people being "copywriters" and stuff. Naive fool that I am, and until I bothered to ask about what a copywriter did, I just thought that they were like glorified, legal plagiarizers. Well, before you get all holier than thou with me let me just say that it seemed to make sense at the time. But the fact remains, that a lot of the economic activity that we witness in today's world revolves around the selling side of things. If you want to make money, you find a need and fill it by offering a product or service that you can sell. If you want a job, you need to sell yourself...another instance of needing money.

Needless to say, the less likely a product is to succeed in terms of sales, the more adept and cunning the salesperson has to be. Alternatively, a salesperson can always hope for the world's most gullible customer...or at least a customer who's having a terribly gullible day. And who doesn't have at least one tale to tell of having purchased a gadget purely from the way it was presented to them...if you don't then I'd like you to remember that s/he who laughs last, laughs best. But it's the idea behind promoting something that's always fascinated me. People seem to spend countless hours putting together ad campaigns and whatnot for products ranging from automobile spare parts to the cool, smooth feel of the latest cigarette on the market...but let's leave the 'ethics' of all this for another day.

So, there I was at the Garuda Mall on Saturday, the 22nd of April, with Allen. We were trying to catch Ice Age 2 at the multiplex there, but we seem to have chosen a bad day to hope for tickets at the last minute. To make matters worse, if not noisier, that was the day they were celebrating the 1st Anniversary of the mall. Why noisier? Because they had a bunch of people on microphones taking part in a bunch of competitions one after the other, doing things like singing their favorite song to their beloved or just repeating a random tongue twister really fast in the hopes of winning a prize. It got to a point where the cacophony became too much to bear, so we decided to get the hell out of there. Instead of making a break for it, as we would have usually done, I was distracted by the sight of cookies at the resident Cookie Man franchise in the mall. So, I pointed Allen towards it before we got on the last leg of our escalator journey down to the appropriate floor.

Attempting to get on the escalator, it seemed that there was a lady too afraid to take that first step. So, as Allen squeezed by her, I got stuck behind her and her morally-supportive husband/boyfriend and a whole lot of other people who showed up and pushed their way through this little cliff-hanger of a scene. As I stepped off the elevator and tried to locate my friend who had done the same a good five minutes before I did, I was accosted by two girls. Now, when I say girls I mean "ladies in the age group of 18-25"...and when I say accosted I mean that they just stepped in front of me and obstructed my path to the cookie treats I was now dying to get to.

"Excuse me sir. We're just conducting a survey and we'd like you to guess the temperature inside the building," asked the girl on the right.

I beg your pardon?

"What do you think the temperature inside the building is?" This time it was her accomplice.

Uh...I guess it's about 32 degrees in here. And at this point the one on the left proceeded to write down my answer. Hardly a moment had elapsed before she handed me a little square card and said...

"There is a pub on the 4th floor called Bull and Bush and you can get 32 percent off on your beer there."

And with that they were gone. Oh, smiling rather profusely through the whole thing too, mind you...it seemed as though they'd gotten a bit of a discount themselves before they were sent out on this mission. But here's the card before I continue.

A whole lot of Bull and Bush
And there I was, heading towards Allen feeling rather amused at the whole thing. As fate would later have it, Allen seemed to have wanted to make the most of this deal, but I wasn't interested in drinking...so he had to settle for brandy snap cookies instead, poor guy.

But it was the seeming ingenuity of the entire thing that made me smile. I mean, and this is when I started to explore many different endings to this story, what if I'd said 50, or 89.6 (which is 32 degress centigrade when converted to fahrenheit) or 100 in an attempt to be gruff and brush them aside? Would they have asked me to be more realistic? Or would they have turned their noses up at me and moved on to someone else? And why hadn't they gotten to my friend Allen? Did I look like the drunk in this pairing? Was I reeking of booze and colliding into stationary objects like some kind of wild animal succumbing to the effects of a strong tranquilizer? What made them come to me? God forbid if I was standing around with an "I'm so bloody gullible" t-shirt on or something.

But how do you like that, eh? I mean, I this was a good five days ago, but I'm still bemused by the effort behind it all. Think about it. First, they come up with an add campaign to coincide with the mall's 1st anniversary celebrations. Then, they think about ways to entice people to take part in this. Next, they think of a question to ask where the answer sought is both numeric and relatively small. And finally, they find people who they think will be willing participants. Wow! Or rather, sorry, because although I was amused, I wasn't amused enough to go and make use of the discount. Woe is me? Hell no! Possibly because I'm not much of a drinker to begin with, but "hell no" all the same.

And last but certainly not least for the fine print in the bottom right-hand corner of that card/flyer:
*Offer valid only on Castle Lager/Royal Challenge.
*This offer expires 90 minutes from time of issue. (This explains why they noted the time on the card...and possibly the date too...which means the cacophony of the celebrations probably continued all weekend long.)
*Pub Rules Apply. (What the hell does this mean?)
*Last order at 11 pm.
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