June 2008 - Rick Petry

Mouse Bites Man

By Rick Petry

As an adman supposedly learned in the ways of manipulation, it must be some sort of twisted cosmic joke that there isn’t a single pitch that doesn’t appeal to my daughters, aged five and eight. Smart Spin 49-piece kitchen storage system? “Don’t you think we should buy that?” Kinoki Detox Foot Pads? “But Dad, they’ve been using them in Japan for centuries!” And what must surely be the nightmare of every parent interested in keeping a tidy home, Moon Sand. “Please, please, please?!” These appeals come replete with Margaret Keane eyes worthy of Shrek’s Puss ‘n Boots and lower lips that quiver like Cupid’s bow. In this case, the arrow is aimed at their version of the ultimate “yes man.” Me.

So with summer vacation season upon us, I offer a cautionary tale based upon my recent experience on a Disney Cruise-you know, one of those “all inclusive” vacations where the ship should be called the S.S. Upsell. Mickey may have only three fingers, but he sure can pick a pocket. Admittedly, having spent some of my formative years in the shadow of Disneyland, I’m a willing victim. As a kid, the view of that castle from Main Street U.S.A. represented a trip to nirvana. But as any parent of my generation knows, back then you could get past the gate for less than today’s parking fee. Consequently, on a Disney Cruise you wear a swimsuit: you know you’re going to get soaked.

The upsell process begins as soon as you board, with an offer to buy $40 worth of Evian bottled water. The alternative: swill tap water and perhaps risk contracting the Norovirus so you can spend the rest of your $10,000-plus trip in the head imitating a Rainbird. The barrage continues with princess photo ops, souvenirs, booze and the costume you’ll need to get your Johnny Depp groove on during the “Pirates of the Caribbean” deck party. (As I stood in line for dinner behind a 40-something man with a plastic hook for a hand, the full weight of his commitment hit me I was a mere poseur among serious poseurs.)

Then, there are the excursions. Our big splurge was a dolphin encounter. Unwittingly, I had purchased the dolphin encounter tickets where you get to watch the people in the water have an encounter with a dolphin. So naturally, I had to upgrade Team Petry. However, if you wanted to swim with the dolphin-not merely touch it-there was yet another upcharge. In other words, there was an upsell to the dolphin encounter upsell and then an upsell to the upsell. Could somebody please upsell me another cocktail?

As I wonder where my daughters got their penchant for consumerism, I’d like to suggest there’s a lesson here for all of us in direct marketing. It is this: a strong brand such as Disney can be leveraged to sell a dedicated consumer anything. Or is it everything? That assertion may sound goofy. But then, I suppose that’s the point.

Rick Petry is the immediate past chair of ERA and a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He can be reached at (503) 740-9065, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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