S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 2 June 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 

Where Do You Want to Eat Today?

 

[Man with Check]

You-centered campaigns are the

neighborly face of one-to-one

marketing, evidence of nostalgia

for a simpler time when one

could order "the usual," instead

of "Value Meal Number One." Bank

of America has signed millions

of suckers into a checking

account that's "As Individual As

You Are." And just down the

strip mall, the x-billionth

family of four is being served

at "My McDonald's."

 

[A Button, w/ Mc DOnalds Logo]

The new Mickey D's campaign

positions each plastic and

arborite franchise in the chain -

from the kids' play pit to the

bulletproof pickup window - as

an integral part of the local

community. Hey, it worked for

Starbuck's. And McDonald's has

been around long enough that it

might as well declare itself to

be the neighborhood burger spot

it knocked off the block back in

the '60s. You're not old enough

to remember it anyway.

 

[Ronald]

So where, exactly, is "My

McDonald's?" We guess it's where

we take the kids after soccer

practice. We guess it's the

morning-in-America-bright

neighborhood focal point we

visit with our attractive

colleagues, who often throw

their heads back when they

laugh. We guess it's the place

where everyone knows our name.

 

[You are being watched.]

After all, everyone already knows

our name down at the bank, along

with our credit history, social

security, employment status, and

the last name of our first lay.

Citing the need for fraud

detection and protection, banks

maintain detailed profiles of

every customer - profiles that

can, and will, be handily

applied to customize and

personalize transactions and

promotions. The data waits

quietly to be mined. Ever seen

an ad pop up on the ATM screen

while waiting for the money

shot? When the first one does,

you can bet it will push your

buttons.

 

We want to bring back that

special feeling of ownership

that comes with absolute

customization and

personalization. But even in

this highly segmented

marketplace, it's just not that

kind of world anymore. The

illusion of familiarity that we

find so cuddly is made possible

with individual customer data,

processed on the fly, and the

systems to do so are so complex

that they work best in the

economies of scale offered by

large organizations. The ATM's

personalized goodbye is the

punch line of a two-way in-joke

where only mammoth, faceless

corporations can afford to

pretend they know you as a

friend.

 

You-focused marketing is a cheap

shortcut to the same vibe. It

cloaks mass production in an

off-the-rack appeal to

individuality. You can only "be

your own dog" when you've

learned that, oh, by the way,

you're supposed to be a dog. The

mainstreaming of customization

means producing unique

examples of items whose very

appeal lies in their mass

popularity. You may never get a

bespoke suit, but Levi's will

make you a Personal Pair. And

they'll remember your size,

forever.

 

[Hi.  I am another McDonalds Based Image]

McDonald's has yet to grasp the

deep database possibilities of

their billions and billions

served, but the "My McDonald's"

campaign is no less instructive

to those who see the future in

terms of personal agents instead

of agency: Customizing the

product isn't as important as

customizing the message. Give

people the opportunity to have

whatever they want, and most

likely they just ask for what

the other guy is having.

 

[A Beautiful Illustration of a Book by Vidal]

Ray Kroc, in whose image the

Golden Arches were created, knew

formula was his selling point.

"We cannot trust some people who

are nonconformists," he said,

screening potential franchise

owners in 1958. "The

organization cannot trust the

individual; the individual must

trust the organization." Don't

laugh, we test our faith every

time we order by number. While

Burger King later pitched a

libertarian consumer ethic -

have it your way, dammit, it's

your right - Kroc knew you

wanted it his way, and stuck to

the script.

 

McDonald's doesn't turn us into

nonconformists by simply

co-opting the jargon of

you-focused marketing. It

suggests, rather, that what

we've always wanted is what

we've had all along. Within this

marketplace of infinite choice,

we need help finding our

personal feel-good favorites. We

get to be ourselves - and

McDonald's doesn't mind because

they have billions of reason to

believe that who we are is a lot

like everyone else. It is a

revelation that could save

millions in venture-capital

funds: Tell us what you like;

we'll never forget. In fact,

we've already got it made.

You're important to us. Promise.

Want fries with that?



courtesy of James URL Jones
 
 
 

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