I watched “The Joneses” today, a mildly amusing movie about a fabulous fake family of four that is actually a walking-talking advertisement. Demi Moore and David Duchovny play Mom and Dad to two attractive teenagers, and they sweep into sweet suburbia with their seductive lifestyle and get their unassuming neighbors to keep up with the Joneses by buying everything they have. They call this “stealth marketing.”
Movie is alright. It gets a little preachy at the end with some lessons on the dark side of consumerism, blah blah blah. There is a scene where someone dies and someone else is all, like, “I have lied to ALL of you!!!” Consumerism is so bad! Bad! Bad!!! Yeah, that part made me a little uncomfortable.
Anyway, I digress. I watched the movie mostly because I thought it would provide an interesting perspective for aspiring marketers such as myself, and I always like to think about the ethical boundaries of business. there were a couple lines in the movie that I found interesting:
When Duchovny’s character is getting tips on how to improve his sales: “You’re here to sell a lifestyle, an attitude. If people want you, they’ll want what you’ve got.”
More on how to sell better: “You’re still selling to individuals and what you want to create is a ripple effect, where you get other people to sell for you. You know, there’s always people who others look to for advice or the inside scoop, and then they become the connectors that reach the consumer on your behalf.”
Hmm, interesting. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Even if the movie is slightly exaggerated and no company (that I know of, at least) has yet created a fabulous fake family, some have come pretty close with the same philosophy. Case in point, Hasbro’s “viral marketing campaign” of handheld video game, P-O-X: “Hasbro asked boys in Chicago schools, ‘playgrounds, skate parks and video arcades’ who they thought the ‘coolest kid’ was, until they found kids who felt they were ‘the coolest’ themselves, and distributed free copies of the game to them”
I don’t know how I feel about this. it seems pretty deceitful to target kids this way. But does that mean it’s ok to market to adults this way? Are they less vulnerable somehow? If some 45-year-old man lacks self control and buys everything his cool neighbor has — whether or not the neighbor is a fake person hired by marketing companies — despite the fact that he can’t even pay his mortgage, whose fault is that?