Artichoke City & Other Stories

What sort of plant did Ken find in rural California?Telling stories and using imagery to let people draw their own conclusions. This was one of the key messages given by Jim Gilmartin of Coming of Age at CalCom’s 2008 Annual Meeting in Monterey. He was speaking in the context of effective marketing to baby boomers and older customers. Read on to see what this picture has to do with his comments.   

Gilmartin’s presentation was chock full of images and examples of effective and ineffective marketing. Successful marketing depends upon how the brain processes the images and stories it sees. Expository writing is ineffective marketing.  In other words, marketing that reaches out to emotions and the experience of the reader/viewer will tend to be successful. 

He suggested that marketing messages should avoid playing off negative emotions, such as fear guilt and anxiety and that they focus on the positive. He provided an example of a direct mail piece from AT&T that had a 34% response rate. The reasons for AT&T’s success on this campaign were that it featured a picture of a little girl on the envelope, pictures of the author and that same little girl in the letter and the letter’s content was a story. 

It is important to market to lifestyles and not age groups. Having said that, Gilmartin made a generalization that there is a split in the market where younger people tend to be more “rules based”, while older people (over 40 roughly) tend to be “emotions based”.

In this case, the labels are not so obvious, as "rules based" means that people buy things for status and peer pressure. Things like wisdom, altruism and relationships are the basis for purchase decisions for older consumers. To this last point, Gilmartin suggested that boomers and older customers evaluate relationships and the authenticity of the marketing message over the actual message or sales pitch. 

In addition to the theoretical and the case studies, Gilmartin had a number of excellent tips on marketing techniques such as web layout and design (make it simple), photos (avoid stock photos and opt for real customers and local scenes) and content (don’t label). 

On the drive home, I thought about Gilmartin’s comments. It occurred to me that many of the Viodi View readers probably think of the crowded urban areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco or Silicon Valley when they conjure an image of California. The reality is that most of California is rural as exemplified by the relatively small city of Castroville, CA. Castroville is about half way between San Jose and Monterey and it brands itself the Artichoke Center of the World.  And now, to quote Paul Harvey, you know the rest of the story. 

 Castroville - Artichoke Center of the World

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