More Jackson County Opinions...

DECEMBER 18, 2002


Column
By:Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
December 18, 2002

Great time to study merchandising
Did you see this Vent in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the other day? My wife will buy anything that’s on sale. She once tried to buy an escalator just because it was marked “down.”
I don’t know the first thing about merchandising.
So I looked up merchandising in the dictionary.
Merchandising: “sales promotion as a competitive function including market research, development of new products, coordination of manufacturing and marketing, and effective advertising and selling.”
I still don’t know a whole lot about merchandising, but I use the word an awful lot. I use it in supermarkets and big box stores when I get ready to check out.
But just because I am ready to check out doesn’t mean they are ready to check me out. I get in one of the checkout lines and wait my turn.
While waiting my turn, I notice that only four of the dozen or more cashier stations are open. So I look up and check out the manager of the store and make the little speech I’ve made a thousand times before. The little speech doesn’t do much good, but I make it anyway. It goes like this:
“Someday you are going to make it as easy to get out of here as it is to get in, and you are going to revolutionize merchandising in America.”
While the little speech doesn’t do much good, sometimes it does a little good. The manager gets on the loudspeaker and calls Alfredia out of the bathroom or deli—presto!—another checkout counter opens up. Folks run over themselves trying to get in the new line. So now there are five lines instead of four.
I am rewarded and applauded as several in-line customers tell me they wanted to do that, but just didn’t have the nerve. (Sometimes you have to demand customer service to get it.)
Occasionally, the manager will jump behind the counter, unlock the money drawer, and start checking people out himself. I am a real hero when that happens.
For the real student of merchandising, this is a great time of year. During the 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, one can learn more about the subject than during the previous 11 months. The last three words of the definition are energized, fueled and launched, and advertising and selling go into orbit.
The day after Thanksgiving, it is about as hard to get in as it is to get out. Stores that normally open at 10 a.m. open at 6 a.m. People line up hours in advance, in the dark yet, and run over each other trying to beat everybody to something that’s “an extra 50 percent off of something that has already been reduced 25 percent for total savings of 75 percent.” I did not make that up.
This is also a great time of year for serious students of psychology. All they need to do is observe and record the maniacal herd behavior of compulsive holiday shoppers, and then write their papers.
If you ask me, the long 23-word definition of merchandising could be reduced to the last three: advertising and selling. Or, if you are the one shelling out the money, advertising and buying. Personally, I am a much better buyer than I am a seller. I wouldn’t make it a week in sales.
No doubt about it, advertising pays. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so much of it.
The ad business has changed a lot since I studied it a half century ago under Dean John E. Drewry of the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. For one thing, there’s not as much truth in it as there used to be. That’s especially true of some of the idiotic stuff on television.
I prefer advertising in the print media, especially in The Jackson Herald and the other MainSteet Newspapers. You can look at it, read it, then go back, look at it and read it again, and decide if the advertiser is telling you the truth.
TV ads hit you with 30 seconds of stuff, and it’s gone so fast you don’t know what the stuff was that hit you.
But print media ads in those big fish wrappers can drive you nuts, too, if you look at them too long. That is happening to me right now.
I have in front of me a 10-page after Thanksgiving sale advertisement that one those big Atlanta stores placed in the AJC. One hundred and twenty-five models are pictured: 62 females, 49 males, 10 kids and 4 babies.
If you are old, fat, ugly and out of style, the ad won’t do a lot for you. I hope you won’t let it depress you. That won’t happen unless you sit there and fantasize that those coats, sweaters, jackets, blouses, jeans, dresses, pants, bras and panties will make you look like the models who are wearing them.
Why would anyone want to look like them, anyway? They are unreal. They are all young. They are all beautiful, as the world measures beauty. They are all skinny. Some of them look hungry, even emaciated.
They are well dressed and stylish, even those in their underwear.
But what really got my attention are the faces. Nothing but smiles. Smiles everywhere. You never saw so many smiley faces.
You wonder if some of those young, beautiful, stylish models are also wearing masks. You wonder what’s beneath the surface. You wonder what they look like, what they feel like, when they aren’t posing for the camera.
But hey, it’s the holiday season. Take a break. Quit studying merchandising. Realize how blessed you are.
So you are old, fat and ugly—and wearing last year’s clothes. But you are real. Your best self is yourself, and you don’t have to be young, pretty, skinny, hungry and stylish to be happy.
Or to have a merry Christmas.
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.

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Column
By: Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
December 18, 2002

Seeing orange in the toy store
A few weeks ago, James and I were in a local toy store looking for a birthday gift for my two-year-old niece. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were actually spending more time playing with the toys than finding her a present.
We wandered through each themed aisle: one for educational toys, another for countless Barbie dolls, several for small toys just asking to be forever lost in between couch cushions and a whole glassed-in department just for video games.
We remarked at how large the toy industry had grown in the decade since we frequented the toy store; we couldn’t stop laughing at the John F. Kennedy PT 109 G.I. Joe doll (yes, they make that) and we couldn’t help but notice how the awaiting adult forms of entertainment and industry where already being marketed to children.
One of those aisles at the local toy store was covered in orange, as in The Home Depot orange. Orange power tools, orange chain saws, orange hard hats and tool belts, orange hammers, everything was just orange. One item, a talking children’s workbench, even featured a voice reminding youngsters to return to The Home Depot.
I couldn’t believe these toys were being so shamelessly marketed to children. It wasn’t the toys themselves I had a problem with; it was the fact that The Home Depot was clearly “hitting the market early” to establish its name brand among children. That’s too early, I believe.
After I expressed my outrage to James, he said, “Oh, come on, Kerri. You don’t think we weren’t heavily marketed to as children?”
And he’s right.
Its a well-known fact in the advertising world that children are a multi-billion dollar industry. Advertise on Nickelodeon (or MTV for the pre-teens) and just wait for the bucks to start rolling in, they say. The level of purchasing power among children is phenomenal, but it can be even higher if you can establish your name brand among youngsters (when their minds are more impressionable) than trying to establish your name when they’re adults (when they often second guess products).
Just look at how many credit card companies target college and older high school students. It’s not their money they want; it’s their first-time business with a credit card company. People often stay with their first credit card company, and it’s a competitive and creative industry that tries to hit those students early with flashy promotions.
Advertising in general has had to become more creative when it comes to children.
Several decades ago, parents began to complain that too many commercials during their children’s cartoons were directly targeted to children. So, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established limited advertising time during children’s programming and told advertisers to watch how they were selling their products to children.
And how did the advertisers get around making the commercials the main event for children? They made the cartoons themselves the commercial.
Does anyone from the 1980s remember Transformers? How about HE Man, Rainbow Bright, Thunder Cats or Smurfs? If you were like me, your room was probably covered in toys from those television shows (and so was your best friend’s room). My room was drenched in Strawberry Shortcake décor, Rainbow Bright had her own shrine in my closet and I often carried my Care Bear wherever I went.
Besides television, advertisers are further attempting to market their products directly to schoolchildren. Programs that encourage education and business partnerships still have some advertising elements, no matter how watered down the partnership is by the school system’s standards. Despite the money and expertise these partnership programs bring to schools, businesses still want to get some recognition.
One such story goes that several years ago a beverage maker, who was a school’s partner in education, wanted the students to wear the company’s logo on T-shirts during a choral program (no other logo or even the school’s name would be printed on the shirts). Needless to say, quite a few parents objected to the beverage maker’s proposal.
I’ve said that I wouldn’t allow my children to be brainwashed with such marketing. But, it’s almost impossible not to with the endless creative efforts of the advertising industry. Ironically, James and I later bought a Christmas gift for his goddaughter at the toy store— a pink Care Bear, with a complimentary promotional video. Oh, we’re giving up already.
Kerri Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com.


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