I used to think that the world’s greatest marketing strategy belonged to a chain of sports bars across the Midwest called Old Chicago. If you’re not familiar with this fine establishment, they advertise having over 110 different types of beer. When you join the “World Beer Tour,” you are given a card that tracks which one’s you have already had. Along the way, you get prizes when you reach certain milestones. You can earn t-shirts and beer steins and a number of other things. Once you drink all 110 beers, there are a series of plaques where your name is added, thereby cementing your status as an alcoholic (If you visit the Wall of Foam in Lawrence, KS, you’ll see my name 3 times).
This seems simple, but it’s actually brilliant for a number of reasons. First, if you have a specialty beer that you love, you have to go there because they’re the only ones that have. The problem is that most of these beers are disgusting, so there isn’t a large enough customer base to support carrying them. This is solved by turning it into a contest where people have to drink these beers in order to get prizes. Trust me when I say that I have walked into this place and paid good money to drink a beer that had a chili pepper inside it. I then bragged about paying good money to drink a beer with a chili pepper inside it. In addition, once you have spent your entire paycheck there, you also provide them free advertising by walking around town with a shirt that says Old Chicago all over it. It’s brilliant!
I’ve decided, however, that they are no longer the kings of marketing. That distinction now falls to the Girl Scouts of America with their evil little cookie campaign.
First of all, they are actually selling something that I want. Seriously, have you ever asked somebody if they wanted a thin mint and gotten a no in response? It’s not possible. They’re like crack. Around our house, anytime someone enters the kitchen outside of meal time, everyone converges on them. We know where the cookies are, and you’re not getting any of them without a fight. It’s brutal.
They take two approaches when selling. The first way (and easiest to defeat) is when they set up shop outside a grocery or department store. They don’t approach you on the way in. It would be too easy for you to turn and run. They wait until you’re on the way out and you have to run a gauntlet to get to your car. They put up cute little signs like “Cookies make great valentine’s gifts.” Did you pay with cash at the check out? Congratulations because you’re about to lose every bit of change that you got back. You just paid a ridiculous amount of money for something that you don’t even need in the store. Are you seriously going to say no to an 8 year old girl selling cookies for a good cause? Seriously? Here, your only course of action is to keep your head down (NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT!) and make a bee line for your car.
Of course, the other danger is the door-to-door method. We’ve all been there. You hear a tiny knock on the door, and you open it without thinking. There right in front of you is the most adorable little munchkin ever created. She has a sash and a cute little beret-thingy. Behind her, she is pulling an little red wagon full of boxes of awesomeness. She looks up at you with her big eyes and says, “Would you like to buy some cookies?” She even has trouble pronouncing her Rs which makes it even more adorable. When you look behind her, you see her mother or father standing on the sidewalk giving you “the look.” We all know “the look.” It says, “We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. It’s your choice.”
What’s the best defense against this? There isn’t one. You lost the moment you opened the door. Just go grab your wallet. If you can do it quietly enough, you might be able to get the cookies hidden before your family realizes what’s going on.