November 02, 2008

Cockroach Herding and Marketing ...

I often read articles and books on marketing. Below is an item that I read in Adbusters this week. When marketers convince us to follow their trends, the difference between humans and insects gets a little blurrier ...

A group of researchers at the Free University of Brussels have recently figured out how to influence the behavior of one of the world’s most resilient creatures: the cockroach. Combining elements of entomology and robotics, the group created an experiment that involved mingling light sensitive, cockroach-scented robots with the real deal.

Within a constructed social arena, the researchers set up two separate shaded areas, one area being darker than the other. Upon being released into the arena, the 16 organic roaches, which have a natural distaste for light, chose to socialize in the darker of the two spaces. The researchers then placed four of the robot roaches into the arena and allowed the two groups to mingle and become acquainted.

After the living roaches warmed up and befriended their artificial counterparts, the group then programmed the robots to graze in the area with more light. Although cockroaches are instinctively drawn to the darker of the two areas, they were unable to resist the impulse to imitate, and ultimately follow their cockroach-smelling robotic friends into the light.

A team of marketing specialists have recently figured out how to effectively influence the social patterns of Manhattan’s most trend-savvy demographic: the hipster. Utilizing elements of guerrilla methodology in conjunction with a strong understanding of cultural capital, the team successfully interloped the Lower East Side’s vibrant nightlife and established an intimate venue where they could easily manipulate young consumers.

The team engineered a recurring, premeditated “non-event” in which they would hang out on a street bench located in front of New York’s most prominent American Apparel branch. Initially, they were able to attract the interest of passing youths because of their status as minor celebrities within the city’s taste-making elite, but over time “The Bench” (also known as the “anti-scene”) grew to become a hyper-local social phenomenon and quickly developed a reputation as a cool alternative to neighborhood bars and clubs.

Positive media publicity further popularized “The Bench” and soon enough the surrounding sidewalk was packed with thronging youths eager to hang out at New York’s newest and freshest night spot. Although youth are supposed to be resistant to social control, they were unable to resist the impulse to imitate, and ultimately follow their marketing-savvy friends into the light of American Apparel.

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