July 14, 2009

Pavlov's Dogs, Fish Tacos and Free T-shirts

Remember Ivan Pavlov ... The Russian scientist that rang a bell and made dogs salivate?

It was an amazing discovery and one that has had far-reaching effects with applications that even Pavlov couldn't have expected.

Over the years, Marketers and Advertisers especially have latched onto this concept of "Pavlovian Conditioning"and used it to influence and persuade consumers.

Still to this day, nearly 75 years after his death, the phrase "Pavlov's dog" is used to describe someone who reacts instinctively to a situation rather than logically.

Well ... today I witnessed this psychological phenomenon first-hand! At Long John Silver's.

To promote and celebrate the launch of their newest menu item, this fast-food chain offered FREE FISH TACOS!

It was a one-day only event and one I simply could not miss!

So I followed my hunger - and curiosity - to Long John Silvers to see what kind of response they would get for this promotion.

This whole experience was right up my alley. Why? Because I'm a guy with a Sociology degree who is fanatical about marketing, advertising, consumer psychology, human behavior, people watching and ... of course, food!

Now you wouldn't think people would flock like rabid vultures to sample a "fish taco." However, the response was overwhelming! I couldn't believe it.

People from all walks of life came out of the woodwork to get their hands on some free, tortilla-wrapped cod. Some of these people seriously looked like they just stepped off the set of the Michael Jackson Thriller video!

Most of them were very scary looking and most of them were in a hypnotic, zombie-like trance ... no doubt induced by that powerful "trigger word" ... FREE.

Cars were wrapped around the building, waiting in the drive-thru line. And the dining room was jammed packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. There was pushing and shoving. And lots of sweaty people. Many of which, I must add, were morbidly obese.

Now, here's the kicker ... these tacos, on any other day, normally retail for 99 cents. Yes, that's right ... 99 cents!

It never ceases to amaze me what people will do for a free hand-out.

For a free t-shirt, I've seen people provide their entire financial history to credit card promoters.

And I'm sure you've seen sports fans flip over rails, fall down steps and fight over foul balls and lose total control of their bodies - and morals - when they see the "T-shirt Cannon" pointing towards their section of the bleachers.

Oh, what people will do for a freebie.

I've come to realize that the true value of the give-away is irrelevant. People just want free stuff and they don't care how much, or how little, it's worth.

So if you're a marketer, advertiser or business owner, give stuff away! But remember ... the give-aways don't have to be expensive!

The word FREE triggers an automatic, subconscious response and people grossly over-exaggerate the value of the item. The word FREE adds a tremendous sense of worth to the item.

My company used to hold a daily drawing which awarded our customers with a $100 gift card to a local steak house.

But now I've re-thought this strategy and decided that $100 is too much! A $25 dollar gift card would garner just as much good will for our company AND we could award 4 times as many customers for the same price!

So now ... we spread the wealth. Instead of ONE $100 give-away, now we draw FOUR $25 gift cards.

In turns out that Pavlov, Fish Tacos and rabid sports fans fighting over free t-shirts provided a valuable lesson in marketing and customer relations. And best of all ... the lesson was FREE!

Gotta hear this ... the Budweiser guys nailed it! Click below.

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